An Authentic Journal of the late Expedition under… Anson.
An Authentic Journal of the late Expedition under… Anson.

London: Printed for J. Robinson, 1744.

Octavo, iv, 516 pp; contemporary panelled calf, joints neatly repaired; an excellent copy.

First account of the full Anson voyage

The first book-length account of the entire Anson expedition to be printed, dating a full four years before the appearance of the official narrative in 1748 (Bulkeley and Cummins's Voyage to the South Seas, 1743, concerns only the loss of the support ship the Wager on the South American coast soon after the beginning of the expedition). It is likely that 'John Philips', cited as author on the title-page, was a pseudonym: A. Grove Day pointed out that no such name appears on the ship's muster. 'Possibly the reason for assuming this nom de guerre may lie in the fact that the book contains a full account of the journey to England of the mutineers of the Wager after their ship was wrecked; for the author sympathises with them in their deserting their captain (Captain David Cheap), and his remaining officers. The story of the mutineers was supplied by Mr Bulkeley, a warrant-officer of the Wager, and a ringleader of the mutiny; and the case was still sub judice when the book was published by "John Philips". It must have been an instant success, for it was at once pirated by two separate publishers …. This work … mentions names and events not referred to in the other books of the voyage; thus filling in gaps, sometimes important ones, in the history' (Sommerville, pp.314-5).

The first book-length account of the entire Anson expedition to be printed, dating a full four years before the appearance of the official narrative in 1748 (Bulkeley and Cummins's Voyage to the South Seas, 1743, concerns only the loss of the support ship the Wager on the South American coast soon after the beginning of the expedition). It is likely that 'John Philips', cited as author on the title-page, was a pseudonym: A. Grove Day pointed out that no such name appears on the ship's muster. 'Possibly the reason for assuming this nom de guerre may lie in the fact that the book contains a full account of the journey to England of the mutineers of the Wager after their ship was wrecked; for the author sympathises with them in their deserting their captain (Captain David Cheap), and his remaining officers. The story of the mutineers was supplied by Mr Bulkeley, a warrant-officer of the Wager, and a ringleader of the mutiny; and the case was still sub judice when the book was published by "John Philips". It must have been an instant success, for it was at once pirated by two separate publishers …. This work … mentions names and events not referred to in the other books of the voyage; thus filling in gaps, sometimes important ones, in the history' (Sommerville, pp.314-5).

Anson's return to England with HMS Centurion in the summer of 1744 was the occasion of huge popular celebration and intense interest in the events of his tumultuous four-year voyage round the world, which had culminated in the capture of the Manila treasure galleon. 'After the fleet's failure off Toulon in February the navy stood in need of a popular triumph, and the capture of a treasure galleon was in the public mind the next best thing to a fleet victory. Day after day the newspapers carried reports of the homecoming: the procession from Portsmouth to London, with thirty-two wagons laden with treasure; the feting of Anson and his men; details of the prize money and the dispute over its allocation' (Williams, p.229).

The Philips text was rushed into print to meet this immense popular interest. It was first issued in eight weekly parts at sixpence each: a notice in the Gentleman's Magazine, September 1744, records it as 'Publishing weekly, at 6d. each no.', which shows that it was already appearing a little more than a month after the formal discharge of the Centurion's crew in late July. We handled an exceptionally rare set of the original parts in 1997: on checking the page numbers in this copy where the parts began and ended (pp. 64, 128, 192, 256, 320, 388, and 452) we can see evidence of differing stitching between the sections, tending to confirm the commonsense conclusion that parts were sold as printed but also kept from the same printing to make up complete books, that is "bound from the parts".

Provenance: Early bold signature of Sir (?) Pinchard; armorial bookplate of the Keppel family; Rev Thomas Robert Keppel (Rector of North Creake, Norfolk; his signature dated 1846); his eldest son Major William George Keppel of Old Buckenham, Norfolk (printed label); Frederick E. Ellis (with his Shaw Island bookplate); private collection (Sydney).

Hill, 1344; Sabin, 62458; H.B.T. Sommerville, Commodore Anson's Voyage into the South Seas and Around the World; Glyndwr Williams, Documents relating to Anson's voyage round the world, 1740-1744.

Price (AUD): $5,750.00  other currencies Ref: #4505118