Cook's Three Voyages

James COOK

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(PACIFIC VOYAGES) (COOK, James). Cook's Three Voyages, Comprising: HAWKESWORTH, John. An Account of the Voyages undertaken… for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere. Three volumes. WITH: COOK, James. A Voyage towards the South Pole, and Round the World. Two volumes. WITH: COOK, James and KING, James. A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean… for making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere. Four volumes (three quarto volumes plus atlas folio). London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1773, 1777, 1785. Nine volumes altogether. Quarto (atlas volume large folio, measures 17 by 22 inches), contemporary full diced Russia calf, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, green morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers; atlas volume expertly rebacked with original spine neatly laid down.

Scarce complete set of Cook's three Pacific voyages, comprising the preferred second edition of the first voyage—issued the same year as the first, and "considered the best edition" (Hill), with material suppressed from the first—along with a first edition of the second voyage and a second edition of the third voyage, issued just one year after the first, complete with the splendid large folio atlas volume to accompany the third voyage. Superbly illustrated with 203 engraved charts, maps and plates, many double-page or folding. A fine set, uniformly and handsomely bound in contemporary calf-gilt.

Facing challenges surpassed only by modern space flight, Captain James Cook embodied the spirit of the great age of maritime discovery. The only 18th-century explorer to lead more than one Pacific voyage, he embarked on three circumnavigations between 1768 and 1776, essentially transforming into their modern form the dangerously unreliable maps of the Pacific's expanse and the New World's western coast. Official accounts of his three voyages, with their remarkable engravings and splendid atlas, found an eager public, the first edition of the final voyage selling out in three days. In the words of his principal biographer, "The study of Cook is the illumination of all discovery."

"The famous accounts of Captain Cook's three voyages form the basis for any collection of Pacific books. In three great voyages Cook did more to clarify the geographical knowledge of the Southern Hemisphere than all his predecessors had done together. He was the first really scientific navigator and his voyages made great contributions to many fields of knowledge" (Hill). In his first voyage (1768-1771), Cook observed the Transit of Venus at Tahiti, rediscovered and charted New Zealand, and discovered and charted the east coast of Australia. This second edition is "considered the best one" (Hill 783) and contains 52 engraved plates, maps and charts, several folding, and includes the strategically important (and previously suppressed) "Chart of the Streight of Magellan," and the "Directions for placing the Cuts and Charts," neither of which are present in the earliest issues of the first edition. This second, preferred edition also includes Hawkesworth's Preface, containing his reply to a critical letter from Alexander Dalrymple. (Volumes II and III are also separately paginated, unlike the first edition, in which the pagination in these two volumes was continuous.)

In his second voyage (1772-75), Cook crossed the Antarctic Circle for the first time in history and disproved the existence of the supposed "Great Southern Continent"; includes 64 engraved plates and maps, several folding. In his third voyage (1776-79), he searched for the North-West Passage, charted the American west coast from Northern California through the Bering Strait, and discovered the Hawaiian Islands, which he named the Sandwich Islands; includes 24 plates and maps, several folding (of 25, with one plate supplied in neat facsimile). This especially important third voyage was "the first voyage attempting an adequate examination and charting of our northwest coast" (Howes C729a). "Cook was the first navigator to accurately map the coast, and, by carrying away a collection of furs, he introduced the fur trade to the English and American traders, whose subsequent expeditions were based upon his discoveries… no other contemporaneously printed source narrative is of comparable importance" (Eberstadt 127: 353). (The second edition of the third voyage does not differ notably from the first, published one year prior.). The first voyage is from the preferred second edition, but is bound with first edition title pages (likely by the publisher). Final engraving in Volume III of the third voyage ("Plan of Pulo Condor") supplied in neat contemporary pen facsimile. PMM 223. Holmes, Bibliography of Captain Cook, 5n, 24, 47n. Beddie, Bibliography of Captain James Cook, 650, 1216, 1552. Hill, 782, 783. Early bookplate of William Clark; a few contemporary annotations in the text.

Large "Chart of the Streight of Magellan" in Volume I of the first voyage sectioned and mounted on blue paper, very faint dampstain affecting only a few plates toward rear of atlas volume, text volume interiors and plates quite clean, a few joints and spine ends with expert repairs. An unusually clean and beautiful set in contemporary calf-gilt.

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