Literature of the Lewis and Clark Expedition 1804-1806

Holdings of the Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections
Text and design by Sherrie Kline Smith
Photographs by Daniel Coleman
© 2003 Kansas City Public Library

Corps of Discovery sculpture

Overview

Exploring the stacks of the Special Collections of the Kansas City Public Library for literature on Lewis and Clark creates almost as much excitement as the expedition itself. The discovery of a very rich and wonderful collection of resources related to the Corps of Discovery has resulted in an effort to make it more widely known. A comprehensive collection like this one is more often found in an academic or historical society library, but fortunately Kansas City Public Library holds this marvelous material in trust for anyone desiring to use it.

When President Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore the land west of the Mississippi, he clearly mandated that written reports be kept and sent back to the government. Jefferson felt keenly that Americans should know what had been discovered. Therefore an essential element of the expedition was to keep records and subsequently publish them. These first-hand accounts are referred to as the primary sources — those written by members of the Corps of Discovery. The Library owns at least one copy of each of the known published primary sources.

The first work printed after the Corps returned was an unofficial publication, the journal of Sergeant Patrick Gass. It first appeared in 1807 and had multiple printings. The first edition plus those printed in 1847 and 1858 are part of the department’s collection, as well as a French version published in 1814. Of particular note, the Library owns an 1811 edition of the Gass journal that once belonged to Elliott Coues, a principal editor of the Lewis and Clark journals.

The first authorized account of Lewis’ and Clark’s journals, printed in 1814, was prepared primarily by an unassuming Philadelphia lawyer and banker named Nicholas Biddle. Often referred to as the Biddle history, it has had many printings. This is one of the few Lewis and Clark resources that the Special Collections department does not own in a first edition. They have a facsimile of that 1814 edition. Other editions include the 1902 two-volume work by James Hosmer, a 1905 three-volume set published by D. Nutt in London, a special Heritage Press two-volume set, and numerous other editions and printings.

The Gass journal and the Biddle history continued to be republished in subsequent years until 1893 when naturalist and scientist Elliot Coues completed a new four-volume edition. He added extensive commentary, an index, a bibliography, and most importantly "virtually unknown scientific data from the original journals" that had not been published before. While editing the Lewis and Clark journals, Coues became so enthralled with the history of the West that he went on to prepare new editions of journals of other explorers, such as Zebulon Pike, Jacob Fowler, Francisco Garcés, fur traders Alexander Henry and Charles Larpenteur, and others. These accounts prepared by Coues, all published between 1895 and 1900, also augment the Library’s collection.

As the centennial approached, Reuben Gold Thwaites, president of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and former editor of the Wisconsin State Journal, took the material and transcribed Lewis and Clark’s original journals more literally than had Coues. In 1904 the Dodd Mead company simultaneously published his work in three different formats: a deluxe limited folio edition of 50 copies printed on imperial Japan paper with many hand-colored illustrations, a limited folio edition of 200 copies printed on Van Gelder hand-made paper, and an octavo trade edition. The department has number 141 of the limited folio printed on Van Gelder paper, plus one of the trade editions. In 1959 the Antiquarian Press produced a handsome set, bound in red with the atlas boxed as a separate set of maps.

The remaining primary sources consist of James Butler’s The New Found Journal of Charles Floyd, A Sergeant Under Captains Lewis and Clark; Milo Quaife’s edition of The Journals of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Sergeant John Ordway; Bernard DeVoto’s edition of The Journals of Lewis and Clark; Ernest S. Osgood’s The Field Notes of Captain William Clark, 1803-1805; Donald Jackson’s Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents, both the 1962 and 1978 editions; and the recent 13-volume set edited by Gary Moulton, which is fast becoming a standard in Lewis and Clark research.

One of the banes of historians is the apocryphal or counterfeit publication. Charlatans, hoping to capitalize on the interest generated by the expedition, cozened the public with phony publications purporting to be the "real thing." The Special Collections department has one of these counterfeit editions. Much of the text of the fake publications was plagiarized from other explorers’ accounts, notably Jonathan Carver and Alexander Mackenzie. Both a 1796 edition of Carver’s journal and an 1814 edition of Mackenzie can be found in the department’s holdings.

The Mackenzie book, Voyages from Montreal Through the Continent of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in 1789 and 1793..., was one of about 12 reference books Lewis and Clark took with them on their two-year journey. The Library has copies of several others.

