Rare Book Spotlight: Captain Cook – Cloth – 1787

Specimen 15 in this book is material from the garment that was required to be worn during a human sacrifice.

The original accounts of Captain Cook’s three voyages, are some of the greatest adventures ever printed.

The narrative of the first voyage (1768 – 71) was published in 1771, the second (1772 -75) in 1777. The account of the last, tragic voyage on which Cook was killed, by a local warrior in Hawaiion 14 February 1779, was published posthumously in 1784, with a splendid volume of maps with engraved plates.

In these three voyages Cook disproved the existence of a great Southern continent, completed the outlines of Australia and New Zealand, charted the Society Islands, the New Hebrides, New Calendonia, and Hawaiian Islands and depicted accurately for the first time the NW coast of America. The scientific discoveries in natural history and ethnology were considerable on the voyages and the drawings made by the artists were of great significance.

Captain Cook – Cloth 1787 – by James Cook (27th Oct 1728 – 14th Feb 1779) – Explorer

All of these volumes are kept in Rare Books and Special Collections at Jubilee Library, Brighton.  This particular volume of different specimens of cloth collected on the three voyages (mainly from the Polynesian Islands) also includes descriptions of their manufacturing processes and anecdotes from meetings with the local people. It was published in 1787.

Cloth specimens from the book

Here’s an example of a story from the book connected to one of the pieces of fabric:

‘Specimen 34. From Otaheite [Tahiti] wore as garments by the ladies – A number of natives being on board of the Resolution, one of the chiefs took a particular liking to an old blunt iron, which lay upon one of the offier’s chests and taking hold of a boy about nine years of age, offered him in exchange, pointing to the iron. The gentleman, although he knew he could not keep the youth, yet willing to see if he would willingly stay; or if any of the rest would claim him, took the child and gave the savage the iron; upon which a woman, who appeared rather young for the mother, sprung from the other side of the ship, and with the highest emotions of grief seemed to bewail the loss of the infant: but the lieutenant, with a true British spirit, took him by the hand and presented him to her, upon  which, after putting her hands twice upon her head, she unbound the roll of cloth which was round her body, and from which this specimen was cut, and having spread it before him, seized the boy, and jumping into the sea both swam ashore, nor could he ever learn whether she was the mother, sister, or relation, and this he lamented the more, as such affection was very seldom seen among those people’

1. The Wolseley Collections at Hove Library include Lady Frances Garnet Wolseley’s Bookplate Collection of over 3,000, dating back to the 16th Century. James Cook’s bookplate belongs to this collection

During a confused confrontation with Hawaiian islanders on 14th February 1779, Cook and some of his men were killed. The sailor who returned to the Discovery to tell the remaining crew the dreadful news was William Bligh, who would go on to face the most famous maritime mutiny in history.

Margaret Curson – Rare Books Manager

All these items and thousands of other treasures can be found in the Rare Books and Special Collections at Jubilee Library. For more information drop an e-mail to rarebooks@brighton-hove.gov.uk or call 01273 294005 or pop up to the enquiry desk to apply for a Rare Books membership (you will need proof of address, proof of signature and two passport size photographs).


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One Response to Rare Book Spotlight: Captain Cook – Cloth – 1787

  1. Man in Gray says:

    I too am a collector of rare and out-of-print literations on paper as well. Though, mostly of reference, and historical nature. Thank you for posting this particular one. A Captain of any Geographical/historical era whether fiction or no, is always worth the read.
    Thank you, and good day!

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