This fascinating exhibition catalogue accompanying the British LIbrary 2018 show tells the story of James Cook's three major voyages across the globe through the Library's rich Captain Cook collection.
The book is organised chronologically and features thoughtful and well-written essays that are peppered with paintings and drawings from these voyages as well as excerpts from eyewitness together. It vividly brings to life the extraordinary challenges of Cook's voyages.
Spread from James Cook: The Voyages showing Alexander Buchan's 1769 painting of expedition life on the left-hand page and 'A Man of the Island of Tierra del Fuego' and 'A Woman of the Island of Tierra del Fuego' (1769) on the right-hand page
Many of the paintings and sketches featured are a record of the expeditions' first encounters with peoples, lands and flora and fauna. There are drawings of the Huash people, native to the island of Tierra del Fuego, by Scottish artist Alexander Buchan; depictions of the Maori by Sydney Parkinson; scientific sketches of animals and flowers and William Hodge's powerful pictures from the second voyage showing the Resolution and the Adventure in the vast black seas of the Antarctic.
The book also includes the only surviving paintings by Tupaia, a Polynesian high priest who joined Cook's ship at Tahiti and sailed to New Zealand and Australia as navigator and intermediary, interpreting local rituals and ceremonies.
[Banks and a Maori] 1769, Tupaia
The book explores a number of themes including scientific discovery, the crew's first encounters with indigenous cultures and the navigation and charting of the Pacific.
Nonetheless, this handsome book is a readable and scholarly book filled with beautiful reproductions which vividly bring Cook's three voyages to life. It is an excellent record of the exhibition and works well as a standalone book - in short, a great addition to any history lover's bookshelf.
Our thanks to the British Library for providing a review copy of this book.