Cook's Final Voyage from Hordern House
Engraving of Captain Clerke's arrival at Kamchatka on catalogue's cover.
The latest catalogue from Australia's Hordern House is entitled Courage and Perseverance. Cook's Final Voyage. This refers to the third and final voyage of Captain James Cook. Cook was likely England's greatest explorer. Between 1768 and 1775, he spent most of his time at sea, primarily exploring the Pacific. He did much of the early charting of Australia, New Zealand, and numerous Pacific islands. It was Cook who laid to rest the widely held belief of the time that there existed an enormous continent to the south. Cook was not one to rest on his laurels, so in 1776, just as the American Revolution was breaking, he set out on his third, and what would prove to be final voyage. He did not return.
The third voyage would bring him back to his haunts around Australia and the Pacific, but this time there was another, hidden purpose. It was to discover the long sought Northwest Passage that was hoped would drastically reduce sailing time from England to the Pacific. On his way, Cook became the first European to reach Hawaii, and then he sailed on for North America. He explored the Northwest coast of that continent before winding his way to the Bering Sea. As happened to so many others, he was unable to go any farther because of the ice. His failure to find a Northwest Passage was no shame. No one else did for centuries either, and even then it was not a practical route. Cook then returned to Hawaii and its more hospitable climate, but eventually, something went terribly wrong with his previous good relations with the natives and Cook was stabbed to death. His companions made one more unsuccessful run to the Bering Sea to find the passage before retreating to Pacific Russia and finally home. Hordern House is offering 111 items related to Cook's final voyage. Here are a few.
One of the rules of Cook's voyages was that no one was to publish accounts until after the official version was released. This rule was honored only in the breach. The final voyage generated several accounts before the official version. Item 10 is John Rickman's Journal of Captain Cook's Last Voyage to the Pacific Ocean...in the Years 1776...1779... This was the first account published in English, and it was issued anonymously to avoid repercussions from the Admiralty. Rickman was a lieutenant on the voyage and his account is important historically as it differs on many points from the official one. It provides the first authentic description in English of Hawaii, including the first representation of the islands in its image of the death of Cook. Published in 1781. Priced at AU $14,000 (Australian dollars, or approximately $12,923 U.S. dollars).
Another who jumped the gun was Heinrich Zimmermann. Zimmermann was a carpenter who signed on as an ordinary sailor, so his account offers the unique perspective of one who served below deck. He published his account in German in 1781, which was quickly followed by editions in French and Russian. Oddly, though this was an English voyage, there was no contemporary translation to the English language. Item 19 is a first English edition of Zimmermann's Account of the Third Voyage of Captain Cook, but it was not published until 1926. AU $485 (US $446).
Cook's Final Voyage from Hordern House
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 email@example.com. Their website is found at www.hordern.com.