COOK, James (1728-1779). A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, undertaken by the Command of His Majesty, for Making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere. To determine the Position and Extent of the West Side of North America; its Distance from Asia; and the Practicality of a Northern Passage to Europe. Performed under the direction of Captains Cook, Clerke, and Gore, In His Majesty's Ships the Resolution and Discovery, In the years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, and 1780. London: W. and A. Strahan for G. Nicol and T. Cadell, 1784.
3 text volumes, 4o (286 x 226mm.) and 2o Atlas (560 x 410 mm). Text with 24 engraved plates, maps and charts (13 folding) and folding table. (Small hole in first title page affecting the A, some light spotting.) Contemporary tree calf, spines gilt in compartments, gilt morocco lettering-pieces (spines rubbed, 3 covers detached, others starting). Provenance: Unidentified earl amorial bookplate. Atlas with 61 engraved plates after Webber and 2 engraved folding maps. (Some light spotting.) Early 20th century half morocco, spine gilt lettered (light rubbing to joints and edges).
FIRST OFFICIAL EDITION OF COOK'S LAST VOYAGE, WITH THE ATLAS, published five years after his death and long after other accounts were published by men who had sailed with him on that voyage. All were unauthorized publications whose authors sought to relate the true circumstances of Cook's death in Hawaii: John Rickman and Heinrich Zimmermann in 1781, William Ellis in 1782, and John Ledyard in 1783. None of these men were true witnesses to Cook's death, but their accounts were translated and reprinted in England, Europe and America, and widely read. By 1784, when the first official account was completed for the press by Captain James King and published, it was already popular enough for the whole of the first edition to sell out in just three days. It is Cook's own accounts published in these quarto volumes, however, which are the cornerstone for any collection of Pacific voyages. As Hill notes, "He did more to clarify the geographical knowledge of the southern hemisphere than all his predecessors together had done." Beddie 1543; Cox I, p. 63; Hill 361; Holmes 47; Lada-Mocarski 37; Mitchell Library Cook 1552; Sabin 16250.