21 September 2005
ANDREW KIPPIS (1725-1795)
The Life of Captain James Cook. London: G. Nicol and G.G.J. and J. Robinson, 1788. 4° (286 x 233mm). Engraved portrait after the painting by Nathaniel Dance, half-title. Contemporary panelled calf gilt, boards with panels and borders composed of floral and foliate tools, spine gilt in compartments, gilt morocco lettering-piece in one, others decorated with flower tools (lightly rubbed and scuffed, outer areas of boards darkened, skilfully rebacked).
FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST ENGLISH AND FIRST FULL-SCALE BIOGRAPHY OF COOK compiled from Admiralty sources, documents in the possession of Sir Joseph Banks, the Earl of Sandwich and Sir Hugh Palliser (under whom Cook served), and other contemporary records. Few facts are given of Cook's private life but this is justified by Kippis who writes that they 'can never compare, either in number or importance, with his public transactions' -- his voyages and discoveries. His early career and surveys of Newfoundland and Labrador are covered in the opening chapter only, and his three voyages are discussed at great length in the remainder. A copy of the 'Safe Passage' letter from Benjamin Franklin to all American ships regarding Cook, dated Passy, 1779, is included by Kippis with his further comment that the letter's terms were reversed by Congress which believed 'it would be injurious to the United States for the English to obtain knowledge of the opposite coast of America'. The account of Cook's death in Hawaii is a re-printing of David Samwell's rare eye-witness narrative published in London in 1786 which Beaglehole considered the 'frankest and most reliable of all contemporary accounts'. Beddie 32, 3296 (portrait); Forbes 149; Hill 934; Lada-Mocarski 40; Sabin 37954.
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