Maritime Museum Receives Donation of Captain Cook Journals
Imagine a book selling out in three days! That happened in 1784 when the journals of Captain Cook were first published. A second edition was printed the following year, and a copy of that 1785 set was recently donated to the Maritime Museum of British Columbia by long time Victoria resident Don Hope.
While the museum already had copies of the 1785 Cook journals, this donation is the first to include the folio of maps and drawings. Even though First Nations had lived for thousands of years on the Pacific Northwest, these journals, and in particular the maps and drawings in the folio, brought to Europe the first glimpse of the people and natural surroundings of this area.
Captain Cook did not enter Juan de Fuca Strait, so the Victoria area is not reported in the journals and folio. Farther up the outer island coast, the third Cook voyage spent time at Nootka Sound. There they interacted with the First Nations community, and recorded in words and drawings what they found. The voyage continued well up the coast to Alaska, searching for a northern passage.
Don Hope, a retired merchant seaman and diver, purchased the volumes at a used bookstore in Victoria about 65 years ago. At that time the price for the set was $60, representing most of his monthly seaman salary at the time. It was a rare find to come across such historically important books at this price.
When I met with Brittany Vis, the Associate Director of the museum, she stressed the importance of the drawings and maps in the folio. The details of how the folio drawings will be displayed are still being finalized, and may include under glass display of the originals or digital copies in an interactive display, or both.
Just a few steps away from James Bay, in Nootka Court, you can see the Captain Cook display at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia. The Cook display at the museum also includes a bust of Captain Cook, which came from the former Victoria Royal London Wax Museum. Paintings by marine artist John Horton depict the slightly later related voyages of Captain Vancouver to the Pacific Northwest.
About 30,000 people a year visit the Maritime Museum of BC. The museum represents all marine related aspects of the province, both coastal and inland waterways. Membership to the Maritime Museum of British Columbia also provides free access to the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
As well as the visitor experience, the museum holdings represent a valuable archival resource for researchers. Hundreds of requests come to the museum each year, from both local scholars and from around the world. The donated set of Cook’s journals assists the museum to meet this need. The research role will be significantly enhanced when the museum catalogue goes online. According to the Associate Director, Brittany Vis, this will be implemented by about the time you are reading this article.
The museum also offers school and youth outreach programs in the area. More information on the museum can be found on its website at http://mmbc.bc.ca.