Mort de Cook. [Death of Cook]

French issue of the most famous image of the death of Cook. It is based on original sketches made by James Clevely the carpenter on board Cook’s ship Resolution who was said to have been ab eye witness from on … Read Full Description


S/N: CK03F-001-PI-HAW–233134
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Full Title:

Mort de Cook. [Death of Cook]




Light yellowing to lower left margin, otherwise in good condition. With folds as issued.


Hand coloured copper engraving.

Image Size: 

x 225mm

Paper Size: 

x 252mm
Mort de Cook. [Death of Cook] - Antique Print from 1785

Genuine antique



French issue of the most famous image of the death of Cook. It is based on original sketches made by James Clevely the carpenter on board Cook’s ship Resolution who was said to have been ab eye witness from on board the ship.

Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands on 19 January 1778, sighting the coast and anchoring in Waimea Bay. Naming the islands, the
Sandwich Islands named after the Earl of Sandwich Cook after his stay, he soon departed in search of the north west passage but returned to Kealakekua Bay (Hawaii) on 17 January 1779. His ships sailed north again on 4 February 1779 only to return to anchor in the same bay with a damaged foremast a week later. ‘We were employed the whole of the 11th, and part of the 12th, in getting out of foremast, and sending it, with the carpenters, a shore… I shall now proceed to the account of those other transactions with the natives which led, by degrees, to the fatal catastrophe of the 14th. Upon coming to anchor, we were surprised to find our reception very different from what it had been on our first arrival: no shouts, no bustle, no confusion, but a solitary bay, with only here and there a canoe stealing close along the shore.’ 

On Saturday 13 February trouble began. The armourers’ tongs were stolen from the Discovery, a fleeing canoe fired on by the ships’ guns, a watering party was threatened by ‘Indians [who] had arm’d themselves with stones‘, the tongs were stolen again, and Edgar was attacked while trying to impound a canoe on the beach. At daybreak on the 14th the Discovery’s great cutter was found to have been stolen and Cook ordered a blockade of the bay by the ships’ boats to stop the thieves’ canoes escaping. Cook took a party of marines under Lieutenant Molesworth Phillips to Kowrowa on the North shore, intending to take the Hawaiian King Kalani’opu (‘Terreeoboo’) back to the Resolution where he would be held until the cutter was returned. The pinnace and launch were stationed close to shore to cover Cook and his landing party. In the meantime, King had been sent to the observatories on the beach where the carpenters were working on the damaged foremast, by the village of Kakooa at the other end of the bay, and Rickman’s party was out in the bay blockading the entrance. ‘They walked up to the King’s hut, the Captn intended to get Terreeoboo aboard, as a security for the return of the boat. When Mr Phillips went in & wak’d Terreeoboo & told him the Erono [Cook] was there, he came out, & being askd by C Cook to go on board as usual, he immediately consent’d, & walk’d towards the boat, when he was met by an old woman & some Chiefs, who (possibly suspecting something from seeing out people all Armd, & things carrying on in quite different manner from formerly,) intreat’d him not to go, but finding him at the Captns pressing desire inclin’d to go, they absolutely insisted he should not… a dispute ensued…’ ‘…It was at this point that we first began to suspect that they were not very well dispos’d towards us, and the Marines being huddled together in the midst of an immense Mob compos’d of at least 2 or 3 thousand People, I propos’d to Capt Cook that they might be arrang’d in order along the Rocks by the Water side which he approving of, the Crowd readily made way for them and they were drawn up accordingly: we now clearly saw they were collecting their Spears &c. …Capt Cook now gave up all thoughts of taking Terre’oboo on board with the following observation to me, “We can never think of compelling him to go on board without killing a number of these people”, and I believe was just going to give orders to embark, when he was interrupted by a fellow arm’d with a long Iron Spike (which they called a Pah’hoo’ah) and a Stone and threatened to throw his stone upon which Captain Cook discharg’d a load of small shot… the Capt then fir’d a ball which kill’d a Man they now made a general attack and Capt gave orders to the Marines to fire and afterwards called out “Take to the boats”. I fired just after the Capt and loaded again whilst the Marines fir’d…’ “A general attack with stones immediately followed, which was answered by a discharge of musquetry from the marines, and the people in the boats. The islanders, contrary to expectations of every one, stood the fire with great firmness and before the marines had time to reload, they broke in upon them with dreadful shouts and yells. What followed was a scene of utmost horror and confusion. …Our unfortunate Commander, the last time he was seen distinctly, was standing at the water’s edge, and calling out to the boats to stop firing, and to pull in. …having turned about, to give his orders to the boats, he was stabbed in the back, and fell with his face into the water. On seeing his fall, the islanders set up a great shout, and his body was immediately dragged on shore, and surrounded by the enemy, who, snatching the dagger out of each other’s hands, showed a savage eagerness to have a share in his destruction. Thus fell our great and excellent Commander!’ 

The attack saw the death of Cook and four marines (Corporal Thomas, and Privates Hinks, Allen and Fatchett). Second Lieut. Molesworth Phillips and Private Jackson were wounded but escaped in the boats. 

John Webber (1752 - 1793)

John Webber was an 18th century artist, best known for his work as the official artist on Captain James Cook's third and final voyage to the Pacific in 1776-1780. He was born in London, England in 1751 and was trained as an artist. Webber accompanied Cook on his voyage as the official artist, tasked with creating drawings and paintings of the places and people they encountered. He produced many illustrations and sketches that were used to make engravings for inclusion in the official account of the voyage, published after Cook's death. Webber was required to "give a more perfect idea thereof than can be formed by written description." Webber's illustrations and engravings of the Pacific islands and their inhabitants are considered some of the most accurate and detailed depictions of the region from that time. They provide an important record of the places and people encountered by Cook and his crew, and are valuable for understanding the culture and daily life of the people of the Pacific during the 18th century. He died in London in 1793, after having returned from the voyage, but his work continues to be recognised as an important historical record of the voyage and of the art of his time. Webber's oeuvre from the voyage was the most comprehensive record of sights in the Pacific region ever produced.

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