A Narrative of the Life, Travels and Sufferings of Thomas W. Smith: comprising an account of his early life, adoption by the gipsys [sic]; his travels during eighteen voyages to various parts of the world, during which he was five times shipwrecked; thrice on a desolate island near the South Pole, once on the coast of England, and once on the coast of Africa
Boston: 1844. 8vo. 240pp.
Contemporary sheep, rebacked retaining a portion of the original spine. Housed in a calf backed box.
Provenance: Neva & Guy Littell (morocco booklabel)
Rare American account of voyages in the Antarctic and the Pacific.
Smith was born of respectable British parents, but after his father died he was sent to work as an errand boy at age seven, and not unlike other young men in his situation, he soon found himself at sea. He participated in seven whaling voyages to the Pacific from 1816 to 1832, as well as numerous other sea adventures all over the world, including the South Pacific, the Atlantic coast of South America, Africa, and the Antarctic regions. Rosove notes that the work has been missed by many bibliographers because it is "so rare and little known."
Besides whaling, Smith took part in hunting elephant seals on South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in 1816-18, and whaling and sealing on the South Shetland Islands in 1820. This visit, only a year after the discovery of the islands, is the earliest account of sealing there, and an important early Antarctic narrative, with harrowing tales of surviving on penguin hearts and livers and contesting territory with other sealers. Smith also describes a voyage from London to Cape Horn, then to Juan Fernandez and the Galapagos, Easter Island, and points in South America including Colombia and Panama. Later, in New Zealand, he describes scrapes with natives, witnessing battles between the Whorowrarians and Kivakivians. He also visited Japan, Guam, and other Pacific islands. He gives details of whaling activities, including advice on "the most expeditious way of killing a whale" (pp.228-229). Smith made further whaling voyages to the Pacific Ocean in the 1820s aboard the British whalers Spring, Grove, and Hibernia. He ended up trying to do good in New Bedford, but debt and a lung ailment prevented him from achieving his dream of becoming a minister.
A rare book, not in the Hill Collection. The Brooke-Hitching copy realized approximately $21,000 at his sale in September 2015.
Huntress 331C; Forster 86; Spence 1139 (listing an 1840 ed., an error in dating); Rosove 312; Howes S679.