Cook journals a rare set

Image result for Cook journals a rare setBill Nye, of Adventure Books, with all four volumes of A Voyage to the Pacific, published between 1781 and 1785, which chronicle Captain James Cook’s third and final voyage. Photo: Daniel Birchfield.

A “rogue” journal makes a 230-year-old collection of books documenting Captain  James Cook’s third voyage unique, says an Oamaru rare books salesman.

Bill Nye, of Adventure Books,  has a complete set of four  volumes of A Voyage to the  Pacific, three of which are  penned by Cook and Captain  James King, who helped Cook  on his final voyage.

The books, published  between 1781 and 1785, are still  in their original 18th-century  bindings and are valued at  $12,000.

They give a dramatic account  of the voyage around the Pacific  between 1776 and 1780, and  feature maps, engravings and  charts related to the voyage.

What makes the set unique is  that while volumes one, three  and four are the official  account of the voyage, volume  two is what Mr Nye describes as  a “rogue” journal, based on the  narrative of Lieutenant John  Rickman, titled Journal of  Captain Cook’s Last Voyage.

The unofficial account was  written and produced despite  the fact those who were part of  the voyage were instructed not  to by the Admiralty.

“It is unique,” Mr Nye said.

“Especially with Rickman’s  volume two, because most of  the full volumes after that were  just the three — two by Cook  and one by King.”

The books are bound with  half calf leather, and feature  marbled boards, a ribbed spine  with red title labels and thick,  laid paper.

Mr Nye, after consultation  with local bookbinder Michael  O’Brien, discovered that early  repairs were made to volume  four between 1806 and 1808, as  the first rear endpaper and  pastedown were replaced by  thinner and inferior wove paper — a hallmark of the  advent of paper  mechanisation.

Rebacking repairs were done  on all four books, retaining  their original spines, boards  and bindings.

Mr Nye’s extensive research revealed the books were  sold in 1808 and remained in  England until they were sold  abroad.

A man of Scottish ancestry  who lived in Otago sold them to  a Dunedin-based book  collector, who then sold them to  Mr Nye through an auction.

He has received two bids on the books, and  expects them to sell quickly.

Learning more about the  books had been special, Mr Nye  said.

“It’s like  a detective story. You try  finding out about the  publication, the history and its provenance through time.

“It a real privilege to handle  them and enjoy the engravings  in the books. It’s really fulfilling  and exciting for me to make  sure they go to a good home,  where people are going to enjoy  and preserve them, and  appreciate them, because they  they have travelled through  time to now.

“It’s a thrill to be able to pass them along.”

– Daniel Birchfield