Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty’s Ships Adventure and Beagle, between the Years 1826 and 1836, describing their Examination of the Southern Shores of South America, and the Beagle’s Circumnavigation of the Globe.

London: Henry Colburn, 1839.

First edition, and a virtually mint copy, almost entirely unopened. “The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event in my life, and has determined my whole career” (Charles Darwin, Life and Letters I, p. 61). “The five years of the voyage were the most important event in Darwin’s intellectual life and in the history of biological science. Darwin sailed with no formal scientific training. He returned a hard-headed man of science, knowing the importance of evidence, almost convinced that species had not always been as they were since the creation but had undergone change … The experiences of his five years in the Beagle, how he dealt with them, and what they led to, built up into a process of epoch-making importance in the history of thought” (DSB). The third volume comprises Darwin’s own journal of his voyage in the Beagle, which is the first issue of his first published book. It is “is undoubtedly the most often read and stands second only to On the Origin of Species as the most often printed” (Freeman, 31). It is “one of the most interesting records of natural history exploration ever written and is one of the most important, for it was on this voyage that Darwin prepared for his lifework, ultimately leading to The Origin of Species” (Hill I: 104-105). Volume I of the Narrative concerns the initial surveying expedition, 1826–30, under Philip Parker King in the Adventure, during which FitzRoy succeeded Pringle Stokes as commander of the accompanying Beagle. Volume II describes FitzRoy’s continuation and completion of the survey with the Beagle alone, ending in 1836. ‘The surveys he carried out in South American waters established FitzRoy as a first-rate hydrographer and won for him the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society (1837). Because his marine surveys were accurate to such a high degree they are still used as the foundation for a number of charts of that area’ (DSB).

“If it had not been for Robert FitzRoy, the name Charles Darwin would now be remembered, if at all, as that of a country parson with an interest in natural history, perhaps rather in the mould of Gilbert White, of Selborne. The theory of natural selection, which explains the fact of evolution, would be known from the work of Alfred Russel Wallace, who came up with the idea independently of Darwin, and whose work prompted Darwin to go public with his own ideas; we would be as familiar then with the term ‘Wallacian evolution’ as we are, in the real world where Robert FitzRoy lived, with the term ‘Darwinian evolution’. In that real world, FitzRoy is known, so far as he is widely known at all, as Darwin’s Captain on the voyage of HMS Beagle during which the young naturalist made the observations which pro- vided the inspiration for the further years of hard work on which his theory would be based. But if Charles Darwin had never lived, the name of Robert FitzRoy might be widely held in higher esteem than it is in our world, where it has remained forever in the shadow of Darwin” (Gribbin, FitzRoy, p. 11).

This three-volume narrative, published in 1839, recounts the voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836. Volume I chronicles the ships’ adventures while surveying the southern coast of South America from 1826 to 1830. The captain of the Beagle during that time, Pringle Stokes (1793-1828), committed suicide, partly due to the stress of battling some of the worst weather on Earth. Phillip Parker King (1791-1856), Captain of the Adventure, used Stokes’ journal in preparing his official report of the voyage, but glossed over the suicide. Stokes’ replacement, Captain Robert FitzRoy, requested the company of a naturalist-scientist as a companion and intellectual peer before undertaking a second voyage:

“Anxious that no opportunity of collecting useful information, during the voyage, should be lost; I proposed to the Hydrographer [i.e., Francis Beaufort, Hydrographer to the British Admiralty] that some well-educated and scientific person should be sought for who would willingly share such accommodations as I had to offer, in order to profit by the opportunity of visiting distant countries yet little known. Captain Beaufort approved of the suggestion, and wrote to Professor Peacock, of Cambridge, who consulted with a friend, Professor Henslow [Darwin’s former mentor and teacher], and he named Mr. Charles Darwin, grandson of Dr. Darwin the poet, as a young man of promising ability, extremely fond of geology, and indeed all branches of natural history. In consequence an offer was made to Mr. Darwin to be my guest on board, which he accepted conditionally; permission was obtained for his embarkation, and an order given by the Admiralty that he should be borne on the ship’s books for provisions. The conditions asked by Mr. Darwin were, that he should be at liberty to leave the Beagle and retire from the Expedition when he thought proper, and that he should pay a fair share of the expenses of my table” (Vol. II, pp. 18-19).

Volume II is FitzRoy’s account of the expedition’s second voyage during the years 1831-1836, when the Beagle explored Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America and the west coast of the continent. The ship then traveled to the Enchanted Islands, better known now as the Galapagos Islands. From there, the Beagle sailed to Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, around the Cape of Good Hope, St. Helena, Ascension Island, Bahia, Cape Verde Islands and the Azores, and then home to England. FitzRoy not only captained the Beagle, but also served as the ship’s hydrographic surveyor, meteorologist, and amateur naturalist. “FitzRoy, who was more concerned with science than were many naval officers of his day, made it possible for Darwin to visit tropical lands and study their flora, fauna, and geology. The two men shared the same cabin and FitzRoy was attentive to the scientific needs and interests of the young Darwin. FitzRoy’s violent temper and his conservative opinions on religion and slavery were responsible for some disagreements between them, but FitzRoy and Darwin remained on friendly terms … While Darwin made his observations in South America and collected his specimens, FitzRoy surveyed the southern coast of that continent. The years of the second Beagle voyage marked the beginning of a half-century of supremacy of British hydrography” (DSB). Many years later Darwin reflected in his autobiography that FitzRoy’s character “was in several respects one of the most noble which I have ever known.”