Biographies of members of the Corps include Men of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Charles G. Clarke; The Life and Times of Patrick Gass by John G. Jacob; In Memoriam, Sergeant Charles Floyd, written in 1897 by Eliott Coues; George Drouillard, Hunter and Interpreter for Lewis and Clark, by M.O. Skarsten; John Colter, His Years in the Rockies by John Harris; and several biographies of Lewis and Clark, including Stephen Ambrose's popular Undaunted Courage. Represented among the editors are Nicholas Biddle: Nationalist and Public Banker, 1786-1844; Elliott Coues: Naturalist and Frontier Historian; and several of Bernard DeVoto.

As the centennial of the expedition approached, numerous new works appeared. Along with his edition of the Lewis and Clark journals in 1904, Thwaites wrote A Brief History of Rocky Mountain Exploration, With Especial Reference to The Expedition of Lewis and Clark. Others in the department’s collection are First Across the Continent: The Story of the Exploring Expedition of Lewis and Clark in 1803-4-5 by Noah Brooks, published in 1901; The Conquest: The True Story of Lewis and Clark by Eva Emery Dye in 1902; and The Trail of Lewis and Clark, 1804-1806 by Olin D. Wheeler in 1904.

The 1904 World’s Fair Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis commemorated the Louisiana Purchase, that momentous event that opened the country for the Corps’ journey. Special Collections has numerous texts on the Louisiana Purchase and the 1904 World’s Fair, such as the World’s Fair Bulletin (1899-1904); Sights, Scenes and Wonders at the World's Fair: Official Book of Views of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (Gem Edition); and the Daily Official Program. Among the department’s World’s Fair memorabilia are 100 color stereopticon cards.

In Oregon, as part of the "Lewis and Clark Centennial and American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair," a periodical called the Lewis and Clark Journal was published from January 1904 to November 1905. The Library has all issues except one. In addition, the department holds the official catalog of the Fair.

Explorers preceded Lewis and Clark and many others followed. Journals, diaries, and accounts of Western travelers and explorers — like Zebulon Pike, John Charles Frémont, Francis Parkman, Major Stephen H. Long, and Zenas Leonard — found in the Special Collections department span the era from the late 1700s to the 1900s. Particularly significant among this group are the 32 volumes of Early Western Travels, 1748-1846 prepared by Reuben Gold Thwaites from 1904 to 1907.

The bicentennial of the expedition — 2004-2006 — also generated new publications. Working with a grant from the Ewing Kauffman fund, the Special Collections department has purchased new and older editions of materials related to the Corps of Discovery, enlarging and adding depth to an already exceptional collection. A stellar example of new material is The Literature of The Lewis and Clark Expedition: A Bibliography and Essays published by Lewis and Clark College. This text adds immeasurably to the scholarship of the publication history of this great American event.

The staff of Kansas City Public Library invites you to strike forth on your own journey of discovery by studying the rich variety of resources available in its Special Collections department. Kansas City Public Library has created a full bibliography of materials related to the Lewis and Clark expedition that can be found at the Library, called the Lewis and Clark Bibliography.

Primary Sources

Paul Cutright gives a comprehensive discussion about the primary sources in A History of the Lewis and Clark Journals [917.8 L67cu]. Another valuable text is The Literature of The Lewis and Clark Expedition: A Bibliography and Essays published by Lewis and Clark College [q917.804 B39L]. Further information about nineteenth century Lewis and Clark publications can be found in Elliott Coues’ History of the Expedition Under the Command of Lewis and Clark, New York, 1893: I, cvii-cxxxii [978 L675e] and Victor Hugo Paltsits, "Biblio-graphical Data," in Thwaites’ Original Journals, I, 1xi-xciii [917.8 L67t].

Gass, Patrick

journal

A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of Discovery, Under the Command of Capt. Lewis and Capt. Clarke of the army of the United States, from the mouth of the river Missouri through the interior parts of North America to the Pacific Ocean, during the years 1804, 1805, and 1806. Pittsburgh: Printed by Zadok Cramer, for David McKeechan, publisher and proprietor. 1807 [X 917.8 G25j 1807]

The Library acquired the 1807 edition in 1953 with the $35,000 purchase of 20,000 volumes, part of a private collection of Thomas Jefferson Fitzpatrick, a librarian and science professor at the University of Nebraska and a descendant of Thomas Jefferson. Fitzpatrick was a true bibliophile and had at the time of his death an estimated 90 tons of books! It’s fitting that the Library obtained this first account printed from the Corps of Discovery from a descendant of Thomas Jefferson who initiated the expedition.

