A Stunning Captain James Cook Catalogue from Hordern House
Captain James Cook from Hordern House.
By Michael Stillman
We recently received what must be the finest catalogue we have seen in the five years we have been presenting reviews. When a book catalogue comes with a hard cover and dust jacket, you know it is going to be special. Still, this was unexpected. Hordern House, the Australian bookseller that often features travels and voyages, regularly publishes extraordinary catalogues. This one is spectacular. The title is Captain James Cook The Great Discoverer. Offered is The Robert and Mary Anne Parks Collection. The Parks, collectors from Michigan, assembled a fantastic collection Cook and Cook-related material. This stunning presentation offers thorough, detailed descriptions and images of each item. Now this catalogue can join the items that belong in a Cook collection. Here are some of those offered.
The catalogue starts with a signature from early in Cook's career. Long before he embarked on his three journeys to the Pacific, Cook was sent to map areas of Atlantic Canada, first the St. Lawrence, later Newfoundland. It was the thoroughness of his work that led to Cook's being selected to lead his three famed voyages. Item 1 is a May 12, 1859 discharge certificate for Lieutenant George Allen from HMS Pembroke, signed by Cook. Allen was discharged for the very good reason that he was dead. Normally, the discharge would have been signed by Captain Simcoe as the commander, but he was mortally ill by this time. Priced at AU $78,500 (that is Australian dollars, or approximate US equivalent of $75,125).
Item 7 is a unique survival of Cook's first voyage, the first printed map of the lands it discovered. It was created by the expedition's naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks, and his botanist, Daniel Solander. It is the first map to depict the complete continent of Australia (then called "New Holland") and the two islands of New Zeeland. It is one of only two copies of this map known to exist, and the only copy on thick paper. The Hordern House catalogue includes a fold-out image of this very rare map. Price on request.
Item 34 is an unusual letter from Captain Cook as he prepared for his second voyage. This was perhaps his most important trip as it once and for all disproved the theory of a massive southern continent. The letter is addressed to a "Mr. Coggin," likely Charles Coggan, a director of the English East India Company. Cook, in his own hand, pleads for the release of one James Keaton, who was evidently press-ganged onto an East India Company ship to serve as a soldier. Press-ganging was a nasty way of recruiting sailors in the day, where they were involuntarily pulled off the streets and forced into service. Keaton must have been a sailor that Cook intended to bring on his voyage, so he pleads, "...I beg you will order him to be discharged or delivered up to such persons as I shall send for that purpose." Hordern House notes that there is no record of a James Keaton ever sailing with Cook, and that it is unlikely that this represents a confusion with the somewhat similarly named John Heaton, which perhaps indicates Cook's plea was not successful. Price on request.
A Stunning Captain James Cook Catalogue from Hordern House
Carter's Death of Cook; Patuone - photo of man who met Cook.
While Cook's geographical, natural history, and native people discoveries are those for which he is best known, his most important one, at least for sailors at the time, was of a preventive for scurvy. Cook discovered that sauerkraut and a malt juice could prevent this dreaded disease that normally would take the lives of a great many sailors on long voyages. It was a major breakthrough for exploration. However, at the time his findings were being presented to the Royal Society, on November 30, 1776, Cook was off on his third voyage, so his report was presented by Sir John Pringle. Item 39 is Pringle's A Discourse upon some Late Improvements in the Health of Mariners. AU $64,000 (US $61,180).
Item 95 is a rare first imprint of George Carter's notable drawing of The Death of Captain James Cook... On the return trip of his third, and obviously, final voyage, Cook had a misunderstanding with usually more friendly Hawaiian natives and was killed. It was left to James King to return the voyage home and complete the official version of the final trip. Carter was not present at the death of Cook, so obviously there was some license with his depiction, but it reflects his understanding of what occurred. AU $28,750 (US $27,467).
Item 100 is a written account of the tragic event: A Narrative of the Death of Captain James Cook. Author David Samwell was an eyewitness to the terrible occurrence and a man who knew Cook well. In his account, Samwell attempts to dispel the rumor that a hasty temper by the Captain may have been a factor in his untimely death. This book was published in 1786, and it is one of the greatest rarities among Cook items. Price on request.
Item 16 is an unusual piece for a Cook collection, but there is a surprising connection. Published in 1876, and written by Charles Oliver Davis, the title is The Life and Times of Patuone, the Celebrated Ngapuhi Chief. A photograph of the Chief is found opposite the title page. Patuone was a Maori leader who met Cook as a child when the latter visited the area in 1769. What makes this book unusual is the photograph of Patuone. Hordern House notes that they are unaware of any other examples of a photograph of someone who actually met Cook. This one is an accident of longevity, Patuone living to the age of 108, long enough to make it into the age of photography. AU $1,300 (US $1,242).
You may have noticed the absence of the most notable of Cook items in this review - the official reports of the three voyages or a complete set. They are here. We have chosen to focus on some of the less well-known items of Cook's career, but the Parks collection includes individual voyage sets, a complete three-voyage set, and many more items you would look to find in the best of Cook collections. You may reach Hordern House at (61-2) 9356 4411 or email@example.com. Their website is www.hordern.com.