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The Hawkesworth Copy

In nature the bird who gets up earliest catches the most worms, but in book-collecting the prizes fall to birds who know worms when they see them.  
  Michael Sadleir
The Colophon, Number 3, 1930

This article was originally published in

Cook's Log

, page 3, volume 26, number 1 (2003).

Further investigation has led to some significant updates to our knowledge. A revised version was posted on this web site in November 2005 and again in October 2008. The latest revised version is available by clicking here.

John Hawkesworth's eagerly-anticipated official account of James Cook's first voyage to the Pacific was one of the most popular publications of the 18th century. In fact, the three volume set was the most requested item in the Bristol Library from 1773-1784, having been borrowed over 200 times.1 And what wonderful books they were - three royal quarto volumes full of detailed (albeit a bit fanciful) descriptions and engravings of newly-discovered peoples, places and customs.

Even at the publication price of three guineas for the set,2 the June 1773 first edition of 2,000 sets sold out very quickly and a completely re-set second edition of 2,500 sets was published only two months later.

First editions are seldom printed without errors, and Hawkesworth's "Voyages" was no exception. Typesetting for Volume 1 of the first edition was started at two points simultaneously, and Volumes 2 and 3 were originally planned as a single volume. As a result, the printed volumes of the first edition contained several pagination inconsistencies and errors, in addition to the usual assortment of errata. Although there were few textual changes made for the second edition, a number of bibliographic alterations were necessary, including chapter renumbering, repagination of the third volume and a changing of the signatures in both the second and third volumes. The wide variety of non-textual changes made for the second edition was thoroughly documented by Brian J. McMullin in the late 1980's.3

I am a collector of materials related to the voyages of Captain Cook, and I routinely search the holdings of antiquarian booksellers for interesting publications about the good captain. In September 2001, I was searching through Internet listings of Cook material and came across the following item:

London, Strahan & Cadell 1773. 1st editions, with extensive ink corrections. These are (corrected) proof copies of volumes 2 & 3, with no maps or plates. xv, 410; 395 (all renumbered) pp, Cr 4to. ½ contemporary calf, marbled boards, gilt. A good set, lacking volume 1. Calf and boards rubbed and soiled, internally VG, with volume 2 bound without a title page. Contemporary alterations throughout.

The listing was from Derek Slavin, a bookseller in the United Kingdom, and the description read like every book collector's nightmare. Everything was negative about the books... everything, that is, except the phrase, "corrected proof copies." That intrigued me.

Such copies are not separate publications, per se; they are simply printed sheets of a previous edition retained by the printer or editor that contain proofreader's marks identifying corrections to be made by the typesetter in the preparation of a subsequent edition.

I had McMullin's article describing the changes between the first and second editions in my collection and knew what should be present in printer's copy for Hawkesworth's account. So I e-mailed the bookseller, expressed my interest in the volumes, and asked if he could provide me with some images of specific pages that would contain easily identifiable corrections.

When the images arrived I got very excited; everything looked right. I realized I was potentially on the verge of acquiring original and unique material related to Cook, so I decided to get professional advice. There are few, if any, dealers more experienced in antiquarian publications about Captain Cook than Hordern House in Sydney, Australia. I had previously done business with Derek McDonnell, a director of the firm, so I forwarded the information and images to him for evaluation.

McDonnell was very pleased with what he saw and based upon the preliminary images encouraged me to acquire the books. Without seeing the volumes up close he couldn't be positive they were the original printer's copy, but he felt the risk was worth it. On the assumption that the volumes were the originals, he also asked if he could examine the books after I received them.

I also sent the information about the books to Brian McMullin to see if he could confirm my suspicions that the volumes were the bridge between the first and second editions of Hawkesworth's account, and based upon what he saw, he concurred. In his response, McMullin identified two additional characteristics that he would expect to find if the books were the true printer's copy (i.e., unbound sheets for ease of typesetting and remnants of inky fingers as evidence that the copy had been in a printing house).

Buoyed by the encouragement of both McDonnell and McMullin, on September 10th I e-mailed Derek Slavin and agreed to buy the books. Further communication with Slavin revealed that he had acquired the volumes at an auction in Hay-on-Wye, Wales several years earlier as part of a lot of 42 leather bound books. Most of the books were unexceptional and the two Cooks weren't even mentioned in the lot description.