Journal of the voyages and travels of a corps of discovery, under the command of Capt. Lewis and Capt. Clarke of the Army of the United States, from the mouth of the River Missouri through the interior parts of North America to the Pacific Ocean, during the years 1804, 1805 and 1806. Containing an authentic relation of the most interesting transactions during the expedition; a description of the country; and an account of its inhabitants, soil, climate, curiosities and vegetable and animal productions. By Patrick Gass, one of the persons employed in the expedition. With geographical and explanatory notes. Philadelphia: Printed for M. Carey, No. 122 Market Street. 1811 [X 917.8 G25j 1811]

According to Cutright’s A History of the Lewis and Clark Journals, Mathew Carey published three editions, the first in 1810. The difference between the 1807 M’Keechan and Carey’s was the addition of six full-page engravings, making it "the first illustrated Lewis and Clark journal" (1976:31).

journal

Part of the Fitzpatrick purchase, this 1811 copy has particular significance because it once belonged to Elliott Coues, one of the editors of the Lewis and Clark journals. It is inscribed, "To Prof. Elliott Coues with the appreciative regards of C. H. Conover. 11/5/94." On the title page, Coues wrote his name in ink followed by "Nov. 5, 1894." This was a year after the publication of his 4-volume edition of the journals. On the last page in the same handwriting in ink appears, "Elliott Coues, from C. H. Conover, Nov. 5, 1894." Below that, Fitzpatrick penciled in, "Purchased Anderson Auction Co. Dec. 4, 1906 $11.50."

Charles H. Conover was vice-president of Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co. in Chicago, Illinois. His collection of Lewis and Clark rare editions was the only private one described in Paltsit’s Bibliographical Data. Conover served as vice-president of the Chicago Historical Society, and in 1910 gave his unsurpassed collection to the Society. See Chicago Historical Society Charter, Constitution, By-Laws, Membership List, Annual Report (1910):309-350. [977.31 C53c 1910]

Voyage des capitaines Lewis et Clarke depuis l’embouchure du Missouri, jusqu’à l’entrée de la Colombia dans l’Océan Pacifique ; fait dans les années 1804, 1805 et 1806, par ordre du gouvernement des États-Unis ; contenant le journal authentique des événements les plus remarquables du voyage, ainsi que la description des habitants, du sol, du climat, et des productions animales et végétales des pays situés à l’ouest de l’Amérique Septentrionale rédigé en Anglais par Patrice Gass, employé dans l’expédition ; et traduit en française par A.J.N. Lallemant ; avec des notes, deux letters du Capitaine Clarke, et une carte gravée par J.B. Tardieu. Paris: Arthus-Bertrand. 1814 [X French 917.8 G25v]

"The Paris edition . . . had the distinction of being the first translation of an authentic Lewis and Clark" (Cutright 1976:29).

Lewis and Clark's journal to the Rocky Mountains in the years 1804,-5,-6; as related by Patrick Gass, one of the officers in the expedition. Dayton: Ells, Claflin, & Co. 1847 [917.8 G25L]

This copy has been rebound by the Library and was part of the Fitzpatrick purchase.

A journal of the voyages and travels of a corps of discovery, under the command of Capt. Lewis and Capt. Clark of the Army of the United States, from the mouth of the River Missouri through the interior parts of North America to the Pacific Ocean, during the years 1804, 1805 and 1806. With geographical and exploratory notes. Minneapolis: Ross & Haines. 1958 [917.8 G25a2]

Biddle, Nicholas, editor

The Expedition of Lewis and Clark. Reproduction of the Biddle ed. written by Nicholas Biddle and edited by Paul Allen. Original title page reads: History of the expedition under the command of Captains Lewis and Clark, to the sources of the Missouri, thence across the Rocky Mountains and down the river Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. Performed during the years 1804-5-6. By order of the Government of the United States. Prepared for the press by Paul Allen, Esquire. Philadelphia, published by Bradford and Inskeep; and Abm. H. Inskeep, New York, J. Maxwell, printer, 1814. 2 vols. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms. 1814 [1966] [978 L675e Facsimile]

journal

History of the expedition under the command of Captains Lewis and Clarke, to the sources of the Missouri ... performed during the years 1804, 1805, 1806, by order of the government of the United States. Prepared for the press by Paul Allen, esq. Revised and abridged by the omission of unimportant details, with an introduction and notes by Archibald M'Vickar. New York: Harper and Brothers. 1844-1901 [978 L675hm]

Harper and Brothers published about 20 editions beginning in 1842, most of which belonged to the Harper Family Library. The Special Collections department has an 1844 (Vol. 1); 1858 (Vol. 1); 1868 (Vol. 1); 1874 (Vol. II); 1876 (Vol. 1); 1901 (Vol. 2).

