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Narrative of a Voyage in the Indian Seas , in the Nisus Frigate...During the years 1810 and 1811
London: Richard Phillips, circa, 1819. Octavo, folding frontispiece map and three other plans and plates; recent half calf with gilt spine lettering, fine. From Mauritius to India via the North West Cape. Uncommon: a rather interesting voyage to India via the Indian Ocean and Java by James Prior, an officer aboard the Nisus. Prior's book is one of the rare pre-1829 accounts to record a visit to the northwest coast of Australia, as is illustrated by the important folding map with the track of the voyage. The book is also particularly interesting for Prior's account of the fall of Mauritius in late 1810, just months after Flinders was finally released from his imprisonment by General DeCaen (Flinders had sailed for England on 14 June 1810, a matter of months before the invasion here described). Prior's work is one of only a handful of contemporary books on the island, and includes an excellent chart of the harbour at Port Louis. The Isle de France was a strategically important French outpost in the Indian Ocean, and a good eight pages of Prior's narrative concerns the British armed landing on 29 November 1810. There is also a detailed sounding chart of Port Louis to the eastward of Cannoner's point and a table of engraved text titled "Plan of the Landing of the British Army in Mapou Bay, Isle de France", with details of the numbers of men per vessel, their regiment, and deployment upon landing. Prior's book is also significant for his passing references to the West Australian coast, which remained as enigmatic and impenetrable to English mariners in the early nineteenth-century as it had to the Dutch almost two centuries before. Prior writes 'approaching New Holland on the 6th of August, in the morning, land was discovered in the vicinity of the north-west Cape, the most prominent part of the coast. As we neared it the eye anxiously ranged over the widely-extended surface, in order to fix on some inviting spot where might be traced the habitations of men; but nothing of this kind could be distinguished'. He concludes that this land 'in its present unknown state, may safely retain the old appellation of Terra Incognita'. The handsomely engraved folding frontispiece map includes the New Holland coastline (although Prior's account is not listed in Perry and Prescott's A Guide to Maps of Australia in Books Published 1780-1830).
      [Bookseller: Hordern House Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2014-07-29           Check availability:      Biblio    

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