COLNETT, Captain James (1755-1806)
A Voyage to the South Atlantic, and round the Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean, for the purpose of extending the spermaceti whale fisheries, and other objects of commerce, by ascertaining the ports, bays, harbours, and anchoring births, in certain islands and coasts on those seas at which the ships of the British merchants might be refitted
London: printed for the author, by W. Bennett, 1798. 4to. (11 1/2 x 9 inches). Stipple-engraved portrait frontispiece of the dedicatee Sir Philip Stephens, by J. Collyer after William Beechey, 6 folding engraved maps, 1 plate of a sperm whale, 2 plates of coastal profiles.
Contemporary calf, covers with an elaborate wide gilt border, panelled in gilt and blind with intricate cornerpieces comprised of small tools, expertly rebacked to style, spine with wide semi-raised bands in five compartments, black morocco lettering piece in the second, the others with a repeat decoration in gilt, marbled endpapers
Important and rare account of whaling in the Pacific.
This account was privately printed for subscription, and is one of the rarest of Pacific voyage narratives. It offers a full description of Colnett's second Pacific voyage in the Rattler , during which he opened up the South Pacific sperm-whale fields and made two visits to the Galapagos islands. He describes the voyage out via Rio de Janeiro, around Cape Horn, along the coasts of South America and Mexico, and into the Gulf of California. He did not stop at Hawaii on this visit, though the lengthy preface contains references to his first voyage, on which he made an extended stay in Hawaiian waters during the winter of 1787-1788. Colnett's ship, Rattler, a Royal Navy sloop, was purchased from the Admiralty and altered to serve as a whaler. The voyage lasted from January 1793 until October 1794. In addition to the informative and lively text, this work is remarkable for the quality of the maps and plates. The folding plate within the text shows a diagram of a sperm whale, complete with scale and labelled segments, the two folding plates at the back show coastal profiles of six different locations. The large folding maps show the islands of Felix and Ambrose (on one map), the Pacific Coast of the Americas as far as California (one map), and individual maps of the islands of Revillagigedo, Cocos, the Galapagos, and Quibo.
Colnett first visited the Pacific as a midshipman on Cook's second voyage. Later he made several commercial voyages to the Northwest Coast, where in 1789 his brush with the Spanish commander at Nootka Sound instigated the "Nootka Controversy". An account of that incident is also given herein, as is his meeting with the Spanish commander at the Sandwich Islands. "This narrative is particularly important for the part Colnett played in the dispute between England and Spain over claims to the Northwest" (Forbes).
Forbes 280; Hill (2004) 338; Howes C604, "b."; Sabin 14546; Strathern 120.