“First Published Account of Cook’s First Circumnavigation”--Streeter
Thomas W. Streeter’s copy
13. [COOK’S FIRST VOYAGE]. [MAGRA, James (attributed)]. A Journal of a Voyage Round the World, in His Majesty's Ship Endeavour, in the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, and 1771; Undertaken in Pursuit of Natural Knowledge, at the Desire of the Royal Society: Containing All the Various Occurrences of the Voyage, with Descriptions of Several New Discovered Countries in the Southern Hemisphere; and Accounts of their Soil and Productions; and of Many Singularities in the Structure, Apparel, Customs, Manners, Policy, Manufactures, &c. of Their Inhabitants. To Which is Added, a Concise Vocabulary of the Language of Otahitee.... London: T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, 1771.  (title leaf),  (dedication leaf with instruction to binder reading: Place this next the title), 130,  (verso of S3 blank) pp. 4to, contemporary polished calf, red and green gilt-lettered morocco spine labels (skillfully rebacked). Spine labels chipped with loss, small pieces wanting from spine neatly restored, first few leaves lightly foxed. Old library label and printed book label of Thomas W. Streeter on front pastedown, with TWS’s pencil notes on flyleaf. Overall, a very good copy of a primary imprint of Cook literature.
First edition of the first printed account of Cook’s first voyage and his discovery of the eastern coast of Australia. This copy has the separately printed dedication leaf found in some copies, with the printed instruction to binder visible. The dedication leaf was suppressed after the protest of Banks and Solander. There is copious discussion on the “issues” and “states” of the book. Du Rietz in the catalogue of the Kroepelien Collection (215) covers the points in detail and at length:
The London edition is...frequently stated to exist in two “issues.” The only point of difference, however is the presence (or absence) of an inserted dedication leaf between prefixed T[itle] L[eaf] and the first text gathering. Assuming...that T[itle] L[eaf] was printed as f.S4 (that leaf being absent in the copies seen by me), there are no means of proving that the dedication leaf was printed together with the text sheets. It is signed “a” and carries the following direction to the binder: “Place this next the Title.” (This line has been trimmed away in most copies.) The possibility cannot be ruled out that there were copies issued even before the printing of the dedication leaf. Anyway, as is well known, the leaf was later cancelled. Since the leaf has no conjugate within the book but is an insertion, no stub could tell us whether the actual cancellation (excision) was performed, and it is, of course, perfectly possible that the act of cancellation was limited to the stopping of further insertion of the leaf in unsold copies. The edition thus exists in two variant states, one with the dedication leaf, and the other without it, but a cautious bibliographer should justly hesitate to label either state “first state” or “second state,” even if it would be natural (upon the external, non-bibliographical evidence available) to assume all copies lacking the dedication leaf belong to the latter state.
With all due respect to Du Reitz's analysis, we have little hesitation in
asserting that a copy such as the one here, with the dedication leaf present,
is an example of the first issue. As Du Reitz points out, the title page was
probably printed on S4, as would be expected, given European printing practices
that generally set the entire text first and then began to set the preliminaries,
such as the title page and dedication, on whatever blank leaves remained of
the last sheet printed. Having only one blank leaf remaining in this case,
the printer set the title page on it, as would be expected, and perforce had
to print the dedication on a separate leaf, having no other choice in the matter.
The printers would have realized when they typeset sheet S that they would
not have enough blank leaves left over to print the dedication, too, as part
the press run. In all likelihood, they started printing the dedication leaf
at the same time so that everything was complete when the book went on sale.
That Becket and De
Hondt would issue such a work without a dedication included flies in the face of what would be expected of British publishers at the time, as may be seen by examining practically any other volume in this collection. After protests were lodged, it was a relatively simple matter to stop including the leaf in copies since it was separate anyway. It strikes us as highly unlikely that the publishers would have started selling this book without the dedication leaf and then have added it as an afterthought, which would have to be the assumption if Du Reitz's theory is correct.
Bagnall 3324. Beaglehole I, pp. cclvi-cclxiv: “One may summarize the book as a poor but fluent production, obviously thrown off in a hurry after the arrival in England, on the basis of a few notes and memory and without much discrimination.” Beddie 693. Cox I, pp. 54-55. Davidson, pp. 53-54: “The importance of the work cannot be overstated as it is not only the first published account of the voyage but it is also an interesting narrative of the expedition.... It will always be a highlight of any collection.” Hill II:1066 (without dedication leaf). Hocken, p. 9. Holmes 3. O'Reilly-Reitman 362. Sabin 4246 (attributing authorship to Thomas Becket) & 16242 (attributing authorship to Cook). Streeter Sale 2405 (this copy).
The Journal was published two months after Cook’s return and nearly two years before Hawkesworth’s 1773 official Account of the Voyages. Although publisher Becket’s dedication is fulsome, the dedicatees, James Solander and Joseph Banks, promptly withdrew association with this clandestine publication, insisting that the dedication be withdrawn. Wood, in Discovery of Australia, attributed authorship to an American seaman, James Magra (also known as Matra). Beaglehole discusses the authorship problem at length, and while not rejecting Magra, he does feel that there is evidence indicating some other person may be the author. See also: Alan Frost, The Precarious Life of James Mario Matra: Voyager with Cook, American Loyalist, Servant of Empire (Melbourne, 1995).
The work is a short, but interesting narrative of Cook’s first voyage, which relates his visits to Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, Batavia, and Rio de Janeiro (not in Berger or Borba de Moraes). The author is noteworthy because he is one of the few to criticize Cook in any meaningful way. Despite problems with the accuracy of the text, this work will always hold the place of being the first account of that voyage and the first account in print of the Australian coast. In translation, it also gave the French their first account of that voyage. ($30,000-60,000)
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