“FitzRoy’s duty in the years immediately following the return of the Beagle to England was clear. His first priority was to complete the preparation of the mass of charts, sailing directions, and other technical material resulting from the voyage, and he continued to receive his pay for carrying out this work even after the Beagle was paid off … work on this material continued long after the pay for it stopped, and that the last instalment was sent back to Beaufort by FitzRoy on his arrival in New Zealand in September 1844, having presumably been completed on the voyage out from England. But there was also considerable public interest in the activities of the Beagle, and FitzRoy also felt it his duty to write up the material from both voyages into a book. With his predecessor, Pringle Stokes, dead, and with Captain King having retired to Australia, FitzRoy carried the responsibility (as he saw it) for all the material from the first voyage, as well as his own narrative of the second voyage. It soon became clear that with all this, and Darwin’s material as well, there was far too much for one volume. We do not have the details of the discussions that must have taken place, but it is clear that Darwin and FitzRoy soon reached an amicable agreement (by January 1837) that FitzRoy would use the material he was responsible for to prepare two volumes, one covering the first voyage (Beagle and Adventure) and the other the second, while Darwin would write his own account of the second voyage for a third volume to be published with the other two as a single book.

“As the work progressed, FitzRoy found that the only way to cope with the mass of technical material and his own observations on various topics (such as the Fuegian language) that would otherwise break up the flow of the narrative was to relegate the material to a fourth volume of Appendices. Altogether he would produce well over half a million words, all written out by hand” (Gribbin, FitzRoy, pp. 175-6).

Publication of Darwin’s journal, which contained a history of the voyage and a sketch of observations in natural history and geology, had been urged by FitzRoy during the voyage. It “was ready much earlier than the rest. The manuscript of the main text was finished by June 1837, and it, with the index, was in print early in 1838. The preface was written later and in it he states that ‘publication has been unavoidably delayed’ … The printing of the preliminaries and the appendix probably took place before January 24 1839. On that day he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, but the initials do not appear on the title page of Volume III. Immediately popular, it was reprinted separately later in the same year, and in numerous later editions with different titles, but is widely known today as The Voyage of the Beagle. It was one of Darwin’s personal favourites, as he writes in his autobiography: “The success of this my first literary child tickles my vanity more than that of any of my other books.”

Robert FitzRoy (1805-1865) was appointed to the governorship of New Zealand in 1843, returning to England in 1845; in 1857 he became Rear Admiral and in 1863 Vice Admiral.

“Ever since his Beagle days FitzRoy had shown an interest in the study of the weather. Therefore, when the British government created (1855) the Meteorologic Office, instructed to gather weather information for shipping, it was not surprising that the Royal Society should ask FitzRoy be placed in charge of it … While a committee of the Royal Society deliberated about the exact nature of the work to be done by the Meteorologic Office, FitzRoy contacted the ship captains who would make meteorological observations for him. He was not satisfied merely to amass weather information; he wanted to warn sailors and others of approaching weather changes” (DSB).

“FitzRoy was interested in the weather for one reason − to save lives. He knew from direct experience the value of advance warning of storms at sea, and was determined to do something to help his fellow mariners. This was an outstanding example of his sense of duty, a noblesse oblige of the best kind which drove him to spend his own fortune in government service, leaving only debts for his wife and children, to do what he thought right for the common good at all times regardless of the effect on his own reputation, and to work long hours that far exceeded his formal obligations. In the words of one of his obituaries, ‘a more high-principled officer, a more amiable man, or a person of more useful general attainments never walked a quarter-deck’.

“It is a sign of FitzRoy’s strength of character that even after the setback in New Zealand, back in England he developed the fundamental techniques of weather forecasting, designed a standard barometer and thermometer (a prototype weather station), invented the system of storm warnings and signals which saved countless lives in the ensuing decades, and issued the first daily weather forecasts, published in The Times − indeed, he invented the term ‘weather forecast’ (Gribbin, FitzRoy, pp. 10-11).

Freeman 10; Freeman Companion p. 213; Norman 584.

Three vols. in four (vol. 2 having a separate Appendix), 8vo (235 x 145 mm), pp. xxviii [iv] 1-559, 556-597 [recte 601]; xiv [ii] 694 [2]; viii 352; xiv 629 [609]–615, with 8 engraved folding maps and charts (loosely inserted in pockets at the front of each volume, as issued, the ribbon for extracting the charts still present in each pocket), 48 plates and charts, and 6 text illustrations; some slight foxing to plates, a few of the charts split at folds, overall a very good copy in original cloth, spines somewhat faded, minor repairs to spines but intact in its original binding, in morocco-backed boxes.

Item #4562

Price: $85,000.00