Narrative and Successful Result of a Voyage in the South Seas Performed by Order of the Government of British India
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To Ascertain the Actual Fate of La Prouse's Expedition Interspersed with Accounts of the Religion Manners Customs and Cannibal Practices of the South Sea Islanders....London: Hurst Chance and Co. 1829. Two octavo volumes entirely uncut in original boards with printed paper title-labels to spines (Boards a little bumped/rubbed; slight soiling to front board of Vol. I). Each volume preserved in a navy quarter oasis folding solander case with gilt lettering to spines. With half-titles; 2 folding engraved frontispieces 1 of which is hand-coloured; a folding map hand-coloured in outline; 1 full-page plate and 1 in-text illustration. Publisher's advertisements at the front of Vol. I and errata-page opp. p. lxxviii in Vol. I. A particularly fine first edition set of a very scarce work. It befell Irishman Peter Dillon (c.1785-1847) a South Sea trader in his words "a son of the sea" (p. 43) to at long last solve the mystery of the disappearance of La Prouse and the ships La Boussole and L'Astrolobe. It was some forty years since the ill-fated Pacific expedition weighed anchor in Botany Bay never to be seen or heard from again. The year was 1826 and Peter Dillon en route from Valparaiso to Pondicherry aboard his ship the St. Patrick decided to stop in at Tucopia (Tikopia) in the Solomon Islands to visit an old acquaintance. When a silver sword-guard "of French manufacture" was exchanged at the island Dillon suspected that it might belong to the missing French expedition. He learned that the inhabitants were in possession of many such items which they had acquired from the neighbouring Malicolo/Mannicolo (Vanikoro) islands. The inhabitants of Vanikoro Dillon was told had acquired the items from two large ships that had been wrecked there. Dillon hastened to Vanikoro though was unable to land due to contrary weather diminishing provisions and a leaky boat. Thus he sailed on to Calcutta sword-guard a ring made from a spoon and glass beads in hand where he successfully petitioned the Government of Bengal to sponsor an expedition to Vanikoro. Dillon returned to the Solomons towards the end of 1827 following a troublesome voyage (during which Dillon charged the ship's surgeon Dr. Tytler with mutiny and arrested him) which included stops in Hobart (where Dillon was briefly imprisoned for assaulting the ship's surgeon) New Zealand Tonga and Rotuma. At Tikopia and Vanikoro Dillon gathered intelligence visited the reef where the ships were wrecked and procured numerous relics from the wrecks some bearing inscriptions and royal arms. Upon his arrival in France Dillon was received by the King Charles X who thanked him and made him a Chevalier of the Lgion d'Honneur in recognition of his efforts. The relics were placed in the Louvre (Howgego 2004 p. 168).
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