Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2007 Issue

Captain Cook and the Pacific from Hordern House


Cook's Pacific Legacy from Hordern House.

By Michael Stillman

Hordern House
has issued a catalogue of Captain James Cook and His Pacific Legacy. This beautiful and detailed catalogue contains books, documents and art pertaining to Cook's three famed voyages, and the islands and other places he visited. Additionally, there are several Cook-related bibliographies and auction catalogues from Cook collection sales. Hodern House's catalogue is a must for those who collect Cook or Pacific voyages.

Captain James Cook commanded three voyages to the southern Pacific, with his notable finds centered around Australia and Antarctica, but reaching as far as the Pacific coast of North America, and notably Hawaii, where Cook was killed by natives. He is also noted for finding a preventative for scurvy, which killed so many sailors in that era, and the fact that so few of his men died on his voyages, though he was not so lucky. While Cook was an Englishman and hero in his country, it is not surprising to find so much Cook material being offered by this Australian bookseller, since much of his activity was centered around this land down under. Here are some items being offered by Hordern House.

Cook's first voyage was commissioned by the Royal Society to observe the transit of Venus across the sun, best viewed from the Pacific. These observations could be used to calculate the size of the solar system. However, what was more notable about the voyage was the first observations of the eastern coast of Australia, and the botanical specimens collected at Botany Bay. When Cook returned home in July of 1771, he was required to turn over his Monthly Muster Books, along with various papers of the five men who died on the voyage and "reports of Surveys." Item 1 is the cover letter Cook wrote on the day of his return presenting these items, signed and dated by Captain James Cook. Priced at AU $185,000 (Australian dollars, or approximate equivalent in U.S. dollars of $157,185).

The first account of Cook's first voyage came not from Cook or the official report, but from the title A Journal of a Voyage round the World in His majesty's Ship Endeavour... No author is listed, but it is generally attributed to James Magra, a sailor, and not one of Cook's favorites. Cook described the New York loyalist Magra as the type a ship could do without, "or to speake more planer good for nothing..." This book was published two months after Cook's return, and two years ahead of the official account. It was published anonymously as no participants were supposed to write about the journey until after the official report was released. This is the first state of this book, with a dedication to voyage naturalists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. This was evidently intended to make this unauthorized report sound more official, but the dedication was removed in the second state after the naturalists objected to being associated with it. Nevertheless, this is an important report, it being the first as well as an interesting narrative. Item 3. AU $85,000 (US $72,202).

Rare Book Monthly

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