John Hawkesworth. An Account of the Voyages Undertaken by the Order of His Present Majesty for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere: and successively performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, the Swallow and the Endeavour. London: W. Strahan & T. Cadell, 1773.   Gift of Dr. and Mrs. William L. Paltz.

     
 

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The most influential British expedition of the eighteenth century was the series of voyages to the South Seas undertaken by Captain James Cook (1728-1779), starting in 1768.  The Royal Society of London sponsored the first expedition, and appointed one of its members, Joseph Banks (1743-1820) to go along to collect specimens.  Banks, a regular correspondent of Linnaeus, saw the voyage as an extraordinary opportunity to add new species to his friend’s classification scheme, and recruited Linnaeus’s best student, Daniel Solander, to be his assistant.    During the three-year expedition, Cook’s ship, Endeavour, visited Brazil, Cape Horn, Tahiti, New Zeeland, and Australia, during which time Banks built the first great collection of South Sea specimens, and brought back drawings and descriptions of strange animals, like the kangaroo, and of the strange cultures of the peoples living there. 

 Upon Cook’s return to England, the Admiralty commissioned the English writer and editor, John Hawkesworth (ca.1715-1773) to edit Cook’s notebooks and the other accounts of the Endeavour’s journey into a single text for publication. He was paid six thousand pounds for the job, an astronomical amount which indicates the high level of interest which the public had in the journey. Hawkesworth embellished the plain writing style of Cook to appeal to popular taste, but maintained a first-person voice to give the impression that the words were a direct description from the ship’s captain. His account of the Endeavour’s journey stands not only as a popular travel narrative, but also as an early report of the importance of travel for natural history scholarship.

 

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