As luck would have it, Derek Slavin was a prompt fellow and shipped the books the same day he received my order - the day before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. I had visions of finally discovering something important after it had been hidden for nearly a quarter of a millennium, only to have it get lost for the ages in the snarl of suspended airline schedules and piles of "suspicious" packages. However, the combined postal services of the United Kingdom and the United States took the insanity of the moment in stride and delivered the books in perfect shape a week later.

As soon as the books arrived, I went through them page by page to better understand what they were. The books were indeed Volumes 2 and 3 of the first edition of John Hawkesworth's "Voyages," the volumes that cover Cook's voyage.

The books were bound in contemporary half calf over marbled boards and were in a totally unsophisticated state. Both volumes had black morocco spine labels with gilt lettering reading "Cook's Voyage" (singular), suggesting that binding was done prior to Cook's return from his second voyage.

As McMullin anticipated, the bindings were stitched from individual leaves, instead of being sewn from folded gatherings. The leaves were bound after the corrections were made (as indicated by some trimmed corrections).

The books also had ink smudges and fingerprints on numerous pages, as McMullin predicted. Some smudges were deep in the gutter, indicating that they were made before the books were bound in their present form.

The books did not contain any maps or plates, and there is no evidence that they ever did. Volume 2 was bound without a title page and two leaves were miss-ing. If the volumes really were printer's copy, the plates and charts would have been superfluous, as the non-text sheets were printed separately and normally added by the binder. Also, a missing title page (assuming no edits) wouldn't necessarily be unusual. The other missing leaves could simply have been lost before binding, as they were no longer parts of folded gatherings.

Finally, the books were marked up throughout. The copy changes appeared to be made in a similar contemporary hand in both volumes. Most changes were directed to the page numbers, gathering signatures, chapter numbers and correction of errata.

Soon after the books arrived, they traveled with me to Berkeley, California where I did a page-by-page comparison with the second edition set held at the Bancroft Special Collections Library at the University of California. I also called upon the staff of the library at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois to check a few points against their second edition set. The books then spent several weeks at Hordern House in Sydney (by themselves, unfortunately) undergoing detailed examination by Derek McDonnell. Upon completion of his review, Derek agreed that the two volumes were in fact printers' sheets for the re-setting of the second and third volumes of the second edition.

The scholarship in McMullin's original article served as an excellent guide during the detailed examination of the volumes; his 20th century article based upon direct observation of the printed works exactly described the results of the instructions written in the volumes over two centuries before.

I carefully checked both volumes against the points identified in his analysis, including pagination changes, signature identifications and collations. Every page number change, signature change, and errata point McMullin noted was manually marked in the volumes. Except one, that is. Surprisingly enough, the one page that almost every bibliographer and antiquarian bookseller knew was misnumbered in the first edition was not marked in the volumes, although another change was marked on the same page.

As I reviewed the books against McMullin's article, I was fascinated by the technical discussions of effects that were achieved by simple markings in the volumes. For example, the first edition Volume 2 ended with a single leaf, a complication for the binder. The problem was remedied in the second edition by getting rid of the Errata page (now corrected in the text) and adjusting the spacing between the lines of the Introduction so the final lines of text would fall at the bottom of the preceding page. The removal of that one leaf near the front of the volume shifted all the following signatures so a single leaf at the end disappeared.

In his article, based solely upon the examination of the printed editions, McMullin described the process as follows:

In the first edition Volume II ends with a singleton, 3G1. Single leaves are always troublesome for the binder, and in setting the second edition Strahan overcame the difficulty by removing the leading in the standing type of the Introduction, so that the six lines from a4r are now accommodated on a3v; with the elimination of the Errata (a4v) the account of Cook's Voyage can now begin one leaf earlier, on a4r rather than B1r.

The actual instructions to the printer, however, were much simpler - crossing out the text on the Errata page and placing a single comment at the top of the last page of the Introduction - "This page to be got in."

The markings in the books fall into two categories - "expected" corrections based solely upon the bibliographic and printing requirements and described in detail by McMullin, and "unexpected" corrections.

All of the "expected" corrections (i.e., items noted on the Errata sheet, changes in pagination, signature identification) could have been handled by any competent printer, and the printer in question, William Strahan, was one of the top printers in 18th century London.4 Therefore, it requires little imagination to offer the argument that the markings in the books were done by the printer.

But assuming that the printer made all the marked corrections would ignore several corrections sprinkled throughout the volumes that were not related to the structure of the books. There are no fewer than seven other changes noted, six of which did not make it into the second edition. One correction is editorial; the others include four longitude corrections, one latitude correction, and a compass heading correction.

