the american climate
VOLNEY, Constantin-François CHASSEBOEUF, comte de. Tableau du climat et du sol des Etats-Unis d'Amerique. Suivi d'éclaircissemens sur la Floride, sur la colonie Française au Scioto, sur quelques colonies canadiennes et sur les sauvages. Paris: Courcier and Dentu, 'An XII. - 1803'.
8vo (197 x 124mm). Contemporary French green calf over marbled boards, spines gilt in compartments, lettered directly in 2, others decorated in blind, decorative gilt rolls at foot of spine, patterned endpapers, all edges speckled, blue silk markers; pp. I: [4 (half-title, publisher's advertisement on verso, title, verso blank)], xvi, 300; II: [4 (half-title, errata on verso, title, verso blank)], -534, [2 (errata and 'Avis au lecteur', 'Avis au relieur'); 2 engraved folding plates and 2 folding engraved maps by E. Collin; extremities lightly rubbed and bumped, first 4 ll. ff vol. II lightly browned, a few light marks, maps slightly creased, one with skilfully-repaired tear, nonetheless a very fresh and attractive set in a contemporary binding; provenance: Stuart Wells Jackson (1875-1957, etched bookplate by Bernhardt Wall signed in the plate 'Wall '24' on upper pastedown of vol. I).
First edition, Sabin's issue A. Tableau du climat et du sol des Etats-Unis d'Amerique is based upon a three-year expedition throughout North America undertaken by the French philosophe, politician, historian and traveller Volney (1757-1820). Although the work was originally intended to be composed of two parts - the present text and a second part on the political and moral characteristics of the United States - Volney eventually decided to restrict himself to the subjects covered in these volumes, and the resulting work is one of the earliest accounts of the geology and climatology of the United States. ‘Volney’s book [however] is not a travel book in which scientific description and analysis are included as part of a travel narrative, but rather it is a book in which organized description and analysis is the main object’ (White’s introduction to the 1968 Hafner edition of the Tableau, p. ix). ‘On October 11, 1795, Constantin-François Chasseboeuf, compte de Volney, accomplished French linguist, philosopher, politician, scientist, author, and extensive traveller in Africa and Asia Minor, landed in Philadelphia. He had returned to France to take part in the early revolutionary movement, but had fallen from favor and . . . now intended to make an indefinite, and perhaps permanent, stay in America. He stayed only three years . . . during which he met almost all the Americans of literary and scientific standing and travelled to the east, to the north, to the south and westward almost to the Mississippi River . . . . He took back with him to France extensive notes and a great collection of rocks, minerals and fossils and wrote the first book to give an organized synthesis of the physiographic and geologic regions of the United States and of the climatology of the continent’ (White p. v).
Sabin identified two issues of the Paris, 1803 edition: issue A, in which the 'Vocabulaire de la langue des Miamis' is paginated -532 (as in this set) and issue B, in which the vocabulary is separately paginated. An anonymous English translation was published in London in 1804 and a further English translation by Charles Brockden Brown ('with occasional remarks') was published in Philadelphia in the same year.
This set is particularly notable for its provenance: it was previously in the library of the distinguished American bibliophile Stuart W. Jackson, who was particularly interested in American history and Franco-American relations, which resulted in the formation of an important Lafayette collection and the publication of his La Fayette: A Bibliography (New York: 1930) and various articles. The Lafayette collection was gifted to Yale University after Jackson's death (the university had previously received his Lincoln collection), and described by Whitfield J. Bell, jr. as 'a great collection, probably the largest and finest on Lafayette ever assembled by a private person' ('The Stuart W. Jackson Lafayette Collection' in The Yale University Library Gazette (vol. 33, No. 2 (October 1958), p. 49). As Bell comments, Jackson was 'a warm friend of France and promoter of Franco-American philanthropies and cultural exchange' (loc. cit.), serving as President of the American Friends of Lafayette and a Trustee of the Yale Library Associates, and in 1954 he was appointed Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. The first volume bears Jackson's etched bookplate, designed for him by his friend, the distinguished American engraver, artist, printer, and historian of the American West, Bernhardt Wall (1872-1956), who also designed a special bookplate for Jackson's Lincoln collection and dedicated his edition of Lincoln's Gettysburg Speech (Sierra Madre, CA: 1946) to Jackson.
Buck, Travel and Description, 49; Howes V141; Monaghan, French Travellers in the United States, 1468; Pilling, Algonquian, pp. 518-519; Quérard X, pp. 274-275; Sabin 100692.