First Full-Length Biography of Captain Cook
27. [COOK’S COLLECTED VOYAGES]. KIPPIS, Andrew. The Life of Captain James Cook. London: G. Nicol and G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1788. xvi, 527  pp., 1 copper-engraved plate (frontispiece portrait of Cook engraved by James Heath after the painting by Nathaniel Dance). 4to, modern three-quarter brown calf over marbled boards, spine with gilt-lettered green morocco spine label and raised bands, marbled edges. Spine faded and spotted, frontispiece moderately foxed and offset to title page, occasional light scattered foxing to text, short tear at p. 457 in right blank margin (no loss). Wants half title.
First edition of the first full-scale biography of Cook (shorter biographies of Cook had appeared previously in German). Beddie 32 & 1962 (book) & 3296 (portrait). Davidson, p. 67 (“should be included in any comprehensive collection”). Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 149. Hill I, pp. 163-164. Hill II:935. Hocken, pp. 26-27: “Admirable précis of the three voyages.” Holmes 69. Howes K179. Kroepelien 647. Lada-Mocarski 40. O’Reilly-Reitman 455. Rosove 191.A1 (“scarce”). Sabin 37954. Strathern 295. Wickersham 6559.
This biography provides a complete life of the navigator from humble birth to perplexing death, including an account of Cook’s duties while aboard the Mercury, on the St. Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec. The Newfoundland and Labrador surveys are discussed, and the three voyages are dealt with extensively. The book includes most of Samwell’s account of Cook’s death, as well as various tributes to Cook. On pp. 520-527 appears the first edition of Helen Maria Williams’ “The Morai, an Ode,” and on pp. 507-510 are extracts from Seward’s poem on Cook’s death (see Item 35 herein). Also included is a printing of the 1799 letter issued in Passey by Benjamin Franklin on his own authority asking that United States vessels not molest Cook. This order was countermanded by Congress, who did not believe it wise that Cook, given what he knew about the west coast of North America, be allowed to return to England.
Most scholars express disappointment with this biography because it includes almost no details about Cook’s private life, although the author specifically avers that it is Cook’s public life that interests him. The work also contains certain inaccuracies concerning Cook’s naval service, even though Kippis had access to Cook’s official admiralty records. Contemporary readers seem to have admired it, however, and it is still a standard biography. Kippis (1725-1795) was a famous dissenting minister and author known for his biographical works (see DNB). On engraver James Heath (1757-1834), see DNB. ($1,200-2,400)
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