FITZROY, Robert, 1805-1865; DARWIN, Charles, 1809-1882; KING, Philip Parker, 1793-1856
[FITZROY’S COPY] Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle’s circumnavigation of the globe.
Commander of the Beagle Captain Robert FitzRoy’s own copy of the first edition of Darwin’s first published book, one of the cornerstones of modern biological science, as well as one of the great travel narratives of the modern age. A complete set bound, as was the fashion, into library calf bindings, with an outstanding provenance directly from the FitzRoy family.
London : Henry Colburn, 1839. Four volumes, octavo, contemporary half calf over marbled boards (expertly rebacked), spines in compartments with gilt ornament and contrasting morocco title labels lettered in gilt; marbled edges and endpapers, signed in ink on the half-title of volumes 1. and 2. Robt. Fitz Roy; volume 1. also bears the later inscription in stronger ink Admiral Fitz Roy, probably made by a family member shortly after FitzRoy’s death in order to distinguish him from his son, Robert O’Brien Fitzroy (1839-1896). Volume 1: pp xxviii, [iv – directions to binder; errata & corrigenda], 597; 16 engraved plates and folding map Chart of a part of South America by King (small repair); the map of the Strait of Magellan, issued loose in the endpockets of the publisher’s cloth binding, is bound at rear; the map of South America, also issued loose, has been bound at rear of volume 3, with some repairs. Volume 2: pp xiv, [ii – directions to the binder], 694, [i – addenda]; 24 engraved plates; the 2 folding maps of Tierra del Fuego and Chiloe, loosely issued, are bound at front and rear. Volume 2 (Appendix): pp viii, 352; 6 engraved plates; 2 folding maps of Low Islands and Tracks of the Beagle, both bound at p.344. Volume 3 (Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by the H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain Fitzroy, R.N. from 1832 to 1836): pp xiv, 615; the folding maps of the southern portion of South America and the Keeling Islands both bound at rear, together with the map of South America (issued loose in volume 1) which has been repaired; occasional light foxing but overall a clean set; complete, with all of the loosely issued maps bound in.
Darwin was chosen by FitzRoy (who, as well as being a naval officer, was a meteorologist and competent surveyor and hydrographer) to accompany him as naturalist on the second voyage of the Beagle (1831-36). This scientific expedition, which would prove to be the most significant ever undertaken, visited Brazil, Argentina, Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, the Falklands, the Strait of Magellan, Chile, Peru, the Galapagos Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, Van Diemen’s Land, the Keeling or Cocos Islands, Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope. The majority of Darwin’s time was actually spent exploring and making observations on land, rather than at sea, and his account is arranged geographically, rather than in chronological sequence. Darwin was to comment that ‘The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event in my life, and has determined my whole career’ (Life and Letters I, p. 61). Indeed, the voyage provided the impetus for the germination of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which was to come to fruition in On the origin of species. Darwin’s interpretation of the data he collected on the Beagle would not only revolutionize the biological sciences, but also lead to the cleaving of science and religion into discrete spheres.
The first volume contains the expedition commander Philip Parker King’s account of the voyage of the Adventure, with the Beagle in company, to chart the coasts of Peru, Chile and Patagonia (1826-30), during which FitzRoy assumed command of the Beagle after the death of Pringle Stokes; the second volume (with separate appendix volume) contains FitzRoy’s account of the second voyage of the Beagle (1831-36); the third volume is Darwin’s Journal and Remarks, 1832-1835.
Provenance: Robert FitzRoy (1805-1865); Mary Isabella Smyth (1823-1889), the author’s second wife; thence by descent to Mark Smyth, Western Australia, acquired privately from his estate. (In 2011, an album of sketches by Conrad Martens from the Beagle expedition with the ownership signature of FitzRoy, from the same estate, was sold by auction at McKenzies Auctioneers, Perth).
Ferguson, 2708; Freeman, 10; Hill, 607; Norman, 584; Sabin, 37826.