On The Square

Cooking the Books

By Brett Morris

Mar 06,2017 | 09:50 EST

In the annals of exploration, Captain James Cook is considered an absolute heavyweight. At a time when the British Empire was spreading its wings wide, he made three extensive voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the east coast of Australia, the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of the two New Zealand isles.

Captain James Cook - a serious man in a time of funny wigs

On Saturday, March 18 Rago offers bidders the chance to relive the wonder of Cook’s epic third voyage when they offer a Lot 1854 in their Great Estates sale. Commissioned in the early 19th Century, this book contains over 60 engravings and 20 maps depicting the cultures and geography of the Pacific Islands, including "The Reception of Captain Cook in Hapaee", "A Human Sacrifice, in a Morai, in Otaheite", and "a View of the Habitations in Nootlea Sound." What a treat - a world of discovery savored from the comfort of your study! 

Lot 1854 - Cooks epic third journey comes to life before your eyes!

Cook’s third and final voyage was at the helm of HMS Resolution, sent off with an ambitious plan to not only return to the Pacific Islands but to locate the Northwest Passage around the American continent as well. It was on this trip where Cook would meet his demise, killed by natives in Hawaii’s Kealakekua Bay after a failed attempt to kidnap and ransom Kalaniʻōpuʻu, the King of Hawaii. 

HMS Resolution - Captain Cooks ride for his last two voyages

Cook was born in November 1728 in the Yorkshire village of Marton. At age 18 he was taken on as a merchant navy apprentice aboard the Freelove, a collier plying coal along the English coast. As part of his apprenticeship, Cook studied algebra, geometry, trigonometry, navigation and astronomy - skills he would one day use to command his own ship. Cook passed his exams in 1752, and realizing his career would advance quicker in military service, entered the Navy in June 1755.

Cook comes to a sticky end after a botched attempt to kidnap the King of Hawaii

Cook rose steadily through the ranks, and at age 39 was promoted to lieutenant to grant him the necessary chops to command the Endeavour on a scientific voyage to the Pacific Ocean. The expedition sailed from England on 26 August 1768, and was away for nearly three years. In 18th Century England, explorers were the rock stars of their day, and it was this first voyage that would cement Cook’s fame and legacy. 

Ragos, Great Estates sale is set down for Saturday, March 18, and contains over 680 expertly curated lots covering a a host of fascinating categories. View the full catalog.