# 38514

BLIGH, William (1754-1817)

A narrative of the mutiny on board His Majesty’s ship Bounty;

$14,000.00 AUD

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and the subsequent voyage of part of the crew, in the ship’s boat, from Tofoa, one of the Friendly Islands, to Timor, a Dutch settlement in the East Indies. Illustrated with charts. London : George Nicol, 1790. Quarto, full flame calf, expertly rebacked, spine in compartments finely tooled in gilt with decorations of palm trees on an island, contrasting morocco title labels, folding engraved frontispiece of the draught of the Bounty (old creases), pp iv, folding chart of the voyage of Bligh in the open boat, 88; two further engraved plates (one folding, the other with a short tear), some offsetting and foxing, a very good copy.

The first edition of Bligh’s own account of one of the most famous events in maritime history, and of what is generally acknowledged as one of the great feats of navigation.

The breadfruit, a species of flowering mulberry tree native to Southeast Asia and most of the Pacific Islands, had first been brought back to Europe from Tahiti by Sir Joseph Banks in 1770. It was at the instigation of Banks, who had recognised the breadfruit’s enormous potential as a staple food product, and in particular as an economical means of feeding slaves, that Lieutenent William Bligh’s ill-fated 1787 expedition to Tahiti in the Bounty was mounted. Bligh’s brief was to collect as many samples of breadfruit as possible with the intention of propagating them in the Caribbean.

Bligh’s narrative commences on April 29, 1789, shortly after the Bounty‘s departure from Tahiti. Led by Fletcher Christian, 24 of the ship’s crew mutinied; Bligh and 18 loyal men were cast adrift in the ship’s launch. Over the course of the next 45 days Bligh succeeded in navigating westward across 4,000 miles of ocean in the tiny boat, by way of the northern coast of Australia and the Torres Strait, eventually reaching the island of Timor at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago. “In the course of this hazardous journey Bligh took the opportunity to chart and name parts of the unknown north-east coast of New Holland as he passed along it” (Wantrup). On his return to England, Bligh was acquitted at a court-martial and promoted to Commander. He was to lead a second expedition to the Pacific in 1791-93 which succeeded in transporting breadfruit from Tahiti to the Caribbean.

Bligh’s Narrative “was not … a hastily written account but Bligh’s full and characteristically meticulous narrative of the latter part of his voyage, illustrated with a plan of the Bounty’s launch and three charts, including the chart of his discoveries on the north-east coast and Torres Strait – indeed, this was the most substantial achievement in Australian coastal discovery before the voyages of Matthew Flinders and George Bass at the end of the 1790s. The substance of the Narrative, together with its plates and charts, was incorporated with only slight alterations into the full ‘official’ account of the voyage published in 1792.” (Wantrup)

Ferguson 71; Hill 132; Kroepelien 87; Wantrup 61