Book Description

Full title: The Malaspina Expedition 1789-1794. Journal of the Voyage by Alejandro Malaspina. Volume I Cadiz to Panama. Edited by Andrew David, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Carlos Novi, Glyndwr Williams. Introduction by Donald C. Cutter [– Volume II Panama to the Philippines. Edited by Andrew David, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Carlos Novi, Glyndwr Williams; –Volume III Manila to Cadiz. Edited by Andrew David, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Carlos Novi, Glyndwr Williams. Translated by Sylvia Jamieson]. (3rd series, nos 8, 11, and 13.)


3 volumes, octavo (245 x 172mm), pp. I: xcviii, 338; II: xx, 511, [1 (blank)], [4 (blank ll.)]; III: xxi, [1 (blank)], 487, [1 (blank)], [2 (blank l.)]. Colour-printed portrait frontispieces. Colour-printed and monochrome illustrations in the text, 61 full-page. Maps and plans in the text, one double-page and 37 full-page. (Some very light marginal toning, as often.) Original dark-blue cloth, upper boards with the Society’s device in gilt, spines lettered in gilt and ruled in blind, map endpapers printed in colours with tracks, dustwrappers. (Small bumps on upper board of vol. II, dustwrappers slightly faded on spines, as often, and slightly creased at edges.) A very good, clean set in the dustwrappers.
Dealer Notes
First English edition. ‘Among the voyages of exploration and surveying in the late eighteenth century, that of Alejandro Malaspina best represented the high ideals and scientific interests of the Enlightenment [...] In September 1788 [Malaspina] and fellow-officer José Bustamente submitted a plan to the Ministry of Marine for a voyage of survey and inspection to Spanish territories in the Americas and Philippines. The proposed expedition was to produce hydrographic charts for the use of Spanish merchantment and warships and to report on the political, economic and defensive state of Spain’s overseas possessions. The plan was approved and in July 1789 Malaspina and Bustamente sailed from Cádiz in the purpose-built corvettes, Descubierta and Atrevida. On board the vessels were scientists and artists and an array of the latest surveying and astronomical instruments. The voyage lasted more than five years. On his return Malaspina was promoted Brigadier de la Real Armada and began work on an account of the voyage in seven volumes that would dwarf the narratives of his predecessors in the Pacific such as Cook and Bougainville’ (dustwrapper blurb). Unfortunately, however, Malaspina’s involvement in political intrigues led to his downfall and imprisonment, and ‘[h]e never resumed work on the great edition of his voyage that he had planned, and his own journal was not published in Spain until 1885. Only in recent years has a multi-volume edition appeared under the auspices of the Museo Naval, Madrid, that does full justice to the achievements of what for long was a forgotten voyage’ (loc. cit.).

The Hakluyt Society edition of Malaspina’s journal provides an English translation of the printed Spanish text, which was also checked against the original manuscripts, and the six appendices include accounts by Bustamente, a description of Malaspina’s fall, registers of the officers and supernumeries who participated in the expedition, details of the Descubierta and Atrevida, and an inventory of the surveying and navigational instruments and related books supplied to the two ships. The three volumes are richly illustrated with numerous illustrations and maps, the latter comprising both modern maps drawn for the edition and facsimiles of historic maps. Reviewing the first volume, Captain M.K. Barritt RN, Hydrographer of the Navy, observed that ‘Malaspina wrote well. I found a very real resonance with my own journals of modern-day survey deployments. Underneath the polishing for publication, all the pleasure and pressures of command come through. He records the memorable sights, for example the guano coast, and a glowing description of the tropical scene in Guayaquil. Voyage routines and domestic detail are described. The ship’s activities pause for prayers. Sailors die, and their clothes are auctioned. There is time for a boat race in Port Egmont. Malaspina agonizes over possible personal error; has he driven the ship too hard? What are the best means of occupying hands to keep them out of trouble whilst a minority are busy with a harbour survey? He records, with sadness, an incident that has had more recent parallels: a shore party ignites a peat fire in the fragile environment of the Falkland Islands’ (The Mariner’s Mirror, vol. 88 (2002), pp. 488-489 at p. 489).

* * *

Note for UK collectors: this and all our listed books and manuscripts are available directly from our website:

International collectors: please contact us to arrange shipping and order.
Author MALASPINA, Alejandro
Date 2001-2004
Publisher London: The University Press, Cambridge for The Hakluyt Society ‘in association with The Museo Naval, Madrid’

Price: £95.00

Offered by Type & Forme

Friends of the PBFA

For £10 get free entry to our fairs, updates from the PBFA and more.

Please email for more information


Membership of the PBFA is open to anyone who has been trading in antiquarian and second-hand books for a minimum of two years subject to certain criteria.

Email to find out more, or complete the enquiry form.

complete the form