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William Wales - His Manuscripts and Published works


The following is an annotated list of the works written and published wholly or in part by William Wales, the astronomer and co-navigator of Cook on the second voyage on board HMS Resolution.

This catalogue chronicles a busy and eventful life.


ATL Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Beddie M.K. Beddie, Bibliography of Captain James Cook.
BL British Library, London, England.
CU Cambridge University, England.
ILEJ Internet Library of Early Journals.
NLNZ National Library of New Zealand
NMM National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England.
SLNSW State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
SLV State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

See bottom of page.

Contributions to the Magazine Ladies Diary
This magazine containing mathematical problems of an advanced nature began in 1704 and has been described as a useful work which has formed many eminent mathematicians. It has been recorded that William Wales contributed many times to these during his twenties and thirties (i.e. 1754-1774), although according to his obituary in Gents Magazine he didn’t commence contributing until 1766. William’s contributions were sometimes signed with his own name, and sometimes under certain fictitious signatures, e.g. G, Celti, Felix McCarthy etc. The merit shown in his solutions appears to have procured for him his future career.
Refs. 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 13, 15

1762: Wales, W. Ode to the Right Hon. William Pitt, (the first Earl Chatham). London: folio. Price 1s.
Refs. 1, 5, 10, 15,
No copy has been located of this work.

1766: Wales, W. & Green (ed). Miscellanea Scientifica Curiosia
The reference found of this work is Notes and Queries Vol. 12 (304), August 25 1855, p.143.
In the biographical notes of Charles Green which William Wales gave to Andrew Kippis in 1788, it is stated that Charles Green with some other persons was "engaged for a time in writing a dictionary of arts and sciences", this could refer to the above work.
Ref. 11
Copy in the BL pre 1976 (Reference:
Title: Miscellanea Scientifica Curiosa (with plates) No 1-[8.] [London 1766] 4to.
Author: Periodical Publications, London.

1767: N. Maskelyne (Ed). Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris. London: Commissioners of Longitude. 3s. 6d. On 13th June 1765 William Wales was one of four computers commissioned by Nevil Maskelyne at the Royal Observatory to work on computations for the above work, and its companion Tables Requisite to be used with the Astronomical and Nautical Ephemeris. This was to be Maskelyne’s greatest contribution to science, he had first proposed such an almanac to be prepared to the Board of Longitude, and eventually it was approved by parliament in May 1765.
Refs. 3, 9, 14
Copy at BL

1769: Wales, W. and Dymond, J. Astronomical Observations made by Order of the Royal Society, at Prince of Wales’s Fort, on the north-west coast of Hudson’s Bay. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society lix,: pp 467-488. (Read Nov 16. 1769).
Refs. 1, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13

1770: Wales, W. Journal of a Voyage, made by Order of the Royal Society, to Churchill River, on the north-west Coast of Hudson’s Bay; of Thirteen Months Residence in that Country; and of the Voyage back to England; in the years 1768 and 1769. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Vol. lx for the year 1770: pp100-136, London. (Read March 8 and 15, 1770).
Refs. 1, 2, 4, 10, 12, 13
Copies at BL, ILEJ

1770: Wales, W. and Dymond, Joseph. Observations on the State of the Air, Winds, Weather, etc. made at the Prince of Wales’s Fort, on the North-West Coast of Hudson’s Bay, in the Years 1768 and 1769. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society vol. lx,: pp 137-78.
Refs. 1, 2, 4, 10
Copies BL, ILEJ, NLA

1772: Wales, W. General Observations made at Hudson’s Bay. London: 4to.
This volume was prepared from the Hudson’s Bay reports in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.
Refs. 1, 4, 7

1772: Wales, W. The Two Books of Apollonius concerning Determinate Sections. As they had been Restored by Willebrordus Snellius, by John Lawson, to which are added, the same two Books by William Wales.
London: 4to, pp xi+40, 5 folding plates.
This was an attempt by William Wales to restore the fragmentary treatise of Apollonius of Perga, but this was to be carried out with more success in 1776 by Robert Simson’s posthumous publication.
Apollonius was a Greek mathematician of 3rd century BC who worked on the complex geometry of conic sections, later to be developed in a more practical way to measure ellipses, parabolas and hyperbolas.
The publication of this work was cited on William Wales’s election to the Royal Society in 1776, and a description of the works on this subject is in Notes and Queries Vol. 2 (34) June 22 1850. p.59.
Refs. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13
Copy in CU

