London: Richard Bentley, 1839. Two volumes. 8vo. xvi, 473; xi, [i], 372 pp. FIRST EDITION. With separate frontispiece and title in red and black in each volume. Later half calf and marbled boards, elaborate gilt spine with morocco labels, boards slightly rubbed and edges bumped but otherwise a very attractive binding; light scattered foxing throughout (heavier on the frontispieces and titles), with the occasional pencil marking in the margins. Item #15021
First edition. Murray’s book most notably recounts his three months spent in the American wild among a group of traveling Pawnee Indians. “This is the first and best edition of a most interesting work, by an intelligent observer of the peculiarities of the Pawnees, before they had been modified by contact with the whites” (Sabin). Murray also records at length the scenery of the Hudson River and points north during an important moment in history for this region. By the mid-1830’s, upstate New York and areas of New England had experienced a huge surge in tourism, in no small part due to the ingenious paintings of the Hudson River School artists and the sense of national pride and interest in the sublime they elicited; a mixed blessing indeed as more interest meant more crowds and destruction of the idyllic landscape. Murray includes descriptions of the new railway system brought to the area, as well as his encounter of “Mr. Cooper the American novelist” on a steamboat going up the Hudson!
Murray (1806–1895) was known as a rather striking figure in English society, and he seems to have led a rather fascinating life. He traveled extensively and held several diplomatic posts, including consul-general in Egypt, where he was able to import the first hippopotamus to Britain. He served as groom-in-waiting in the Court of Queen Victoria, secretary of legation in Naples, envoy to Persia, and minister to Copenhagen. By the end of his life, it is said that he knew 15 languages.