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Post Lot Text
[COOK, Capt. James (1728-1779).] SHAW, Alexander (fl. 1783). A Catalogue of the Different Specimens of Cloth Collected in the Three Voyages of Captain Cook to the Southern Hemisphere; with a Particular Account of the Manner of the Manufacturing the same in the various Islands of the South Seas; Partly Extracted from Mr. Anderson and Reinhold' Forster's Observations, And the verbal Account of some of the most knowing of the Navigators; with Some Anecdotes that Happened to them Among the Natives. London: Alexander Shaw, 1787.
8.¾ x 7 in. (22 x 18cm.). Title, 3 leaves of descriptions. COMPLETE: 39 specimens of tapa cloth tipped, some samples full-page, with an additional 17 specimens. Contemporary English half calf, smooth spine, gilt, marbled boards.
First edition of this remarkable rarity. The most complete copy recorded at auction in over 35 years when sold originally and as offered at present. The four most recent copies to appear contained 32, 36, 38 and 39 specimens, but without additional specimens.
A fine copy of this rare work, containing specimens of tapa, the unwoven cloth made in various tropical countries, the Pacific, primarily, from the bark of various trees, including bread-fruit, fig and mulberry. The printed text describes 39 specimens mostly from Hawaii and Tahiti, though many appear to have been wrongly attributed. In addition to these 39 numbered specimens the present volume contains an additional 17 un-numbered samples, the majority from Hawaii. Such additions are common in copies of this work and of the known copies with added specimens no two appear to have the same additional specimens; each copy is a unique assemblage.
Captain James King (1750-1795) was responsible for the collection of some if not all of the tapa cloth contained in this work. King also completed the official account of Cook's third voyage, published his own astronomical observations and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. The text describes the pieces of cloth, collected from Tongatabu, Tahiti, the Hawaiian Islands and one from Jamaica. Each copy of the work is more or less a unique collection of specimens. Beddie notes that the specimens differ in each copy and Holmes states that especially the final specimen (the beautiful lace-bark from Jamaica) is most often missing. The present copy is complete as described in the printed list of contents (Holmes 67; Mitchell Cook Library 3640). Forbes' worldwide survey of copies lists 29 in institutional or private libraries and few other copies exist. Alexander printed his text bound with samples 'for a few friends', with numbered descriptions of specimens 1-39. As a footnote he writes that 'some fine specimens of the tree, with the bark [may be had]' from his premises in the Strand (Beddie 3640; Hocken 26; Forbes 139).
M. K. Beddie, Bibliography of Captain James Cook, R.N., F.R.S., Circumnavigator, Sydney, 1970
D. W. Forbes, Hawaiian National Biography 1780-1900: Vol. I 1780-1830, Honolulu, 1999