MACKENZIE, Sir Alexander (1764-1820)
Voyages from Montreal on the River St. Lawrence, through the continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans; in the years 1789 and 1793. With a preliminary account of the fur trade of that country.
London: R. Noble for T. Cadell, jun. & W. Davies, Cobbett & Morgan, and W. Creech of Edinburgh, 1801. Quarto. (10 1/2 x 8 1/8 inches). Errata leaf at rear. Stipple-engraved portrait frontispiece of Mackenzie by P. Condé after Thomas Lawrence, 3 folding engraved maps (one hand-coloured). (Small expert repairs to folds of maps).
Later half calf over marbled paper covered boards, spine with raised bands in six compartments, black morocco lettering piece in the second
First edition of this cornerstone of any collection of books on the exploration of North America
Alexander Mackenzie was 'the first white man to cross the continent, and his journal... is of surpassing interest' (Wagner-Camp). The present work is the first published account of the two exploring expeditions that Mackenzie made on behalf of the North West Company as part of their attempt to break the Hudson Bay Company's stranglehold on the fur trade. The author was born in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in 1764, was in North America in 1774, was employed as a clerk in the fur trade in 1779, and by 1787 he was a wintering partner in the Northwest Company posted to Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca.
Mackenzie set out on his first expedition on 3 June 1789, armed with information and maps provided by the fur trader Peter Pond. He had decided to follow a large river flowing west from Great Slave Lake in search of a Northwest passage to the Pacific. The expedition was partially successful: on July 13, Mackenzie and his party reached salt water, but it proved to be the Beaufort Sea rather than the Pacific
After a further two years in the fur trade in Canada, Mackenzie returned to England in the autumn of 1791 in order to study navigation and astronomy: the first expedition had demonstrated to him that he needed more expertise in these areas. He returned to Canada in the spring of 1792 and made his way west to the newly-built Fort Fork, near the junction of the Peace and Smoky Rivers.
In May, 1793, having spent the winter preparing Mackenzie left on what was to be his greatest journey: After a difficult passage by canoe and on foot through the Rockies, Mackenzie and his party arrived at the Pacific near Bella Coola, British Columbia on 22nd July 1793. Mackenzie returned to Grand Portage in 1794 and subsequently to Montreal where he acted as an agent for the North West Company until 1799, when he retired to England. His great achievement did not receive the wide acknowledgment it deserved until the present work was published, and his subsequent and equally important proposals drawing attention to the importance of the Pacific coast: in 1802 Mackenzie was knighted by George III, and he went on to serve as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada from 1804 to 1808.
Gagnon 2190; Graff 2630; Hill, p.187; Howes M133 'b'; Lande 1317; Morgan p.240; Peel 25; Pilling 2384; Sabin 43414; Smith 6382; Strathern 343; Streeter Sale 3653; T.P.L. 658; Wagner-Camp 1:1; Wheat Transmississippi 251.