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Lot 14

first official account of Cook’s first voyage

14. [COOK’S FIRST VOYAGE]. HAWKESWORTH, John. An Account of the Voyages Undertaken by the Order of His Present Majesty for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and Successively Performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook...Drawn up from the Journals which Were Kept by the Several Commanders, and from the Papers of Joseph Banks.... London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1773. 3 vols., as follows:

Vol. I: [12], xxxvi, [4], [1]-138, 139/360, [1, blank], [2], [363]-676 pp. (140-359 omitted in numbering), 20 (17 folding; maps, charts, views).

Vol. II: xv [1], 410 pp., 22 plates (19 folding; maps, charts, scenes, views, fauna, antiquities, costume).

Vol. III: [6], [411]-799 [1, blank], 9 plates (6 folding; figures, antiquities, scenes, views, maps, charts, fauna).

Total: 51 copper-engraved plates(maps, charts, views, etc.)

3 vols., 4to, full contemporary tree calf (skillfully rebacked, original gilt-lettered and decorated calf spines and labels preserved). Light shelf wear, corners bumped; some offsetting of plates, a few tears in leaves expertly mended, light scattered browning and foxing, including plates; in Vol. II, River Thames plate trimmed at top into neat line with very slight loss. With printed bookplate of Thomas Ballantyne Hyslop affixed to front pastedown of each volume. Overall a very good set with plates in strong impressions.

     First edition of the first official account of Cook’s first voyage, commissioned by the British Admiralty. According to Holmes, early issues have continuous pagination (as here) and were bound without the later added “Chart of the Streight of Magellan” (not present in this copy). This copy has the directions for placing the cuts (Vol. I, sig. f, bound between sig. e and B), which according to Holmes, are found in later issues of the first edition. Beaglehole I, ccxlii-ccliii. Beddie 648. Cox I, pp. 19-20, 56-57. Davidson, pp. 49-50. Hill I, p. 139. Hill II:782. Hocken, pp. 10-11. Holmes 5. JCB III:1863. Kroepelien 535. O’Reilly-Reitman 367. Palau 112562. Sabin 30934 (“This is the Narrative of Cook’s first voyage and forms an indispensable part of a series of Cook’s voyages. The first edition is preferred for its plates”).

     Although Cook had proved his worth to the Admiralty on his Newfoundland surveys, it was his first circumnavigation on the Endeavour, recounted here, that secured his access to further and more important commands. Sent to Tahiti to observe the Transit of Venus, Cook successfully completed that task before setting off on a veritable discovery cruise around the Pacific meant to establish British preeminence in the area and claim territory for the nation. Before he was done, he would discover or map many new geographical features, among them the Society Islands, New Zealand, and the east coast of Australia in a voyage that documented nearly 5,000 miles of coastline and lasted about three years. The voyage also helped discredit even further the so-called counterpoise theory and the existence of a Terra Australis. Other voyages covered here in Volume I include those by Byron, Carteret, and Wallis, during which were discovered and charted such places as Pitcairn Island, the Gilberts, and Tahiti.

     The glories accorded Cook by Hawkesworth in this edition brought forth a furious response this same year from the eclipsed Alexander Dalrymple, who was not alone. As Beaglehole dryly remarks, “Connoisseurs of abuse, indeed, may do worse than study the observations made, from time to time, upon his production” (I, ccxliii). This edition has been criticized because Hawkesworth fails to distinguish between his own statements and those of Cook himself, a situation not remedied until 1893 when Wharton edited Cook’s original account.

     Hawkesworth utters this prophetic statement, which came all too true later in Cook’s case: “I cannot however dismiss my Readers to the following narratives, without expressing the regret with which I have recorded the destruction of poor naked Savages, by our firearms, in the course of these expeditions.... [I]t must be considered, that if such expeditions are undertaken, the execution of them must be intrusted to persons not exempt from human frailty; to men who are liable to provocation by sudden injury, to unpremeditated violence by sudden danger, to error by the defect of judgment or the strength of that every excess thus produced is also an inevitable evil” (I, xvii). (4 vols.) ($5,000-10,000)

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