Journal of Captain Cook's last voyage
to the Pacific Ocean on Discovery.
(item no. 22)
Cook, again in command of the Resolution, was to approach the Northwest Passage from the Pacific accompanied by a second ship, the Discovery, captained by Charles Clerke. The ships left England separately, regrouped at Cape Town, and continued on to Tasmania, New Zealand, and Tahiti. The expedition then sailed north and made landfall at Christmas Island and the Hawaiian Islands. Cook continued northward and charted the west coast of North America from Northern California as far as the Bering Strait. He returned to Hawaii for the winter and was killed in a skirmish with natives on February 14, 1779. Upon Cook's death, Clerke took command of the expedition but died six months later. The ships returned to England in 1780 under John Gore, who had commanded the Discovery after Cook's death. From start to finish, the voyage had lasted more than four years.
This unauthorized account is the first printed record of Cook's third and last voyage, preceding the official account by more than two years. As all the journals kept on board were claimed by the Admiralty, the author remained strictly anonymous. Three English editions appeared in 1781, a Philadelphia printing was issued two years later, and a revised English edition in 1785. German and French translations also were published within two years of this first English edition.
Ellis was a Surgeon's Mate on the third voyage, first on the Discovery and later on the Resolution. His unofficial account was published in contravention of the Admiralty's instruction to surrender all journals and logs kept during the expedition. Apparently in great need of funds, the author sold his narrative to a bookseller for fifty guineas, the only alternative being "half profits." Perhaps the author should have reconsidered as the work was reprinted by the same publishers twice in the following two years.
This unauthorized account of the third voyage was written by the coxswain in the Discovery. Zimmermann maintained a shorthand journal throughout the voyage with the intention of retaining it afterwards, despite the instructions that all logs and journals be surrendered. Indeed, this original publication was suppressed in Germany at the request of the British admiralty. French and Dutch translations, however, were published by the end of the eighteenth century. An English edition did not appear until 1926.
Ledyard, an American who served as Corporal of marines in the Resolution, surrendered his journal in accordance with Admiralty instructions. However, after deserting the Royal Navy and returning to Connecticut in 1783, friends convinced him to write a short account of the voyage. To aid his memory and supplement his narrative, he obtained a copy of Rickman's printed account, parts of which he copied literally. Ledyard's journal was not reprinted until 1963 but the text was adapted for children and printed as The Adventures of a Yankee, or the singular life of John Ledyard in 1831.
The first edition of the official account of the third voyage consists of three quarto volumes and one folio atlas and includes 87 engravings. This long-delayed official version of the voyage was so eagerly anticipated by the public that it sold out the third day after publication in 1784. Five additional English editions were published that year alone and an additional 14 editions were printed by 1800. Translations in French, German, Dutch, Swedish, Italian, and Russian were also published in the eighteenth century.
Anderson's collected voyages were originally published weekly in 80 six-penny numbers. The intention of publishing the work serially was due to the "many thousands of Persons who would wish to peruse the Discoveries . . . and view the astonishing fine Copper-Plates, [who] have hitherto been excluded from gratifying their eager curiosity." These installments would allow "every Person, whatever may be his Circumstances," to read about the voyages "of which such vast Sums of the Public Money have been expended."
The elder Forster's collection of northern voyages, with a brief account of Cook's three voyages and his death, originally appeared in German in 1784. This "new and improved map of the countries situated about the North Pole as far as the 50th degree" is based on information provided by the author.
Webber was the official draughtsman on Cook's third voyage and his drawings were reproduced in the official account of that voyage in 1784. Between 1788 and 1792, he also published a series of 16 engravings related to the voyage which he etched and colored himself. Fifteen years after his death in 1793, these images were reproduced as hand-colored aquatints and issued with descriptions reprinted from the official accounts.
The 61 plates in this atlas are based on drawings by John Webber and were executed by various engravers. Two maps, also included in the volume, were engraved from the originals by Henry Roberts.
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© 1999 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.