Ca. 1798. Scarce copper engraved proof plate for a very early image of Canada's British Columbia coast, depicting First Nations people and their village as encountered by Captain George Vancouver. This is a proof for plate IV (Volume I) of George Vancouver's Voyage, 'A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean, and Round the World; in which the Coast of North-west America has been Carefully Examined and Accurately Surveyed ...'.
Vancouver's voyage was intended to ensure Britain's hold on territory on the Northwest coast of North America, and to search for the Northwest Passage. Vancouver, who began his career sailing under Capt. Cook, explored the mouth of the Columbia River, Vancouver Island, and Puget Sound.
There were no commissioned artists on the voyage; Thomas Heddington (1776-1860) was one of four gifted crewmen who made drawings of the new territory. A midshipman on the ship Chatham, Heddington's view shows a tree covered hill with the village at the top, with wooden fish drying structures on the slope, and with First Nation people in canoe on the water. Bute's Canal is now known as Bute's Inlet, about 125 miles from Vancouver on the southwest coast of British Columbia.
Vancouver describes the scene depicted here: "... fires of the natives had been observed on entering this canal; which I distinguished by the name of 'Bute's Canal'. Here was found an Indian village, situated on the face of a steep rock, containing about one hundred and fifty of the natives, some few of whom had visited our party on their way up the canal, and now many came off in the most civil and friendly manner, with a plentiful supply of fresh herrings and other fish, which they bartered in a fair and honest way for nails".
The drawings were later revised by William Alexander to illustrate Vancouver's Voyage. The original ink and wash sketch for this proof plate sold in Vancouver in 2012 for $55,000 (Heffel Fine Art Auction House, May 17, 2012).
The proof plate printed on tissue paper laid on to India paper. Image size 13 1/2 x 10 1/2". Full paper size, 17 1/4 x 12". Two faint diagonal creases upper left side.
[with] the printed edition of the print, titled 'Village of the Friendly Indians at the entrance of Bute's Canal'. "W. Alexander del: from a Sketch taken on the Spot by T. Heddington" and "J. Landseer sculp" printed below the image. London, published May 1st 1798 by R. Edwards New Bond Street J. Edwards Pall Mall & G. Robinson Paternoster Row. 11 1/2 x 9 1/4". Both images in very good condition. Very good condition. Item #20556