Purchasing Cook Books on the Internet - Part 1


Read also about finding journal and newspaper articles about Cook on the Internet - Part 2


In this article I hope to show how easy it is to buy books now about Captain James Cook. Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been written about Cook, especially in recent years. The Bicentenary celebrations that took place around the world in the 1970s prompted an interest in Cook and subsequently a large increase in the amount of material written and published about him. As a result probably more has been produced in the last thirty years than in the preceding two hundred years and not only in English. New works and translations of English language titles have appeared and continue to appear in a wide range of countries. It would probably have been better had many of them not been published but they have been and people continue to read them.

The problems remain of locating the titles and how to buy them. Some of them have had high profiles and so have been relatively easy to find. The majority, though, have come from small publishers with small print-runs and little publicity so that their existence and whereabouts have been much harder to ascertain. Often their existence would only come to light by a chance find in a second-hand bookshop. Books published in other countries and in other languages might remain totally unknown.

The arrival of the internet has completely changed people’s opportunities to locate and purchase books by and about Cook. No longer are people penalised by where they live and a lack of good bookshops in their vicinity. By logging on to the internet, it is now possible to determine the existence of even the most obscure books and find a bookseller somewhere in the world offering them for sale and, through a simple process, purchase one or all of the books.

It is possible to take an unorganised approach and search in an indiscriminate fashion on the internet. Or you can prepare beforehand and know what it is you are looking for and where you might find it.

Locating details For older material the traditional method involved searching printed bibliographies and these tools still have a role to play in providing a basic starting point. Several bibliographies have been produced over the years about James Cook, his life and voyages but sadly, even the best of them, complied by Beddie, is now quite old and does not include the huge number of titles published in the last thirty years. An approach to the State Library of New South Wales several years ago drew a response that they had no intention of ever updating Beddie’s work. It remains an essential tool for anyone interested in Cook and copies of the bibliography can still be purchased.

Some examples of printed bibliographies about Cook include:
Bibliography of Captain James Cook, R.N., F.R.S., Circumnavigator, edited by M.K.Beddie. 2nd ed. Sydney: Library of New South Wales, 1970.
Holmes, Maurice. Captain James Cook, R.N., F.R.S.: a bibliographical excursion. London: F. Edwards, 1952.
Holmes, Maurice. An introduction to the bibliography of Captain James Cook, R.N. London: F. Edwards, 1936.
Mitchell Library. Bibliography of Captain James Cook. Sydney: A.J. Kent, Govt. Pr., 1928.
Spence, Sydney Alfred. Captain James Cook, R.N., 1728-1779: a bibliography of his voyages, to which is added other works relating to his life, conduct & nautical achievements. Mitcham, United Kingdom: the Author, 1960.

No printed Cook bibliography has appeared since 1970 so for later items it is necessary to use different sources including online bibliographies, national bibliographies, in-print tools and library catalogues. There are already some online bibliographies available from the Captain Cook Society. As yet they are not comprehensive but an advantage of being online is the ability to add to continually modify entries as new information is found. They do, however, include references to most of the material that has been published since 1970.

Lists of Cook books from the Captain Cook Society. Click here

I have produced some Cook bibliographies, one of which is on the Internet. [No longer available]

The book trade and libraries rely on works termed Books-in-Print to tell them what titles are still in print (and hence can still be purchased as new) and which are now out of print (and can only be purchased second-hand). Many bookshops and most libraries subscribe to a Books-in-Print service and will often allow their customers to perform searches or even do them for them. The larger services record the availability of titles in the USA, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Other services provide information about Germany and France. Unfortunately the better examples, from Bowkers, and Baker and Taylor, are not available online.

When an item has been identified as being still in print, it should be possible to buy or order it from an online vendor (or from a bookshop if you have a good one at hand). If a title no longer features it is deemed to be Out-of-print and you should approach a second-hand or remainder shop to buy a copy.

In most countries, an author or their publisher is obliged to supply the local National Library with copies of every new book. In time a National Bibliography results and another valuable tool is created for people to search. In the past that would be done using the annual volumes published by Library of Congress (in the USA), the British Library, the National Library of Australia and other such agencies. Nowadays the internet allows people anywhere in the world access to these National Catalogues (and many others) and to search for Cook books.

National Library Catalogues Worldwide [No longer available] This site provides the links to a large selection of National Library catalogues. The Catalogues of the National Libraries of New Zealand and Australia are especially useful.

