C1784

To the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners for executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain & Co. This plate representing The Death of Captain Cook is humbly inscribed.

First issue of the largest and most famous of all C18th depictions of the death of Cook based on John Webbers oil, with the figures engraved by Francesco Bartolozzi and the landscape by William Byrne.This first issue is identified by … Read Full Description

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Details

Full Title:

To the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners for executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain & Co. This plate representing The Death of Captain Cook is humbly inscribed.

Date:

C1784

Engraver:

Francesco Bartolozzi 
(1727 – 
1815)

Condition:

In good condition. Wide untrimmed margins, publishers information present which is often found trimmed off. Free of tears. A good strong impression.

Technique:

Copper engraving.

Image Size: 

580mm 
x 427mm
AUTHENTICITY
To the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners for executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain & Co. This plate representing The Death of Captain Cook is humbly inscribed. - Antique View from 1784

Genuine antique
dated:

1784

Description:

First issue of the largest and most famous of all C18th depictions of the death of Cook based on John Webbers oil, with the figures engraved by Francesco Bartolozzi and the landscape by William Byrne.This first issue is identified by the date 1 Jan, 1784 in the publication information below the title. It was separately issued and is not to be confused with the much smaller image, found in the official published accounts of Cook’s third voyage.

Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands on 19 January 1778, sighting the coast and anchoring in Waimea Bay and naming them the Sandwich Islands after the Earl of Sandwich. He then departed in search of a 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. On the 11th Feb they spent two days removing the mast and taking it on shore and from that time a number of incidents occurred that would escalate in Cooks death.

Cooks stragety after the loss of a cutter was to go on shore and take King Terreoboo hostage on board the Resolution, as he had done before on other islands. Cook now gave up all thoughts of taking the King on board with the following observation, ‘We can never think of compelling him to go on board without killing a number of these people’, and as retold by Clevely the carpenter on board the Resolution who was an eyewitness to the events unfolding from safety of the ship stated,

‘I believe he 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!’

Clevelly also stated that the Hawaiians had of recent times increasingly traded iron spikes; ‘On our first arrival, the best articles of Trade were Beads or Buttons sewed on clips of cloth to wear about their wrists, and Iron wrought into small Adzes in imitation of their own. latterly Iron Spikes from 18 inches to 2½ feet long, worked in the form of their own wooden Daggers, were given. these were called Pahooah: and a few things that we set any value upon could be procured without them.’ ‘far the major part of these Pah’hoo’ahs with which many of the Arees are now arm’d and is their most deadly weapon, were furnish’d them by ourselves–the Arees ever seem’d very desirous of them and we troubled ourselves very little about the use they purpos’d them for.’

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. The boats covering the landing party include the Resolution’s cutter and pinnace, the latter under the Master’s mate Henry Roberts, which made the most concerted attempts to take the men off, the launch under Third Lieutenant Williamson (who, controversially, interpreted Cook’s signal to retreat and pulled his launch further offshore), and Lanyan’s small cutter which came to assist, keeping up a fire on the beach from 30 yards offshore.

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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