Thursday, June 16, 2011

Featured Artifact: Captain Cook Prints


The two prints depicted here, A Night Dance by Men in Hapaee and Articles Sandwich Islands reflect how vast and rich James Cook’s final voyage was.

A Night Dance by Men in Hapaee exhibits the exoticism of Polynesian dances. Seated at the centre foreground is Captain Cook who is flanked by his crew. Bare-chested dancers perform a dance to a rhythm provided by men striking the ground with bamboo poles. John Webber engraved this scene c. 1774 on the island of Hapaee (Ha’apai, Central Tonga).

Articles Sandwich Islands displays wooden weapons, sharks teeth, a musical gourd instrument with feathers, an idol with mother of pearl eyes and dogs teeth and boar’s tusk bracelet. John Webber was also the artist of these objects c. 1785 at Cook’s last voyage in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii.

The exquisite prints produced by the artists on Cook’s voyages come from Lloyd W. Smith as part of his extensive archival and rare book collection donated to the park in 1955.


About Cook's Voyage:

Born in 1728 in Marton Yorkshire, Britain, Cook joined the Royal Navy and sailed his first voyage around the world on the ‘Endeavour’ from 1768-1771. He sailed three voyages in total in the 1770’s, and was killed on the third voyage in an unfortunate miscommunication between his men and the native in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii in 1779. Cook was attempting to circumnavigate the globe in an attempt to define shipping routes, trade routes, identify new societies and cultures, and to determine the position and extent of the west side of North America.

Cook had naturalists, anthropologists, and artists (no cameras of course) among others, to document the exotic sites and peoples he encountered, and to collect biological specimens. Men such as Henry Roberts, William Hodges, Sydney Parkinson, and John Webber joined Cook to document what they saw by sketching drawings, maps, and engravings. These prints that were produced by the artists are among the most valuable productions and developments from an anthropological standpoint during a very active decade for the British.


Morristown NHP Collection
Bound volumes of Captain Cooke's voyage to the Pacific Ocean exists in the Morristown Library Collection

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