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The General Historie of Virginia, New-England and the Summer Isles: with the names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governours from their first beginning Ano 1584 to this present 1624 . . .
Author: Smith, Captain John
Reference #: 1559
Status: For Sale
List Price: $160.00
The World Publishing Company, Cleveland, 1966. Printed by Amilcare Pizzi S.P.A., Milan, Italy. Historical Introduction by A. L. Rowse; Bibliographical Notes by Robert O. Dougan. The binding is tight, and appears never to have been fully opened. Fine.
Folio (approx. 13”), bound in vellum-covered boards closed by two ties, housed in a felt-lined solander case together with the accompanying booklet containing the essays by Rowse and Duggan. Inlaid in the case is a facsimile of the title page of the original edition, with spine title on white morocco.
From that Introduction: “There are few books of the Jacobean age that have left such an impact on history and that yet remain so problematical, perhaps more teasing to the scholar than to the general reader. Captain John Smith’s history of Virginia, with its stories of Pocahontas, has deeply influenced the American conception of the country’s earliest days and made an indelible impression upon American folklore and popular belief, not to mention history.”
The Bibliographic Notes give a collation of the text, the four maps (all fold-out or double page) and their placement in the text, and a brief summary of material that first appeared elsewhere. These notes explain the page numbering which gives the illusion that there are missing leaves (signature O) because the manuscript was divided between two printers. No material is, in fact, missing.
The importance of this work cannot be overstated, and a 1624 edition came up for auction by Sotheby's on October 28th, 1999 as part of their sale of the Frank T. Siebert Library of Americana, with the pre-auction expectation declared at $35,000-50,000. We can do no better than quote at length from their catalogue description (Part 2, p. 15), including their excerpt from 'Printing and the Mind of Man': "The General Historie> was partly compiled from Smith's four earlier reports on the Virginia and New England colonies, of which all are very rare, and some, practically speaking, unfindable. The Virginia and New England maps first appeared respectively in 'A Map of Virginia', 1612 and 'A Description of New England', 1616 (see Siebert sale, part 1, lot 94); the Ould Virginia and Summer Ils maps appear for the first time. '[Smith's] masterpiece is the 'Generall Historie', which was the first sizeable work written in English about the new-found continent...it remained a standard work, the foundation of England's knowledge of America during the early period of colonization' (Printing and the Mind of Man)." Smith's work found a place in John Pinkerton's 17-volume work 'A General Collection of Voyages and Travels' (London, 1808-1814).
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