The unchanged navigational entries are particularly puzzling, as a check with both the published journals and their original sources showed that all the changes were correct, and the fact they were not incorporated means that the second edition remained in error.

Failure to correct erroneous positions was not simply perpetuation of typographical errors. Printed errors caused real navigational problems. As Helen Wallis has pointed out,

In England (as opposed to France with its Service Hydrographique), accounts of voyages necessarily served as handbooks of navigation since there was as yet no official government naval establishment responsible for publishing charts and pilot books. Thus the mutineers of the Bounty were able to seek Pitcairn Island as their refuge in 1790 because they had on board Hawkesworth's volumes and read therein the report of Carteret's discovery in 1767.5

The fact that Pitcairn Island served as a successful refuge for the mutineers for so many years is undoubtedly due in part to the fact that nobody in the Royal Navy knew precisely where the island was; the map and text published in Hawkesworth's "Voyages" placed Pitcairn over 200 miles west of its true position, and the printed latitude in the first edition disagreed with the map's position by an additional 350 miles! Of such errors are legends born.


One of the "unexpected" corrections, an incorrect latitude entry, is especially interesting because it appears to be one of very few instances where the accurate information is recorded. Furthermore, the inaccurate latitude is not a simple typographical error; it appears to be a faithful transcription of an incorrect entry that Cook himself may have recorded in his journal for November 25, 1769.

An examination of the maps of the area in question shows that according to the identified point in the text - "Bream head bore S distant 10 Miles; some small Islands (Poor Knights) at N.E. by N. distant 3 Lgs." - Cook had to be at the position of 35°36' S as corrected in the Hawkesworth Copy. Had Cook been at the 36°36' S position printed in the first and second editions, he would have been about 70 miles further south -- and sailing on land!

When I first noted this latitude discrepancy, I assumed it was similar to the other position changes I had found (i.e., correct and probably not included in the second edition). But when I checked the latitude entry against Beaglehole's 1955 edition of Cook's Endeavour journal6 I found that the published journal also had the incorrect value of 36°36' S. My next check was Wharton's 1893 edition of Cook's Endeavour journal,7 and it too quoted the incorrect value of 36°36' S. Given that Beaglehole and Wharton had compiled their editions from different primary sources and both had come up with the same incorrect value, I began to wonder if the Hawkesworth Copy were the only place with the right latitude.

So I checked the original sources, of which there are at least seven:

  1 The Canberra Manuscript in the National Library of Australia is the only copy of the Endeavour journal written in Cook's hand, and is the copy used by Beaglehole when he prepared in his 1955 edition of Cook's Endeavour journal.
  2 The Mitchell Manuscript in the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales is likely the journal copy sent to the Admiralty from Batavia before Cook's return to England, and is the copy used by Wharton to create his 1893 edition of Cook's Endeavour journal.
  3 The Admiralty Manuscript in the British Public Records Office, according to Beaglehole, was the last, best and most careful copy of any journal of the voyage of the Endeavour. It is likely the journal copy handed over to the Admiralty at the end of the voyage.
  4 The Greenwich Manuscript in Britain's National Maritime Museum is part log and part journal, incomplete, and the "most corrupt" of all the manuscripts.
  5 The Endeavour's Official Log, according to Beaglehole, "is certainly the original of a good many of the other extant logs of the voyage," and was left to the British Museum by Sir Joseph Banks on his death.
  6 Cook's Holographic Log exists only in two fragments, neither of which includes the date of the latitude discrepancy. The existing fragments, however, are important in determining the order in which the logs and journals were prepared, as the Greenwich Manuscript and the Palliser Hudson Copy were both copied from Cook's Holographic Log.
  7 The Palliser Hudson Copy of Cook's Holographic Log is virtually a complete copy of Cook's Holographic Log (including the periods for which no fragments in Cook's hand are now known), and was a gift from Cook to Sir Hugh Palliser.
According to Wharton, "A Log is the official document in which the progress of the ship from hour to hour is recorded, with such official notes as the alteration in sail carried, expenditure of provisions and stores, etc. A Journal contains this information in a condensed form, with such observations as the officer keeping it may feel inclined to insert." However, as Beaglehole notes, "the border-line between the two is far from strongly marked."

Upon examination of the above sources, an interesting pattern emerged. It appears that all forms of the Endeavour journal (i.e., Canberra, Admiralty, Mitchell) carry the incorrect latitude, and all existing forms of the Endeavour log (i.e., Greenwich, Official Log, Palliser Hudson) carry the correct value (with a slight variation of a single minute of latitude).

