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AUCTION 17

VOYAGES & TRAVELS
WITH AN EMPHASIS ON CAPTAIN COOK

Lot 21

“A few copies of these pages were issued separately for the benefit of owners of earlier editions”—Holmes

21. [COOK’S SECOND VOYAGE]. WALES, William. [Caption title]: “A Defence of the Arguments Advanced, In the Introduction to Captain Cook’s Last Voyage, Against the Existence of Cape Circumcision.” [London, 1785]. 557-564 pp. 4to, untrimmed. No evidence of ever having been bound. Light browning at upper blank margins, edge curling. Preserved in blue morocco folding case. Laid in is a typed page of David Magee’s cataloguing notes on his letterhead.

     First quarto printing. Not in Rosove. A publisher’s overrun of signature 4D of Vol. III of Cook, A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, third edition (London: Hughes for G. Nicol & T. Cadell, 1785). Although printed as part of the third edition of Cook’s Voyage, Wales’ essay was apparently considered sufficiently important that extra copies were printed for those who desired them as separates. Thus, this sheet is sometimes found bound in various publications relating to or by Cook to which it does not properly belong. Its survival here as a sheet that has never been bound into another publication is believed to be unique. This is probably the most elusive separate publication relating to Cook and his voyages. Cf. Beddie 1553. Cf. Holmes 47 (“A few copies of these pages were issued separately for the benefit of owners of earlier editions”).

     The existence of Cape Circumcision, thought to be part of the rumored Southern Continent, was debated for decades. Originally discovered by Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier in 1739, the Cape’s existence could not readily be confirmed by others because Bouvet made navigational errors that misplaced his discovery. Despite weeks of sailing and searching among ice floes and storms, Cook himself was unable to find it on his second voyage, one purpose of which was expressly to locate the place and claim parts of it for Great Britain. Wales wrote this essay to refute certain statements put forward by Le Monnier. Wales defends Cook’s observation as accurate while concluding about the place itself: “... I believe the English nation, to whom he so ostentatiously replies, are well convinced, not only of the non-importance, but the non-existence of it.”

     Cape Circumcision was finally sighted again by U. S. whale men in 1808, although it was not until 1822 that anyone actually made landfall on it. Renamed several times, it is known today as Bouvet Island and is the remotest place on Earth. It is uninhabited and possessed by Norway, although it has its own top-level Internet domain name (.bv). ($5,000-10,000)

 

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