History of the expedition of Captains Lewis and Clark, 1804-5-6; reprinted from the edition of 1814; with introduction and index by James K. Hosmer. 2 vols. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co. 1902 [917.8 L67h]

History of the expedition under the command of Captains Lewis & Clark, to the sources of the Missouri, thence across the Rocky Mountains and down the river Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, performed during the years 1804-5-6, by order of the government of the United States. A complete reprint of the Biddle ed. of 1814, to which all the members of the expedition contributed, with an account of the Louisiana purchase, by Prof. John Bach McMaster, and notes upon the route. 3 vols. London: D. Nutt. 1905 [978 L675hmc]

The journals of the expedition under the command of Capts. Lewis and Clark, to the sources of the Missouri, thence across the Rocky Mountains and down the river Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, performed during the years 1804-5-6 by order of the Government of the United States. Edited by Nicholas Biddle. With an introduction by John Bakeless, and illustrated with watercolors and drawings by Carl Bodmer and other contemporary artists. New York: Heritage Press. 1962 [q917.8 L67b]

Coues, Elliot, editor

History of the expedition under the command of Lewis and Clark, to the sources of the Missouri River, thence across the Rocky Mountains and down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean, performed during the years 1804-5-6, by order of the government of the United States. A new edition, faithfully reprinted from the only authorized edition of 1814 . . . with a new biographical and bibliographical introduction, new maps and other illustrations, and a complete index, by Elliott Coues.... 4 vols. New York: F. P. Harper. 1893 [917.8 L67c]

The Library’s Coues History, No. 391 of 1,000 copies, has been rebound. Credited with rediscovering the original Lewis and Clark journals at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Coues took great liberties in "improving" the text of the Biddle edition. The Library has an 1811 edition of Patrick Gass’ journal that once belonged to Coues (see pages 7 and 8).

Butler, James Davie, editor

The New Found Journal of Charles Floyd, A Sergeant Under Captains Lewis and Clark. Worcester, Mass.: Press of Charles Hamilton. 1894 [917.8 F64]

Thwaites, Reuben Gold, editor

journal

Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806. 8 vols. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. 1904-5 [917.8 L67t]

Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806. 15 vols. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. 1904-5 [q917.8 L67t-2]

Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806. 8 vols. New York: Antiquarian Press. 1959 [917.8 L67t 1959]

For the centennial of the Corps of Discovery in 1904, Dodd, Mead and Co. printed three different editions: a deluxe limited folio edition of 50 copies printed on imperial Japan paper with many hand-colored illustrations, a limited folio edition of 200 copies printed on Van Gelder hand-made paper, and an octavo trade edition. The Library has #141 of the 200 printed on Van Gelder paper [q917.8 L67t-2] and one of the trade editions [917.8 L67t]. The 1959 set published by the Antiquarian Press is a handsome set bound in red with the atlas boxed as a separate set of maps.

Quaife, Milo M., editor

The Journals of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Sergeant John Ordway Kept on the Expedition of Western Exploration, 1803-1806. Publications of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Collections, Volume XXII. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin. 1916 [917.8 L67q 1916]

The Journals of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Sergeant John Ordway: Kept on the Expedition of Western Exploration, 1803-1806. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin. 1965 [917.8 L67q]

DeVoto, Bernard, editor

The Journals of Lewis and Clark. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1953 [978 L675j]

Osgood, Ernest S., editor

The Field Notes of Captain William Clark, 1803-1805

The Field Notes of Captain William Clark, 1803-1805. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1964 [q978 C596f]

Jackson, Donald, editor

Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents, 1783-1854. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 1962 [978 J13L]

Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents, 1783-1854. 2 vols. 2nd ed. With additional documents and notes. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 1978 [978 J13L 1978]

Moulton, Gary E., editor

The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. 13 vols. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983-1999. 1983 [q978 J862]

Counterfeit Editions

At least eight or nine apocryphal editions were published over a period covering almost half of a century. The first appeared in Philadelphia in 1809 and another in London two years following publication of the Gass journal and five years prior to the first authorized account by Biddle. The text was plagiarized from other explorers’ accounts, primarily Jonathan Carver and Alexander Mackenzie. One of the counter-feits — with three editions — was credited to a William Fisher. Two of these, published in 1812, included what were the first-known published likenesses of Lewis and Clark. "Quite obviously, the artist had never set eyes on either Lewis or Clark and had depicted them as fancy dictated," Cutright concludes. Most of the apocrypha were printed before the Biddle edition of 1814, but surprisingly in 1840 another appeared under the name B. F. Ells in Dayton, Ohio.

