Poulaho, King of the Friendly Islands.

Rare c.18th engraving from the official British Admiralty sanctioned edition of the accounts of Cook’s third and final voyage. On the 28th May 1777, as Cook was about to leave, Ha’apai Paulaho came on board ‘and brought me one of … Read Full Description


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Full Title:

Poulaho, King of the Friendly Islands.




In good condition.


Copper engraving.

Image Size: 

x 290mm

Paper Size: 

x 540mm
Poulaho, King of the Friendly Islands. - Antique Print from 1784

Genuine antique



Rare c.18th engraving from the official British Admiralty sanctioned edition of the accounts of Cook’s third and final voyage.

On the 28th May 1777, as Cook was about to leave, Ha’apai Paulaho came on board ‘and brought me one of their Caps made or at least covered with red feathers. ..These Caps or rather bonnets are made of the tail feathers of the Tropic bird with red feathers of the Paroquets worked upon them or in along with them, they are made so as to tie upon the forehead without any Crown, and have the form of a Semicircle whose raids is 18 o9r 21 Inches’. Cook  Journals III, i.117.

Cook had described Paulaho as ‘the corperate plump fellow we had met with’.

‘About Noon a large sailing Canoe came under our Stern in which the Indians on board told us was Fattafee Polaho [Fatafehi Paulaho] King of all the Isles. He brought with him as a present to me two good fat hogs, though not so fat as himself, for he was the most corperate plump fellow we had met with. I found him to be a Sedate sensible man… I asked him down into the Cabbin, some of his attendants objected to this, saying if he went there people would walk over his head and this was never done. I desired Omai to till them I would remove that objection by giving orders that no one should walk on that part of the deck’ but the chief ‘waved the ceremony and walked down with me without any more to do.’

John Webber’s first encounter with the people of the Pacific came in January 1777 when Cook arrived at Adventure Bay, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). He was astonished at their unashamed nakedness. In his first painted version of this portrait, Webber included the man’s full torso, covered with ceremonial scars. Cook described the appearance of the Tasmanian’s as ‘far from disagreeable‘. ‘The keloid scars so typical of the Australian aboriginal adult male; came from cuts incised with a flint or other sharp stone knives, which were often rubbed with ashes of clay to enlarge the effect. They denoted initiation into manhood, but other functions were totemistic and aesthetic.’ Cook, Journals III, I, 52.

From Cook & King, A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, for making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere. Performed under the Direction of Captains Cook, Clerke, and Gore, in His Majesty’s Ships the Resolution and Discovery; in the Years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, and 1780.

Beddie, M. Bibliography of Captain James Cook, RN,FRS, Circumnavigator. Sydney 1970: 1743-18, p.340
Joppien,R. & Smith, B. The Art of Captain Cook’s Voyages; Vol. I, II & III. Melbourne 1985-1987: 3.52A, ill.p.315
Forbes, D. Hawaiian National Bibliography 1780- 1830. Honolulu /Sydney, 1999/2003 62; cf.
Carter, J. & Muir, P. Printing and the Mind of Man London 1983 223.
Sabin, J. A Dictionary of Books Relating to America, from its Discovery to the Present Time. New York. (1936) 1967. 16250.
Hill, J. The Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages. San Diego 1974 321.

State Library New South Wales: CALL NUMBERS RB/F990A/9
State Library Victoria: RARELT 910.41 C773VS
State Library South Australia: Special Collection: 919 C771

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.

View other items by John Webber

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