plate 19

A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean
undertaken by the Command of
His Majesty for Making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere . . .

by Captain James Cook (vols. 1 and 2)
and Captain James King (vol. 3), and Atlas (vol. 4)

These three volumes and the accompanying atlas are from the first edition and form the first official account of Cook’s third expedition. They were published posthumously and the third volume was written by Cook’s officers under the name of his second-in-command, Captain James King. The publication itself was carefully overseen by the Admiralty and the Royal Society so as to eliminate any contradictions or careless entries. The British public and indeed, the world at large, eagerly awaited this official account of this monumental voyage of exploration. Its publication is unusually well documented, including details of print runs; the first and second editions, for instance, each comprised two thousand copies.13 The first edition sold out within three days and the price on the street increased tenfold. In addition to the news aspect of the Cook’s journals, the illustrative plates engraved after paintings by John Webber captured the imagination of the public and successfully portrayed, before the age of photography, images of the South Seas and North Pacific that last to this day.

13. Anthony Payne, Enlightenment and Exploration in the North Pacific, 1741–1805 (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1997), 179–80.