BULKELEY, John and John CUMMINS
A Voyage to the South-Seas, in the Years 1740-1. Containing a faithful narrative of the loss of His Majesty's Ship the Wager on a desolate island in the latitude 47 South, longitude 81:40 West
London: printed for Jacob Robinson, 1743. 8vo. xx, 220pp.
Expertly bound to style in period russia and marbled paper covered boards, spine gilt with raised bands, red morocco lettering piece
First edition of "one of the principal accounts of the 'Wager'" (Hill).
First edition, published by Robinson with the authors' names given on the title page: both Hill and Sabin mention another edition published in the same year by Twig with a title that does not mention the authors' names. This latter edition is not mentioned by ESTC , and none of the bibliographies mention the publisher's advertisements. The Wager was a transport and supply ship, part of George Anson's fleet of eight ships sent to harass the Spanish in the Pacific. She rounded Cape Horn successfully but ran aground on 14 May 1741 in the Guayaneco Archipelago on the southern coast of Chile. The present work (by the ship's gunner Bulkeley and the carpenter Cummins) records the "proceedings and conduct of the officers and crew, and the hardships they endured in the said island for the space of five months; their bold attempt at liberty [under the command of Bulkeley and the senior ranking officer, John Baynes], in coasting the southern part of the vast region of Patagonia; setting out upwards of eighty souls in their boats; the loss of the cutter; their passage through the Straits of Magellan; an account of their manner of living during the voyage on seals, wild horses, dogs, &c. and the incredible hardships they frequently underwent for want of food of any kind; a description of the several plates where they touch'd in the Straits of Magellan, with an account of the inhabitants, &c. and their safe arrival in Brazil, after sailing one thousand leagues in a long-boat; their reception from the Portuguese; an account of the disturbances at Rio Grand [sic.]; their arrival at Rio Janeiro [on 12 April 1742]; their passage and usage on board a Portuguese ship to Lisbon [which arrived on 28 November 1742]; and ... [the eight remaining survivors] return to England" (title page). David Cheap, the captain of the Wager, and John Byron, then a midshipman, belonged to a second return party which became the subject of separate accounts by Byron and others. An interesting side-effect was the change in Royal Naval procedures prompted by the events surrounding the wreck of The Wager : at the time, men who were serving aboard ships that were wrecked ceased to be paid from the date of the wreck. This allowed members of The Wager's crew to make the case that since they were no longer being paid by the navy, they were also no longer bound by naval discipline and therefore able to ignore the orders of senior officers. This prompted the Royal Navy to make it clear that the members of a ship's crew were under naval discipline even after a shipwreck and therefore liable to court-martial if they rebelled against their officers.
Hill (2004) 210; Howgego B-186; Sabin 9108.