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THE NATIVITY AND OTHER MUSIC [manuscript title].
[Various places, including Antarctica, the Northwest Coast, and shipboard. 1841-1842]. - 54pp. including four original color sketches. Oblong quarto. Contemporary black morocco, ornate gilt cover, stamped with the initials of James D. Dana and James C. Palmer, neatly rebacked with most of the original spine preserved. Corners slightly worn. Internally bright and clean. Later presentation inscription on front free endpaper. Overall in fine condition. A superlative album of music, lyrics, and artwork composed by officers of the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-42), originally composed during their landmark voyage. Included are several of the earliest views of Antarctica, as well as a superb watercolor of Oregon. The work is the collaboration of expedition scientist James D. Dana and expedition Acting Surgeon James C. Palmer, shipmates aboard the U.S.S. Peacock and evidently close friends. Dana, a young officer of twenty- five, was the only scientist of the expedition with previous naval experience. His work was shaped by his mentor, Prof. Benjamin Silliman of Yale, who became his father-in-law upon his return. Palmer served as a well respected medical officer. Together the two, with artistic contributions from colleagues, recorded the events of the expedition in this album in remarkable fashion. The musical scores were Dana's forte, while the lyrics fell to Palmer. The album consists of eight selections of music, four of which are adorned by original artwork, delineated as follows: 1) "The Nativity, A Dramatic Canticle." The first and longest piece in the album, likely written and performed in the interest of buoying morale. Stage directions and music were later printed in broadside format, located in only one copy, at the John Hay Library of Brown University. 2) "Veni Parvule." Dedicated to Palmer's wife, Juliet, occasioned by the death of his son during the expedition. An unattributed color portrait of the little boy precedes the music. 3) "The Stars May Aye Their Vigils Keep. Pacific Ocean - 1841." A melancholy tune, lamenting a father's absence upon the death of his newborn child, no doubt related to the previous title. 4) "A Breeze from the Unpopular Opera of The Iceberg!!" Below the ornate manuscript title of this piece appears a detailed watercolor of the Peacock locked in Antarctic ice, labeled in large block letters: "The Icebergs!" A small party of men in the foreground are engaged in what is likely repair of the damaged vessel. The sketch is captioned: "Accurately drawn by Dr. Guillou [a quarrelsome medical officer and Palmer's subordinate], January 24, 1840. Computed area, 32 miles." At the time the Wilkes expedition had travelled closer towards the pole than any previous American venture, making this image among the earliest evidence of the United States' "farthest south." This song was later published in Palmer's ANTARCTIC MARINER'S SONG. (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1868), pp.75-76. Historian David B. Tyler cites Passed Midshipman Henry Eld's journal description of the Peacock at this moment as a "happy" ship, continuing that the crew could be heard "stamping about the decks the whole day in the most merry mood - dancing and singing most of the time." This merriment was likely the product of Dana and Palmer's song-writing efforts, though the mood changed dramatically in a moment. Tyler writes: "On the morning of the twenty- fourth this merry mood suddenly changed into one verging on panic. It was a clear day with light winds and smooth water as the ship worked her way into a bay searching, as always, for a means of reaching land. Space for maneuvering was limited.the first crash threw those having breakfast out of their seats, making them think the whole bow must be stove in, but actually the most serious damage was at the stern where the starboard wheelrope was carried and the neck of the rudder wrenched so that it became inoperable." The next twenty-four hours saw the condition of the Peacock deteriorate substantially, and it was only through the competent labors of the ship's carpenters that
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Americana]
Last Found On: 2016-09-17           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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