Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2009 Issue

Cook's Final Voyage from Hordern House

Weberdeathofcook

John Webber's image of the death of Cook.


Item 35 is the iconic image of The Death of Captain Cook. This is the first engraving of the image painted by John Webber, the voyage's artist. Though Webber did not witness Cook's death, he soon heard about the details, and when he returned, he painted this picture. There were differing versions of precisely how Cook died, but this reflects the prevailing view, that he was an innocent victim pleading for peace between the visitors and the natives. This is the largest version of the image, issued separately in January 1784. AU $24,000 (US $22,065).

It's hard to imagine how slow communications were in this era. From the time Cook met up with Captain Clerke, whose ship Discovery would join with Cook and the Resolution, at the Cape of Good Hope in 1776, there would be no further communications until the end of 1779. Those waiting at home had no way of knowing what the mission had accomplished, or whether its crew was even alive. Indeed, by the time word was received, both Cook and Clerke were dead. News was finally received via the overland route from the Russian Pacific peninsula of Kamchatka, where they landed in early 1779. Item 2 is a very early notice received back home, from the December 1779 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine. The notice informs readers of a "very interesting piece of news arrived recently at St. Petersburg from Kamptschatka, where, about the latter end of last year, two large vessels appeared on that coast, which, by the description, give hopes that they are Capt. Cook's ships, which sailed from England in the autumn of 1776." This news must have been sent prior to the ships landing, for it would only be a few weeks later that England would learn the terrible news that Cook had died. Cook had died almost a year earlier, in February of 1779. AU $445 (US $409).

Item 1 is two very rare color prints, circa 1780, of the voyagers' visit to Kamchatka. One image shows their arrival, with their new leader, Captain Clerke, holding a document or letter of some sort in his hand (see image on catalogue cover). The other shows their departure, now under the command of Captains King and Gore, as the ill Clerke died at Kamchatka. Fortunately, the travelers were warmly received by Governor Behm and the Russians. The artist is unknown. AU $42,000 (US $38,665).

You may reach Hordern House at +61 (0) 2 9356 4411 or books@hordern.com. Their website is found at www.hordern.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Koller Auctions: Books & Autographs. March 26, 2019</b>
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Jacques Gamelin. <i>Nouveau recueil d'osteologie et de myologie, dessine d'apres nature...</i> 2 parts in 1 vol., large folio, 82 copper plates. CHF 12,000 to 18,000
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Ulysses S. Grant, photograph dated & signed as President, portrait by Brady, 1875. $3,000 to $4,000.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Nikola Tesla, signature & date on his monogrammed correspondence card, 1935. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Richard Wagner, ALS, concerning his opera Rienzi, 1869. $3,000 to $4,000.
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    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Ancient History.- La Baune (Jacques de). <i> Panegyrici Veteres,</i> Paris, 1676. [with] Wesseling (Petrus, ed.). <i> Vetera Romanorum itineraria…</i> £800 to £1,200
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