London: Cadell & Davies, 1804.
4to, xx, 394pp., [2pp. adverts], 9 engraved plates and maps, 7 folding, plate list on p.394. One folding plate backed with modern paper. Some browning and foxing but not offensive, generally a very good complete copy in contemporary calf rebacked, lettered in gilt, a very good copy with the bookplate of Abel Smith of Woodhall Park.
§ One of the centrepieces of a Pacific voyage collection
First edition of this famous Pacific rarity and one of the centrepieces of a Pacific voyage collection: Broughton’s account of his lengthy Pacific voyage is filled with descriptions of the Northwest Coast, Hawaii and New South Wales. It is a difficult book to find: the Kroepelien collection, for example, had only the German and French versions of the work while Lada-Mocarski describes it as ‘Extremely rare… the information contained in it is of prime importance’.
In 1795 Broughton was despatched in Bligh’s old ship Providence to rendezvous with Vancouver on the Northwest Coast. He sailed to Nootka Sound via Rio de Janeiro, Australia, Tahiti and the Hawaiian Islands; however Vancouver had returned to England some months earlier so he headed down the coast to Monterey and across the Pacific, visiting Hawaii again en route. During his first visit there in 1796 he had introduced grape vines and vegetable seeds from New South Wales. He called at Kealakekua and Honolulu, and gives a description of Kamehameha’s spreading sovereignty. On his second visit he called at Waimea, Kauai and Niihau. For the next four years he surveyed the coasts of Asia and the islands of Japan, during which time important maps of Japan, Korea and Formosa were produced, some of them printed for inclusion in this volume.
In May 1797 the Providence was wrecked off the coast of Formosa and the crew travelled to Macao in her companion vessel, then were dispersed to other naval and India Company vessels. It is a credit to the Broughton’s humanity that he kept track of their subsequent fortunes. He writes in the preface that: ‘the ship’s company consisted entirely of young men, who were universally sober, attentive, and well-behaved; and here it is melancholy to relate, how few of them ever revisited their native country’. One unusual (and historically appealing) aspect of Broughton’s book is his decision to list all members of the crew, including the able seamen, with short notes on their fortunes following the loss of the Providence. For example, we learn that the gunner Thomas Mullen was killed by accident on his passage from China to England, and that the ship’s cook Alexander Bishop died in the hospital at the Cape of Good Hope in 1798. The list makes for maudlin reading as an appalling number were lost at sea in subsequent calamities.
This book is of some interest as early Australiana as the Providence cruised the coast of New South Wales during August 1795, including an interim stay at Port Jackson and a week at Port Stephens. Here Broughton encountered four survivors of a band of convicts who in 1790 had escaped from Rose Hill, stolen a boat and sailed northward. Five years in the wilderness had reduced the men to a pitiful state, Broughton describing them as ‘miserable half-starved objects, depending on the hospitality of the natives for their subsistence, who occasionally supplied them with a part of their provisions’.
The narrative contains tantalising glimpses of the Pacific at the close of the eighteenth-century, a world on the verge of momentous and irreversible change. For example, Broughton relates barter with a convict beachcomber in Atooi (Hawaiian group), concluding the exchange as follows: ‘The European now left us in his canoe with some recompense for his attentions: this man had been transported to Botany Bay, and came thence in an American brig called the Mercury; he deserted from her at this island, and is much courted by Taava, whose cause he has preferred to that of the young chief Tamoerrie’.
Bibliography: Forbes records two issues of the first edition, the sole difference occurring on p. 394: one issue with the list of plates on this page (this copy) and the other with advertisements. Cordier Japonica 457; Ferguson 389; Forbes 352; Hill 191; Howes B-821; Lada-Mocarski 59; Sabin 8423; Streeter sale 3500. The Brooke-Hitching copy fetched £37,500 (approx. $50,000). Item #125607