Such a finding corroborates pre-vious investigations into the order in which the original holographic copies of the Endeavour journals were made and suggests that Cook himself might have made the latitude mistake.

Apparently the first journal copy made was the hybrid Greenwich Manuscript, wherein the latitude in question was recorded correctly, albeit in log form. Thus, because the log portion of the Greenwich Manuscript was copied from Cook's Holographic Log, one could conclude that the missing portion of Cook's original contained the correct latitude.

The next journal copy to be made was the Mitchell Manuscript, which, according to Beaglehole, has the appearance of the work "of a rather careless and lazy transcriber," and contains numerous places where Cook had to insert words omitted by Cook's clerk, Richard Orton. Otherwise, it was a copy of Cook's holographic journal (or drafts thereof), and as such carried forward the miscopied latitude.

The Mitchell Manuscript and the Canberra Manuscript were prepared in approximately the same timeframe and it is difficult at times to determine which was written first. Beaglehole cites content differences that indicate that the Canberra Manuscript followed the Mitchell Manuscript, which would indicate that it could not have been the source of Orton's work in the Mitchell Manuscript. Therefore, when preparing the Mitchell Manuscript, Orton must have been copying from some other form of Cook's prior work and the only other known sources appear to be Cook's Holographic Log and his holographic journal drafts, of which only a few fragmentary sections survive. Given that Cook's Holographic Log apparently carried the correct entry, as evidenced by its accurate transcription into the Palliser Hudson Copy, the Mitchell Manuscript with its incorrect entry must have been copied from Cook's fragmentary journal drafts.

It would follow that Cook too would have worked from his prior drafts when preparing what became the more polished Canberra Manuscript. Therefore, if both Orton and Cook used the preliminary journal drafts as the source of their work and both incorporated the same incorrect latitude entry, it seems to follow that the source itself was incorrect. As Cook was the author of the drafts, it would appear that Cook himself miscopied the latitude from his Holographic Log.

When the final Admiralty Manuscript was prepared, it was copied in large part from the Canberra Manuscript, although it also shares certain similarities with the Mitchell Manuscript. Like its two sources, however, the Admiralty Manuscript perpetuated the latitude error.

The "latitude discrepancy" also underscores the legitimacy of those changes that were not carried into the second edition. The fact that the Hawkesworth Copy is the only identified source of the accurate information other than original log entries (including those in the Greenwich Manuscript) suggests that the "unexpected" corrections are both authoritative and correct. It is unlikely that the longitude, latitude and editorial changes would have been made within the print shop, where no original sources would have been available.

Why those changes were overlooked in the hastily prepared second edition remains a mystery.


Volume 3 contains what is undoubtedly the most intriguing marking of all. It is the only entry in pencil and appears to be written by a different hand than the other corrections. It is also the only general comment directed toward the printed text, as opposed to a correction, per se.

The printed text in question relates an incident that occurred September 3, 1770, at Cook's Bay on the western coast of the island of New Guinea. Attacked by a defiant group of islanders, Cook refuses retribution, despite being "urged by some of the officers to... cut down the cocoa-nut trees for the sake of the fruit." Cook curtly dismisses the proposal as "highly criminal."

The printed passage is vigorously crossed out and accompanied by pencil marginalia. The scribbled comment is difficult to read, and some of it has been trimmed by the binder. One interpretation reads:

A very imprudent [improper?], ill timed display of your own Superiority of interest & humanity over your Officers - I suppose you reproved them at the time.

The tone of what can be read seems to be critical of the printed text and makes reference to "you" and "your" in addressing its comments. It appears to be written to the author of the text, which could be either Cook or Hawkesworth. Despite the wording, it seems odd that the comment would have been addressed toward Cook, as the printed sheets of the first edition weren't available until almost a year after Cook had departed on his second voyage to the Pacific, and the second edition was published almost two years before his return. That leaves Hawkesworth as the target, but the language doesn't seem to fit.

As is the case of virtually all of the other "unexpected" corrections, nothing was changed in the second edition, although in this case that's not surprising, as the nature of the pencil markings is more of comment than correction.

One key question remains, "Who made the corrections in the two volumes?"

In some ways it's easier to say who didn't rather than who did. Because of the authoritative editorial and technical nature of the "unexpected" corrections, it is unlikely that the employees of William Strahan's printing firm were responsible. In addition, all of the markings except the "pencil comment" appear to be in the same hand. One is led to consider John Hawkesworth as the source, as few others would have had access to original logs and journals required for making the corrections to latitude and longitude. But did Hawkesworth have the knowledge to make the more technical corrections such as signature changes?

