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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; one fold of the frontispiece map repaired with slight loss, title-page a little browned, overall very good in polished quarter calf by Bayntun. From Mauritius to India via the North West Cape. A warm and engaging description of a voyage to through the Indian Ocean to Java and beyond, with a tantalising glimpse of the sparse West Australia coastline. The work includes a large folding map of the track of the Nisus which shows it passing the coast near the North-West Cape. The work is also particularly interesting for Prior's account of Mauritius just months after Flinders was finally released (and is one of only a handful of contemporary books on the island). James Prior, an officer aboard the Nisus (a Royal Navy frigate under the command of Captain Philip Beaver) here provides a beautifully written account of a voyage to the Cape of Good Hope, Isles of Bourbon, France and Seychelles; to Madras and thenceforth to Java, St. Paul and Amsterdam islands. Prior's account includes a detailed and arresting description of the French capitulation of the Isle de France (present day Mauritius) during the final months of 1810. In many respects the West Australian coastline remained as enigmatic and impenetrable to English mariners in the early nineteenth-century as it had to the Dutch almost two centuries before. Lack of water and nourishment forbade landing, yet the quick curiosity of mariners such as James Prior begged investigation. He 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). Eight pages of Prior's narrative concerns the armed landing at the Isle de France on 29 November 1810. The Isle de France was an important French outpost in the Indian Ocean with significant strategic and mercantile advantages coveted by Britain. In addition to the Prior's ebullient description, Narrative of a Voyage in the Indian Seas includes 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". From this we learn the numbers of men per vessel, their regiment, and deployment upon landing (for example, the Nisus transported Grenadiers of the Twelfth, amongst others, and deployed a flat barge and two cutters). The Isle de France holds a poignant place in the early history of Australia, being the place of Matthew Flinders confinement for over six years (indeed, Flinders sailed for England on 14 June 1810, a matter of months before the invasion here described).
      [Bookseller: Hordern House Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2014-07-29           Check availability:      Biblio    

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