Philadelphia: 1791. 8vo. [ii], xxxiv, [i] (blank), 522 pp. FIRST EDITION. With frontispiece portrait, folding map of East Florida and 7 engraved plates (1 folding). Contemporary calf, rebacked; soiling and browning pretty much throughout, due especially to the paper stock. Small book label of Lewis H. Weiss plus ownership signature of John Greimer dated 1792 on title and small ownership signature of Ettling on the paste-down. Preserved in a folding slipcase. Item #16489
First edition of this classic work on American exploration with memorable material on southern Indian tribes. Due to its lyrical narrative, Bartram’s Travels influenced many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century authors both in Great Britain and the United States, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Combining an account of the author’s travels and his natural history observations of the southeastern United States, this work is noted by Sabin as “unequalled for the vivid picturesqueness of its descriptions of nature, scenery, and productions.” Based on five years of study in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, Bartram’s work includes significant commentary on the Cherokee and Creek Indian tribes as well as descriptions of the flora, fauna, and geography of the region. In fact, had it not been for considerable publication delays (not the least of which was due to the American Revolution), Bartram would have been recognized as having discovered a number of species; nevertheless, this book secured his reputation and influenced a wide range of thinkers from the scientific community to writers like Henry David Thoreau. “Beyond its scientific importance, the Travels exerted a profound influence on travel literature and on the Romantic movement: Fagin described the work as ‘the first genuine and artistic interpretation of the American landscape’ (Fagin, 10). Stevenson similarly called it a minor monument of American literature, with vigor of style and excellent pictorial detail. Bartram’s account of the remote frontier, of the plantations, trading posts, and Indian villages at the end of the eighteenth century is unrivaled” (Streeter).
William Bartram (1739–1823) was an American botanist and ornithologist, son of the naturalist and explorer John Bartram. As a young man William worked closely with his father, who had been named Royal Botanist to George III, and accompanied him on several trips to various regions of the eastern United States - excursions that would lay the foundation for his later work. Bartram was an influential figure in the careers of several notable naturalists, including Thomas Nuttall, Thomas Say, and Alexander Wilson.