However, it is not just National Libraries that are useful and it may prove useful to carry out searches on other catalogues now available over the internet. Larger public and academic libraries in places associated with Cook are worth investigating such as:

State Library of New South Wales http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/

University of Hawaii at Manoa Library http://libweb.hawaii.edu

Memorial University of Newfoundland Libraries http://www.mun.ca/library/

Vancouver Public Library Catalogue http://vpl.bibliocommons.com/

Search tips

Whether you are searching library catalogues or the databases of online vendors, some points should be borne in mind.

Searches usually can be performed via author, title, subject or keywords, of which the last two are the most useful. Author (when you know who has written the item) and title (when you know some or all of the title) searches are usually only done when a specific book is known and you wish to confirm the exact details. Subject and keyword searches are carried out when you have little or no information and are beginning a general search.

Libraries ascribe descriptors called subject headings to all books they hold so that any title can be retrieved easily at any time. The standard subject heading for Cook is
Cook, James, 1728-1779

If you therefore do a subject search, at the subject heading prompt, enter all the above (and in that order) and a list of titles about Cook should appear.

The other useful approach is via keywords. It is especially useful if you do not know or cannot remember the exact details of an author’s name or a particular title as it allows you to search across a combination of words from author, title and subject. For example a search for John Cawte Beaglehole’s "The Life of Captain James Cook" could be done at a keyword prompt by entering
Beaglehole Cook Life

It is often possible to limit searches by years of publication or language while some catalogues offer a more sophisticated set of searches including Advanced Search, which allows you to use boolean operators to refine the search (please ask a librarian if you wish to know more).


Previously, when you had found the details of a book you were faced with the dilemma of how to obtain a copy for yourself, especially if you lived away from large cities with well-stocked bookshops. Now it is very different.

The internet and companies such as Amazon have revolutionised the book purchasing world. Amazon and a large number of similar ventures in the USA and other countries have enabled people to purchase books provided they have internet access and a credit card, no matter where they live.

Assuming you have found the exact details of a book you simply link into the website of an online vendor, find the search option, enter the details and click the go or search button. It is usually possible to perform a simple search of the vendors’ databases or you can do an advanced search via keyword and subject if the exact details are not known. If and when the vendor offers you the opportunity to purchase, just follow the instructions.

The following is a selection of online new book vendors.

From the USA:
Amazon www.amazon.com/ Amazon has other webpages that cover France, Germany and the UK
Barnes and Noble www.barnesandnoble.com/
Borders www.borders.com/

From the UK:
Waterstones www.waterstones.co.uk/
Blackwell’s bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/
Internet Bookshop www.bookshop.co.uk/

From Europe:
Alapage (France) http://www.alapage.com/
Chapitre (France) http://www.chapitre.com/
La Bancarella (Italy) http://www.bancarella.it/

From Australia:
Angus & Robertson http://www.angusrobertson.com.au/
Dymocks http://www.dymocks.com.au/

From Canada:
Chapters http://www.chapters.ca/

The second-hand and antiquarian book markets are large but, even here, buying books has become much easier. Many bookshops around the world have their own web pages, on which they list catalogues of the stock of books they hold. The range of material is enormous from first editions of the Journals of Cook’s Voyages to retellings of Cook’s exploits aimed at primary school children.

Instead of having to search each book shop there now exist three commercial networks that allow you to search the stock of hundreds of bookshops at one go. Many bookshops belong to all three networks but each network has its own unique shops so it is necessary to search all three networks. Simple and advanced searches are available. Often the same title will be offered by several different bookshops, who will provide brief descriptions about the condition of the copy offered, which edition is being offered and the price being asked. Having decided which copy to purchase, follow the instructions provided.

The networks are:
Abebooks http://www.abebooks.com/
Alibris http://www.alibris.com/
Bibliofind http://www.bibliofind.com/

Finally there are several bookshops that deserve particular mention. They are bookshops that concentrate on eighteenth century maritime history, or on the Pacific, or even on James Cook and can usually be relied upon to carry a good selection of Cook books. They include:

Maritime Books (Jean-Louis Boglio) in Currumbin, Queensland, Australia http://www.maritimebooks.com.au/
Horden House in Sydney, Australia http://www.hordern.com/index.html
Anah Dunsheath in Auckland, New Zealand http://www.rarebooks.co.nz/
Parmer Books in San Diego, California http://www.stairway.org/parmer/index.html
Gaston Renard in Melbourne, Australia (no live internet address December 2000).

Author John Robson
Origin Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1836, volume 24, number 2 (2001).
Corrections and Updates Please email any corrections and updates to the information in this article to John Robson.


Updated: April 2001


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