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COOK, James, & James King.

A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean.

Undertaken By The Command Of His Majesty, for Making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere. Performed under the Direction of Captains Cook, Clerke, and Gore, In His Majesty's Ships the "Resolution" and "Discovery"; in the Years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, and 1780.

London: Printed by H. Hughs for G. Nicol & T. Cadell, 1785 Stock Code: 139133
£37,500.00
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One of only a small number of copies printed on fine paper and bound in red morocco

Second and preferred edition of Cook's fatal third voyage, this set one of a small number with the text volumes printed on fine paper, apparently hot-pressed to give a more silken finish, and presented in a particularly attractive contemporary morocco binding, in this regard highly uncommon: the last set in such a binding appearing at auction in 1992.

Another particularly desirable feature of this copy is that the atlas folio is in a matching and unrestored binding; plate 13, "View at Annamooka," is a proof before letters. Interestingly, the copy of the second edition owned by the celebrated book collector and politician John Dent (1761-1826) was also on fine paper (see A Catalogue of the Library of John Dent, Esq., London, 1825, p. 65); "Dent was a voracious book collector, and at considerable cost assembled one of the finest private libraries of his day" (ODNB).

The second edition, following the first of the preceding year, has the title pages enhanced by the addition of medallic vignettes of Cook's Royal Society medal (obverse vol. I, reverse vol. II), and a portrait medal of Captain King after the distinguished miniaturist Samuel Shelley; the text was entirely reset, Forbes pointing out that the edition was always considered "typographically superior" to the first. Thirty-five years after publication, Cook's widow sent a copy to her doctor with an inscription noting that "the letter press of the second edition is much superior to the first both in paper & letter press". George III's copy, held at the British Library, is also a second edition.

Cook's final voyage was an attempt to find a north-west passage, during which he "discovered" Oahu and Kauai at the western end of the Hawaiian Islands, and, more importantly, "depicted accurately for the first time the north-west coast of America, leaving no major discoveries for his successors. In addition the scientific discoveries in the fields of natural history and ethnology were considerable and the drawings made by the artists were of great significance. There are numerous statues and monuments to Cook in many parts of the world but the best memorial to him is the present-day map of the Pacific, which he did so much to shape" (ODNB).

The brilliance of the illustrations, based on the work of the official artist on this voyage, John Webber, cannot be over-emphasized. His sensitive portraits, spectacular landscapes, and detailed studies of the material culture of the peoples encountered captured the European imagination more than any other record of of the expedition, and shaped European perceptions of the Pacific world for many years to come: "no voyage undertaken in the days before photography ever returned so well documented with pictorial illustrations" (Bernard Smith, European Vision and the South Pacific, p109). The voyage culminated in tragedy with Cook's death in a meaningless skirmish on a Hawaiian beach, but the Hawaiian survey was completed in spite of this. Clerke then sailed once more for the Arctic in an unsuccessful attempt to complete Cook's instructions, in spite of the fact that he was dying of tuberculosis. Clerke died in sight of Kamchatka and it was left to John Gore to bring the expedition safely back to England. Interest in the story of Cook's astounding discoveries and his tragic death meant that the first edition sold out within three days, despite being priced at 4 14s 6d, perhaps equivalent to around 6,000 today. On the secondary market they had soon reached 10 guineas.

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Description

4 volumes complete, 3 text volumes, quarto (307 x 231 mm) and atlas folio of plates (548 x 393 mm). Text volumes bound in contemporary red morocco, spines with five raised bands, gilt lettered direct in the second compartment (volume numbers at foot), gilt banding, compartments with alternating three-masted ship and dolphin motifs, each framed by a spray of stylised grain tied with a ribbon, sides framed with intersecting gilt single fillets, gilt fillet edge roll, gilt Greek-key roll to turn-ins, Antique Spot pattern marbled endpapers, gilt edges; atlas folio bound in contemporary red half morocco, spine with seven raised bands, gilt lettered direct in the second compartment, gilt banding either side of raised bands, swirled Antique Spot pattern marbled sides.

Illustrations

Text volumes with medallic engravings to title pages, 24 maps, charts and coastal elevations (14 folding), folding letterpress table; folio atlas with 2 maps (one folding the other double-page), and 61 copper-engraved plates.

Condition

Bindings just a little rubbed, a few minor scuffs, scattered foxing to text volumes, marginal light damp-staining at foot of a number of plates in the folio, plate 13 with closed tear across lower margin (within the plate mark but not affecting image). An excellent, imposing set.

Bibliography

Beddie 1552; Forbes 85; Hill 361; Holmes 48; Howgego, I, C175; NMM, I, 586; Printing and the Mind of Man 223; Sabin 16250.

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