Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon made under Direction of the Navy Department

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Author: Herndon, William Lewis (1813-1857) and Lardner A Gibbon.

Year: 1854

Publisher: A O P Nicholson

Place: Washington, DC


3 volumes. iv+417 pages with frontispiece and 15 additional plates, tables; xi+339 pages with frontispiece and 35 additional plates, tables; atlas volume with three maps is part of volume I. Royal octavo (9 1/4" x 6") bound in original publisher's brown cloth with spine lettering in gilt and covers in decorative blind stamped lettering and ruled edges. House issue, 33d Congress, 1st Session, Executive number 33. First edition.

The two volumes, one written by Lieutenant Herndon and the other by Lieutenant Gibbon, were so unusual at that time and of such importance that in an unusual move, it was immediately ordered, "10,000 additional copies be printed for the use of the Senate." Three months later another 20,000 copies were ordered; the book became an international best-seller.

Two ideas lay behind the exploration of the Amazon river by Lieutenant William Lewis Herndon and Passed Midshipman Lardner Gibson of the United States Navy, in 1851 and 1852. The more important and more frequently expressed was the region of the Amazon offered a rich field for development by American commercial enterprise; the other was that the Amazon Valley might be employed as an outlet for the increasing slave population in the Untied States. Te commercial interest in the expedition have been recognized, but the relation of this expedition of the Amazon to the institution of slavery in the United States has been less widely noticed. In 1851, Maury sent his cousin, Lieutenant William Lewis Herndon, and another former co-worker at the United States Naval Observatory, Lieutenant Lardner Gibbon, to explore the valley of the Amazon, while gathering as much information as possible for both trade and slavery in the area. Maury thought the Amazon might serve as a "safety valve" by allowing Southern slave owners to resettle or sell their slaves there. (Maury's plan was basically following the idea of northern slave traders and slave holders who had sold their slaves to the Southern states of the US.) The expedition aimed to map the area for the day when slave owners would go "with their goods and chattels to settle and to trade goods from South American countries along the river highways of the Amazon valley."[8] Brazil's slavery was extinguished after a slow process that began with the end of the international traffic in slaves in 1850 but did not end with complete abolition of slavery until 1888. Maury knew when he wrote in the News Journals of the day that Brazil was bringing in new slaves from Africa. Proposing moving those who were already slaves in the United States to Brazil, there would be less slavery or, in time, perhaps no slavery in as many areas of the United States as possible, while also hoping to stop the bringing of new slaves into Brazil which only increased slavery through the capture and enslavement of more Africans. "Imagine", Maury wrote to his cousin, "waking up some day and finding our country free of slavery!" Maury started a campaign to force Brazilian Government to open up navigation in the Amazon river and to oblige it to receive the American colonizers and American Trade. But D. Pedro II's government firmly rejected the proposals. The imperial government was mindful of previous US territorial annexations of parts of Mexico: immigration, provocation, conflict and annexation. So, Brazil acted diplomatically and through the press to avoid, by all means, the colonization proposed by Maury. By 1855, Maury´s project had certainly failed. Brazil authorized free navigation to all nations in the Amazon in 1866, but only when it was at war against Paraguay and free navigation in the area became necessary.


Former library copies with stamp to verso title of volume II, which is bleeding through. Previous owner's blind-stamp imprint to preliminary pages and frontispiece of volume I. Map volume stamps to front and rear paste downs, some maps fold reinforced and old neat previous owner's signature to map verso. Some spotting and stains throughout both volumes. Re cased with new pastedowns and end papers with original spines laid on. Lacking the map set for volume II which were torn from back else a good to very good set lacking the two maps.

SOLD 2017

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