New-York: Harper & Brothers, 1840. Item #04548
Two Years Before the Mast
Richard Henry Dana's Account of his Sea Voyage from Boston to California
DANA, Richard Henry. Two Years Before the Mast; A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea. New-York: V, 1840. First edition, second issue (without the dot over the i in the word in of the first line of the copyright notice, and with broken type on the running head on p. 9.)
Binding B, state 2 (with the advertisement listings on the back cover showing: 1-121; 1-36; 1-27.)
Publisher's tan muslin stamped in black. Muslin front joint split but inner-hinge of end-papers intact. Some light foxing but far less than is usually seen. Front paste-down with three small sealing-wax? stains. A truly amazing copy of this ridiculously fragile book. Chemised in a quarter green morocco slip case, spine lettered in gilt.
"It has been asserted and generally accepted, that there were two printings dated 1840; and, that the first of these may be identified by the presence of the dot over the i in the word in, first line of the copyright notice; and, by unbroken running head on p. 9. Reprints from the same plates dated as late as 1854 have the undotted i and the broken running head at p. 9. this gives support (not proof) to the theory."
"Issued in two types of binding [black cloth & tan muslin]. There s no known sequence, if any:" (BAL 4434).
Dana gives a vivid account of "the life of a common sailor at sea as it really is". He sails from Boston to South America and around Cape Horn to California. Dana's ship was on a voyage to trade goods from the United States for the Mexican colonial Californian California missions' and ranchos' cow hides. They traded at the ports in San Diego Bay, San Pedro Bay, Santa Barbara Channel, Monterey Bay, and San Francisco Bay.
"One of the first and freshest, because of its plain factual nature, of American accounts of the sea, the book has added factual importance because, while the brig was assembling hides for the return trip to Boston, Dana journeyed up into the California cattle country, of which he gives us our only trustworthy account before the 1849 gold rush" (Grolier American 100, 46).
"If not the most widely read book on California, certainly this ranks extremely high on such a list. The author sailed up and down the California coast trading for hides from January, 1835 until May, 1836. He possessed not only extraordinarily keen powers of observation but a fine facility for expressing his ideas in writing, which makes this volume an excellent and very readable record of his experiences" (Zamorano 80, 26).