History of the Voyages and Discoveries made in the North

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Author: Forster, John Reinhold (1729-1798)

Year: 1786

Publisher: Luke White & Pat Byrne

Place: London


[8]+xvi+489+[1 blank]+[30] pages with folding engraved frontispiece map and one other folding map. Quarto (11 1/2" x 9") bound in half period calf. The frontispiece map is "A New and Improved Map of the Countries situated about the North Pole as far as the 50th Degree..." (31x31 cm.). "A learned account of various expeditions for discovering the North-West and North-East Passages" (Maggs quoted in Cox). Cox I p.22 (London Ed.). First edition.

Forster's family originated in the Lords Forrester in Scotland from where his great-grandfather had emigrated after losing most of his property during the rule of Oliver Cromwell along with many other Scots. Forster himself was born in the city of Dirschau (Tczew) in the Polish province of Royal Prussia. He studied theology at the University of Halle, afterwards serving as a Lutheran pastor in Nassenhuben where his son Georg was born. In 1766 he traveled to England with Georg (the eldest of eight children, seven of which survived childhood). He spent three years teaching at the Dissenter's Academy in Warrington, succeeding Joseph Priestley. Forster then moved to London, where he became known as a natural historian. When Joseph Banks withdrew at the last moment as naturalist on Cook's second voyage, Forster and his son were appointed to fill the vacant position. In July 1772 they set sail on the Resolution, returning to England in July 1775. During a stop in Cape Town, Forster engaged Anders Sparrman to act as his assistant. Both the Forsters kept detailed diaries of everything they saw on the voyage, and made extensive collections of both natural history specimens and artifacts. On his return Forster published Observations Made during a Voyage round the World (1778). However the income from the book was insufficient to clear his debts, and the bulk of Georg's drawings from the voyage had to be sold to Joseph Banks. During the next few years Forster undertook a variety of writing work, including a German translation of Thomas Pennant's Arctic Zoology. In November 1779 Forster was appointed Professor of Natural History and Mineralogy at the University of Halle, where he remained until his death. His Descriptiones animalium, completed within a month of returning to England with Cook, was eventually edited by Hinrich Lichtenstein and published in 1844. Forster's Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (1772-73) on zoology, ornithology, and ichthyology established him as one of the earliest authorities on North American zoology.


Skillfully rebacked, corners worn; damp-stain to top margin of map and first few gatherings else about very good.

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