1808 The Shipwreck, William Falconer. Engravings by Robert Dodd Marine Painter


1808 The Shipwreck, A Poem. By William Falconer. This is the first edition with the engravings after Robert Dodd, the marine artist. Dodd's ship scenes play on dark and light wonderfully, creating intense illustrations to accompany the text. Unfortunately, his in-line illustrations of people were lacking, so Dodd's illustrations didn't receive the full accolades they deserved.

About the Work -

This poem in three cantos of more than 900 lines each, recounts the final voyage of the merchant ship Britannia and her crew. The Shipwreck was first published in 1762 with Falconer ascribing authorship to 'a sailor'. Following its success, the second edition was published in 1764 and Falconer made considerable changes to the work, expanding this edition by over 1000 lines and enlarging the story with new scenes, descriptions and characters. Falconer’s final revision to the poem came in 1769 with the third edition, which was published before he joined the ill-fated frigate Aurora.

About the Author -

Falconer was the son of a barber in Edinburgh, where he was born. He became a sailor, and thereby competent to describe the management of a storm-tossed vessel, whose career and fate are told in his poem, The Shipwreck (1762), a work of genuine, if unequal talent.

Falconer was briefly a midshipman on the Royal George, then in 1763 he became purser of the frigate Glory, aboard which he wrote the political satire Demagogue. In 1767 he was purser of the Swiftsure. In 1769 he published An Universal Dictionary of the Marine.

William Falconer was a passenger in the frigate Aurora when it was lost at sea on a voyage to India. He was last seen on 24 December 1769.

Provenance -

Withdrawn from the library of the Valentine Museum, in Richmond Viriginia.

Bibliographic Details -

Two OCLC Worldcat catalogue listings, numbers 912737505 and 61604676, with just three copies listed (Durham University Palace Green Library, National Maritime Museum Caird Library Greenwich and at Queen's University Library Canada.

Physical Attributes -

Measures approx. 30 x 24.5 x 2.5 cm, signed in four. Leather spine and corners. Spine with four raised bands; four compartments tooled with gilt decoration and one compartment with the title and author in gilt. Marbled endpapers and edges. Richly illustrated. 19 plates, but calls for 18... 17 given with two different states (second state at 128). Also, plate III is bound at the wrong location (page 53) because the binder followed the direction on the plate. A handful of inline illustrations and one illustrated dedication.

Pages - xlviii, 175, (verso of 175 blank)

Collation - a-f4, B-Z4

Condition -

See pictures. Restored spine, but still the slightest cracking along front joint. Board edges and corners worn, with some rubs to boards. Leather old/dry. Gilt of spine faded. A little separation at gutter between endpaper and blank binder's page at front.

Book toned throughout. Frontis a little short along fore-edge. Valentine Museum stamp on title page, with "X". Toning throughout, as well as some fox spots as is typical of paper of this period. Occasional thumb throughout. Folding map with tear near gutter, and from bottom edge, neither goes into printed area. Nice wide margins. A little ghosting of plates onto facing pages. "1076" erased in graphite bottom of H1. Plate III out of order, as it's noted on the plate to put it at 53 (index calls for it at 23). 1 cm tear at bottom of N3. At rear of last leaf a number of lady's names.

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