1806 Jefferson's Report to Congress (City of Washington)
Jefferson’s Report to Congress

The first printed material about the Lewis and Clark Expedition came to the curious public by way of newspapers and government documents. In 1806 Thomas Jefferson’s Report to Congress was printed in the City of Washington, followed by printings later that year in New York and Natchez. In 1807, Jefferson’s Report was in London. These early government publications both foreign and abroad gave the public its first glance of the exploration of Lewis and Clark.

Patrick Gass's Journal

With the assistance of a school teacher named David M'Keehan, the journal of Patrick Gass was the first of the Corps of Discovery to be published. Gass's journal was first printed in Pittsburgh in 1807. One copy of the Gass journal at Lewis & Clark College, from the Roger Wendlick Collection, is that of the M'Keehan family.

The Gass journal was published in England in 1808. Rights to the book were then acquired by Mathew Carey who brought out editions in 1810, 1811, and 1812. The journal was translated into French from the 1808 London edition and published in 1810. The French edition included a map identifying Fort Clatsop. A German edition, translated from the French edition, was published in Weimar in 1814, also with a map.

Wood cut from the rare 1811 German/American editon of the "Apocrypha"published in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
Apocryphal and Surreptitious Works

In 1809 an adventurous entrepreneur, Hubbard Lester, compiled the Travels of Lewis and Clark. Taking information from Jefferson’s Report to Congress, Patrick Gass’s journal, Alexander Mackenzie’s Voyages, and Jonathan Carver’s Adventures, Lester compiled what is known as the Lewis and Clark "Apocrypha," a series of allegedly accurate volumes. Lester's book was published in Philadelphia and then in London with a map the same year. Later in 1811, 1812, and 1813 the rights to this book were aquired by William Fisher. Though inaccurate and misleading, the apocryphal works whetted the public appetite for information about the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark

The official publication of the journals of Lewis and Clark did not appear until 1814, nearly eight years after the return of Lewis and Clark. Lewis, who was given the responsibility of preparing the journals for publication, died prematurely in 1809. After Lewis’s death, Nicholas Biddle assumed the task of editing the journals, but before completing the task turned the effort over to Paul Allen. The long awaited work, often referred to as the Biddle-Allen edition, was finally published in 1814 when 1,417 copies of the two-volume work were made available for purchase.

William Clark's Map of the West, 1814
Journals of Lewis and Clark in original boards, 1814
Lewis & Clark College has four complete copies of the 1814 edition, including one extremely fine copy presented by the Laurence Shaw family in original boards and including Clark's map of the American West. The journals appeared in London in the same year as a one-volume work with a map. They were published again in England in 1815 and 1817 as three-volume sets. Dutch translations of the journals appeared in three volumes in 1816, 1817, and 1818. An edition of the journals also was published in Dublin in 1817 in two volumes. All of these early publications of the journals were condensed narratives of the actual journal entries, derived from the editing of Biddle and Allen.

1842 Harper's Edition
Lewis and Clark Journals
Later Editions

No known editions of the journals appeared again until 1842 when a smaller format edition was published as a part of the Harper Family Library. This edition was reprinted seventeen times through the 1860's, not inconsequentially coinciding with the settlement of the territory that the Corps of Discovery explored. In 1893 Elliott Coues re-edited the journals. The Coues version was published by Francis Harper in four volumes limited to 1,000 sets, 200 of which were issued in a large paper format. Coinciding with the Centennial observation of the Expeditionis 1904, all the known journals were printed in their entirety for the first time. This edition, edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites, came out in an eight-volume trade edition and in two limited edition sets. The limited edition sets were printed in runs of 200 and 50 with the latter printed on Japanese hand-made rice paper and with hand-tinted color plates by Karl Bodmer. The Thwaites edition stood as the most complete compilation of the journals for eight decades until Gary Moulton began editing the journals in the late 1970s. Incorporating journals, papers, and maps on the Expedition discovered since the Thwaites edition, the first volume of the Moulton edition appeared in 1983. The 12-volume work was completed in 1999.

Only One Man Died by E.G.Chuinard, 1979
20th Century Publications

In addition to the Thwaites and Moulton editions of the journals, many condensed and edited versions of the journals appeared in the twentieth century from editors such as Bernard DeVoto and Frank Bergon. Fueled by the interest generated by the Centennial observation of the Expedition, as well as the impacts of such events as the women’s suffrage movement and the impact of mass media, an increasing number of books and other materials were published in the last hundred years on the Expedition and its participants. These publications included fictional works, biographies, and juvenile literature. Historical studies, biographies, novels, and even comic books can be found on Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Sacagawea, John Colter, and many other members of the Corps of Discovery.