This item has been sold, but you can enter your email address to be notified if another example becomes available, or purchase a digital scan.

1840 Charles Wilkes U.S. Ex. Ex. Map of the Fiji Islands

Chart of the Viti Group or Feejee Islands by the U.S. Ex. Ex. - Main View

1840 Charles Wilkes U.S. Ex. Ex. Map of the Fiji Islands


The first and finest scientific map of the Fiji Islands.



Chart of the Viti Group or Feejee Islands by the U.S. Ex. Ex.
  1840 (dated)     24 x 34.5 in (60.96 x 87.63 cm)     1 : 710000


A beautiful example of Wilkes' 1840 map of the Fiji Islands. Considered to be the first accurate scientifically produced map of the Fiji Islands, this map includes three main islands, Vanua Levu, Viti Levu, and Taveuni as well as the Yasawa Group and countless lesser islands. Topography is rendered by hachure and shoals, reefs, and other undersea dangers are indicated with shading.
Wilkes, Salem, and the Sea Slug Trade
A survey of the faraway and little known Fiji Group, then known as the Cannibal Islands for the ferocity of its indigenous population, may seem an odd goal for an expedition funded by the U.S. Government, but completing it was in fact one of the primary stated objectives of the U.S. Exploring Expedition. The Fiji Islands were, at the time, the world's largest source of beche-de-mere, or sea slugs. Properly cured sea slugs were a considered a culinary delicacy in China where they fetched extraordinary prices. In the early 19th century the Fijian sea slug trade was largely dominated by merchant captains operating out of Salem, Massachusetts. In the twelve years prior to the launch of the U.S. Ex. Ex. eight ships, five of which hailed from Salem, wrecked on Fiji's little-known reefs. The value of this risky trade prompted the United States government to step in and command a detailed reconnaissance. Wilkes had a particularly difficult time surveying the Fijian Archipelago and lost several of his most valued men to the aggressive and highly territorial islanders. It was here, in retribution for a deadly attack on several of his most trusted sailors, that Wilkes reached the moral low point of his career and commanded retaliatory the Malolo Massacre. Eighty Fijians were slain.
Publication History and Census
This map was prepared by Charles Wilkes and engraved by J. H. Young and Sherman and Smith. Despite being dated 1841, and copyrighted in 1844, it was first published by Lea and Blanchard of Philadelphia to illustrate the atlas volume of the 1845 first edition of Wilkes' official U. S. Ex. Ex. Report.

Collectors will note that most of the maps from Wilkes' official report of the U.S. exploring expedition were issued in small and large formats. This is the large format edition and is exceptionally scarce. The full run consisted of only 150 presentation copes and 100 official copies. Twenty-five of these are known to have been lost in a fire, leaving only 225 possible examples.


Runtime error in mm5/5.00/modules/util/toolkit.mvc @ [00000020:00000a4e]: Line 8892: MvCALL: Unable to open URL '': Error establishing SSL connection: certificate verify failed