JAMES, Edwin (1797-1861)
Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, performed in the years 1819, 1820 ... under the command of Maj. S.H. Long, of the U.S. Top. Engineers. Compiled from the notes of Major Long, Mr. T. Say, and other gentlemen of the party, by Edwin Thomas, botanist and geologist to the expedition
London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown, 1823. Octavo, 3 volumes. (8 3/4 x 5 1/2 inches). vii, , 344; vii, , 356; vii, , 347pp. Folding engraved map, folding engraved plate with geological profiles, and eight other plates (three hand-colored aquatint plates and five uncoloured plates, by I. Clark after S. Seymour. Half titles in second and third volumes.
Uniform half tan calf over marbled paper boards, spines with raised bands in six compartments, tooled in gilt, red and green lettering pieces in the second and third compartment, marbled endpapers.
The first London edition of this cornerstone of Western Americana.
Originally named the "Yellowstone Expedition," the U.S. government expedition under Major Stephen Long was the most ambitious exploration of the trans-Mississippi West following those of Lewis and Clark and Zebulon Pike. The expedition travelled up the Missouri and then followed the River Platte to its source in the Rocky Mountains before moving south to Upper Arkansas. From there the plan was to find the source of the Red River, but when this was missed the Canadian River was explored instead. Edwin James was the botanist, geologist, and surgeon for the expedition and "based his compilation upon his own records, the brief geological notes of Major Long, and the early journals of Thomas Say [who served as the expedition's zoologist]" (Wagner-Camp). Significantly, Long's expedition was the first official US expedition to be accompanied by artists (namely Titian Peale and Samuel Seymour), and the illustrations are an important early visual record of the region. Cartographically, Long provided the first details of the Central Plains. Upon returning to Washington from the expedition, Long drafted a large manuscript map of the West (now in the National Archives) and the printed map in James's Account closely follows his original. The myth of the Great American Desert was founded by Long: a myth which endured for decades. Long's map, along with that of Lewis and Clark, "were the progenitors of an entire class of maps of the American Transmississippi West" (Wheat). The American first edition was published in three volumes in Philadelphia in 1822-1823; this London edition followed. The London edition differs in some respects from the American: additional paragraphs of text were added, the plates were re-engraved and the two maps found in the American edition were here combined into one. James's Account deservedly ranks alongside the narratives of Lewis and Clark and Pike as the most important early exploratory narratives of the American west.
Abbey Travel II.650; Field 948; Howes J41, "b"; Sabin 35683; Wagner-Camp 25:2; Wheat Transmississippi 353.