Ells, B. F.

The journal of Lewis and Clarke, to the mouth of the Columbia River beyond the Rocky Mountains.

The journal of Lewis and Clarke, to the mouth of the Columbia River beyond the Rocky Mountains. In the years 1804-5, & 6. Giving a faithful description of the river Missouri and its source - of the various tribes of Indians through which they passed - manners and customs - soil - climate -commerce - gold and silver mines - animal and vegetable productions, &c. New edition with notes. Revised, corrected, and illustrated with numerous wood cuts. To which is added a complete dictionary of the Indian tongue. Dayton, O.: B. F. Ells, John Wilson Printer. 1840 [Y 917.8 J86]

Plagiarized texts taken from:

Carver, Jonathan

Three years travels through the interior parts of North-America, for more than five thousand miles; containing an account of the Great Lakes, and all the lakes, islands, and rivers cataracts, mountains, minerals, soil and vegetable productions of the northwest regions of that vast continent; with a description of the birds, beasts, reptiles, insects, and fishes peculiar to the country. Together with a concise history of the genius, manners and customs of the Indians inhabiting the lands that lie adjacent to the heads and to the westward of the great river Mississippi.... Philadelphia: Key & Simpson. 1796 [917.8 C33t]

Mackenzie, Alexander

Voyages from Montreal through the continent of North America to the frozen and Pacific Oceans in 1789 and 1793, with an account of the rise and state of the fur trade. New York: W. B. Gilley. 1814 [MV-Y 971.2 M156]

Reference Items Taken on the Expedition

In addition to food, guns, ink and paper and other supplies, Lewis brought along about 10 to 12 reference resources. These included other explorers’ accounts and journals as well as maps of the then known territory. The Library has copies of several of these items. For an in-depth discussion of these materials, see The Literature of The Lewis and Clark Expedition: A Bibliography and Essays (2003:25-63) [q917.804 B39L].

du Pratz, Antoine-Simon Le Page

The history of Louisiana, or of the western parts of Virginia and Carolina: containing a description of the countries that lye on both sides of the River Missisipi: with an account of the settlements, inhabitants, soil, climate, and products. Translated from the French... by M. Le Page du Pratz; with some notes and observations relating to our colonies. In two volumes. London: T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt. 1763 [X 976.3 L59 2 vols.]

The History of Louisiana. Wichita, KS: Wichita City Library. 1936 [q976.3 L59a]

Lewis had a 2nd edition that had been published in 1774. It belonged to Dr. Benjamin Barton in Philadelphia who "instructed Lewis in methods then current of preserving plant specimens" (Cutright 1976:42). Upon returning from the journey, Lewis returned the copy to Dr. Barton, and it is now preserved by the Library Company in Philadelphia.

Ellicott, Andrew

The journal of Andrew Ellicott, late commissioner on behalf of the United States during part of the year 1796, the years 1797, 1798, 1799, and part of the year 1800: for determining the boundary between the United States and the possessions of His Catholic Majesty in America.... Philadelphia: Printed by Budd & Bartram, for T. Dobson. 1803 [q917.7 E46]

Mackay, James

Extracts from Capt. McKay's Journal - and Others. Edited with introduction and notes by M.M. Quaife. "From the Proceedings of the Society for 1915." [Madison: The State Historical Society of Wisconsin.] 1915 [978 M15e]

Mackenzie, Alexander

Voyages from Montreal on the River St. Laurence: through the continent of North America to the frozen and Pacific oceans in the years 1789 and 1793, with an account of the rise and state of the fur trade. New York: W. B. Gilley. 1814 [Y 971.2 M156]

Maps

These two sources discuss in detail the maps carried on the expedition.

Exploring the West from Monticello: A Perspective in Maps from Columbus to Lewis and Clark: The Catalog of an Exhibition of Maps and Navigational Instruments, On View in the Tracy W. McGregor Room, Alderman Library, University of Virginia, 10 July to 26 September 1995. [911.78 B47e]

Lewis and Clark: The Maps of Exploration, 1507-1814 [917.804 B47L].