My research into the identification of the author of the markings continues. Hawkesworth biographer8 John Abbott, Professor and Head of English at the University of Connecticut, graciously provided copies of some of Hawkesworth's correspondence for handwriting comparison. Ultimately, however, it will require better skills than mine to determine once and for all if John Hawkesworth made the markings.

What about the pencil comment? The writing bears some similarities to that of Joseph Banks, the naturalist on the first voyage and author of one of the journals used by Hawkesworth in preparing his account, but any definite associations at this point would be based more upon wishful thinking than upon knowledgeable conclusion.



In a 1754 letter to Sir Horace Mann, Horace Walpole coined the word "serendipity" and described it as "always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of." So it has been with my discovery of the Hawkesworth Copy. I ended up with a unique Cook item not because I was looking for it (after all, nobody knew it existed), but simply because I was looking. The moral? Keep hunting!

All in all, the finding and researching of the Hawkesworth Copy has been an adventure that has taken me down some unexpected paths (as any good adventure should). From cryptic words in a bookseller's description; to identification of a previously unrecorded (and unsuspected) original document; to identification of an error in almost every copy of the Endeavour journal; to questions yet unanswered... it's all been great fun.

In a 1952 article in The Book Collector, Sir Maurice Holmes stated:

  In assembling my Cook collection, I have had excitement in plenty, an excitement which in my case takes three forms.

First there is the excitement of paying more than one can afford for a much desired book. This is a form of excitement reserved for the collector of modest means, and I have savoured it to the full in the acquisition of three or four of my most treasured pamphlets.

At the opposite pole is the almost unbearable excitement of acquiring a real rarity for next to nothing. ...

Lastly, there is the excitement of getting a book which one has come to regard as an 'impossible'.9



I've been fortunate to have experienced all three forms of Holmes' excitement in my location and identification of the Hawkesworth Copy.

Ronald L. Ravneberg




  1. Kaufmann, Paul. Borrowings of the Bristol Library, 1773-1784. Charlottesville: Biblio-graphical Society of the University of Virginia, 1960.
  2. Equivalent to approximately US$225 today.
  3. McMullin. B.J., Cook's First Voyage and the Strahan Quarto Editions of 1773. Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin, 1989, volume 11, number 1, pages 5-35.
  4. For an excellent history of William Strahan and his work in the London book trade, see: Cochran, J.A. Dr. Johnson's Printer: The Life of William Strahan. Cambridge, Massa-chusetts: Harvard University Press, 1964.
  5. Wallis, Helen. Publication of Cook's Journals: Some New Sources and Assessments. Pacific Studies, 1978, volume I, number 2, pages 163-194.
  6. Cook, James. The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discovery. Ed. J.C. Beaglehole. I. The Voyage of the Endeavour 1768-1771. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for the Hakluyt Society, 1955.
  7. Cook, James. Captain Cook's Journal During His First Voyage Round the World Made in H.M. Bark "Endeavour" 1768-71. Ed. W.J.L. Wharton. London: Elliot Stock, 1893.
  8. Abbott, John Lawrence. John Hawkesworth: Eighteenth-Century Man of Letters, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1982.
  9. Holmes, Sir Maurice. Collecting Captain Cook. The Book Collector, Autumn 1952, volume 1, number 3, pages 166-173.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 3, volume 26, number 1 (2003).

Further investigation has led to some significant updates to our knowledge, and these are reflected in a revised version available by clicking here.

Updated: November 2005

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This just came up by chance on a routine google search with my name in it. I remember well the transaction with the author of this article, and also my subsequent attempts to track down the missing volume. To add a little to the story, it was in a book auction in Hay on Wye, that I spotted a lot of leather bound books, with nothing special noted in the auction catalogue. I thumbed quickly through them and noticed the word Cook on the spine label, and then found the one more volume. When I opened the books I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the annotations in ink. I think I looked through every box and shelf in the auction house in search of another volume without any luck. Nether-the-less I acquired the lot for not much money, competing with other book dealers that obviously hadn't spotted something special (as had not the auctioneeer), and headed for home with my head full of ideas. There's more to tell, a little blurry now, but as I am not sure that anyone will read this I will call it a day here. But I am so thrilled that this find made its way into the hands of a collector and specialist, and has caused so much interest in the world of Captain Cook enthusiasts.
By Derek Slavin on 3/5/2016 1:48:58 PM Like:3 DisLike:0

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