CALIFORNIA, MODOC War, YOSEMITE and SALT LAKE CITY. - [Author’s set of bound corrected advance proofs, variant title and dated 1873 rather than 1874]. - William SIMPSON (1823 – 1899) .
[Meeting the Sun] All Round the World; including a Visit to Peking during the Marriage Ceremonies of the Emperor of China; also, a Visit to the Lava Beds during the Modoc War. London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1873. Octavo (8 3/4 x 6 inches; 222 x 152mm). Pp.[i-]vii[-x; 1-]2-207, , 205-208, 209-224,230, [230 bis], 231-326, [small format leaf], 327-342, [small format leaf], 343-367, ‘638’, 369-419 [-420]. Half-title. Frontispiece and 10 plates, numerous deletions, correction and insertions, most in Simpson’s hand. Extra-illustrated with a penciled self-portrait of Simpson (signed and dated, ‘Dec 9th 88’), and a printed caricature. Later cloth with red leather spine (slightly soiled and rubbed). Provenance: William Simpson (the unbound sheets passed to his wife on her husband’s death); Maria Eliza Simpson (1841-1931, inscription “Roughly corrected proof copy / of This work / Arranged & bound in Wellington NZ / 1917’).
A unique copy: variant title, publication date and text, manuscript corrections offering important insights into Simpson’s working methods, and variant readings of much of the text (including a preface dated November 1873). Simpson here describes his Phileas Fogg-type round the world trip, via Venice, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Japan, San Francisco, the ‘Modoc War’, Yosemite, Salt Lake City, the ‘Mammoth Caves’ of Kentucky, and New York city. As the author makes clear in the preface, the title ‘All Round the World’ was abandoned when it was discovered that the phrase had already been used for another work.
Simpson was commissioned in 1872 by the Illustrated London News to travel to China to sketch the marriage of the Emperor, and he took the opportunity to extend the trip to a round-the-world journey. Meeting the Sun: A Journey All Round the World, his account of this journey, was published in 1874, at about the same time as Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days.
The similarities between the two books are interesting. Phileas Fogg's fictional journey closely followed the route of Simpson's round-the-world trip, and even the dates are close — Simpson left London on 5 August 1872 and took 322 days for the trip; Verne had Phileas Fogg leave London on 2 October 1872, and dramatic necessity dictated that his journey take only 80 days. Moreover, Fogg notionally crossed the International Date Line on 23 November 1872 on board the Pacific Mail Steamship Company ship General Grant, whereas Simpson crossed it in reality ten weeks later on the same company's ship Alaska. Indeed, the "twist" in Verne's book — that is, gaining a day in crossing the International Date Line — was also highlighted in Simpson's book, hence the title: Meeting the Sun. The publication dates of the two books preclude any suggestion that Verne used Simpson's book as a source, but it is possible that Simpson's earlier accounts in the Illustrated London News and the Daily News, formed a significant part of Verne's source material.
With the opening of the Suez Canal the journey from England to India had been shortened considerably — from three months to just one — and this "new route" had become extremely popular. But as Simpson's steamer, the Ellora, negotiated the canal, and the heat of the desert permeated the ship, Simpson's main concern lay not with the discomfort, but with the "danger" of falling for some young lady in the confines of ship-board life — an interesting preoccupation for a bachelor now well into middle age.
Eventually Simpson reached China — and he set about his preparations to undertake the original purpose of this journey, which was to sketch the marriage of the Emperor. He found, however, to his consternation, that the ceremony and procession were to be conducted in utmost secrecy — and the public was barred from viewing it. Undeterred, he found a spot in an opium den overlooking the route of the procession and sketched the scene through a spy-hole he made in the paper covering a window. It was later on this same trip that he visited California and had his close shave with the Modoc Indians. He travelled part of the way by stagecoach, not a mode of transport he relished — "by imagining yourself rolling down a hill inside a barrel you may form some idea of the amount of comfort to be enjoyed."