24a. Wilkes, Charles (1798-1877).     

Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition, During the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842.  Philadelphia: Lean and Blanchard, 1845.


The crew of the USS Vincennes at play in the waters of Antarctica, from Wilkes, Narrative, 1845.


The USS Peacock, confronted by a tabular iceberg near Antarctica, from Wilkes, Narrative, 1845.

The Linda Hall Library recently acquired a first edition, second issue, of the Wilkes Narrative.  The Narrative was originally published in a limited edition in 1845, with all copies going to government offices.  That edition was then reissued in an identical format and made available to the public. 

These first-edition copies are in imperial octavo format (really quarto size), and in addition to the five text volumes, there is a atlas volume that contains five large folding maps. 

There are sixty-four full-page, steel-engraved plates distributed through the five text volumes.  Then, still in the same year, 1845, a smaller octavo edition was published.  This is the edition displayed in the exhibit (see item 24). 

In this third edition, the atlas volume was omitted, as were all the full-page plates, while the steel-engraved vignettes were replaced by wood engravings.  So, for example, this wonderful image of the men of the Vincennes enjoying some leisure time in the Antarctic appears only in the first edition, and not in any of the later editions.  The same is true with the stark image of the Peacock encountering a tabular iceberg.



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