1772-74: Wales, W. Journal of William Wales.
Selections from this journal were published in Beaglehole, J.C. (ed) The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discover II. The Voyages of the Resolution and Adventure 1772-1775. Cambridge University Press, pp 776-869. (first published in 1961).
This Journal is held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, MSS Safe PH 18/4., and is described in that Library’s – Bibliography of Captain James Cook (1928) under Second Voyage-Manuscript journals, etc., as ‘Wales, William – Journal on the Resolution, June 21st, 1772, to October 17th, 1774; with pen-and-ink charts. .376pp closely written in flourishing handwriting. (original MS. Journal kept in log form)’. Beddie number 1168.
A four page leaflet exists, dated 1920, in the SLV. and ATL, listed by M.K. Beddie (Cook’s Bibliographer) as Wales, William, "Captain James Cook and Australasia", London, 1920. This is an advertisement for this manuscript. The Manuscript was purchased from The Museum Book Store, 45 Museum Street, London, W.C. 1. when the proprietor was L. Kashnor, by the Mitchell Library in 1922, (Copies of this are in the State Library of Victoria and the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington). This leaflet was most likely written by Leon Kashnor, the introduction states "The fibre and soul of an original explorer.. a palpitating page of life, the life of the sun-lit spaces of the Southern Seas, when all the world was young and uncharted seas washed the dreamlands of statesmen and philosophers. It may be safely asserted that this is the most valuable manuscript concerning Australasia ever offered for sale."
The provenance of the Journal between its completion and 1920 is a mystery.
The version of the Journal which was published by Beaglehole omits large sections of text and observations, and a few commas altered. Beaglehole describes the ms as a large rather battered folio.
It shows Wales’ capacity for observation, his scientific exactitude, and his integrity as a man. It shows also his appreciation of natural scenery.
Beaglehole says of this Journal "to find it is to find the explanation of a great deal".
Refs. 1, 3, 9, 10, 12
Copies in ATL, NLNZ, SLV

1772-75: Wales, W. Journal of a Voyage made by Order of the Commissioners of Longitude, On Board of his Majesty’s Sloop Resolution. The Admiralty Copy titled Log of the Resolution, was held in the Records of the Board of Longitude, in the Public Record Office, Kew. Ref. RGO 14/58. 216 pp, it is now at Cambridge. It consists of a brown buckram guard book measuring 370 x 270 mm, comprising 188 folios with "Board of Longitude Vol. XLVI Log Book of the Resolution 1772-1775 Royal Observatory" stamped in gold letters on the spine. Contains 22 pen and ink charts drawn by William Wales, some are drawn on thin paper and others on tracing paper, subsequently backed by thin paper., . This journal is very similar in content and format to the one above, but is neater, and appears to be rewritten. Beddie Number 1167.
Its title page states "Board of Longitude vol. xlvi, Class A, Shelf 3, No. 446".
This Journal covers the period 21.7.1772 to 1.8.1775.
Provenance. Wales delivered his log to Nevil Maskelyne 1 August 1775, together with K1. It was then held by the Board of Longitude until the Board dissolved in 1828. It was then deposited at the Royal Society on 16 February 1830, with other Board of Longitude papers, where it remained till 1840, when it was transferred to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, being kept there until the observatory moved to Herstmonceux Castle, Hailsham, East Sussex, between 1948-58. It was transferred to Cambridge University Library, with other Board of Longitude papers, on permanent deposit in April, 1989.
Refs. 9, 12
Copies in ATL, Micro-MS-0095, NLNZ

1773: Nautical Almanac.
While at Hudson’s Bay William Wales employed his leisure in computing tables of the equations to equal altitudes for facilitating the determination of time., these appeared in the Almanac in 1773. These tables were republished in 1794 in his treatise on ‘The Method of finding the Longitude by Timekeepers’.
Refs. 1, 7

1774: It is recorded that William Wales assisted Constantine John Phipps, second baron Mulgrave in preparing his account of A Voyage towards the North Pole Undertaken by His Majesty’s Command 1773. London: viii, pp. 253, 4to. Printed by W Bowyer and J. Nichols for J. Nourse, Bookseller to His Majesty. With 12 (some folded) plates and 4 maps.
This contained a lot of scientific material including measuring the specific gravity of ice, observations for finding longitude, and measuring the heights of mountains by geometry. Horatio Nelson was midshipman on this cruise, the aim of which was to search for a route to India via the North Pole.
The voyage was for five months from April 1773 during this time William Wales was in the southern hemisphere, on the voyage with Cook.
Phipps was captain of the ‘Racehorse’ which sailed from Nore and also the Board of Longitude sent Wales’s colleague, Israel Lyons (one of the Nautical Almanac computers) with Kendal’s K2 Chronometer.
Ref. 1, 14, 15
Copy in NMM, Access Number PBB 4146, also the NMM catalogue a Facsimile Reprint by Caedmon of Whitby, 1978, a limited Edition of 100 copies.

1777: Wales, W. and Bayly W. The Original Astronomical Observations Made in the Course of a Voyage Towards the South Pole, and round the World in His Majesty’s Ships the Resolution and Adventure, in the years MDCCLXXII, MDCCLXXIII, MDCCLXXIV, and MDCCLXXV, London: Ed. W. Wales. pp. lv. 385. pl 4. J. Nourse; J. Mount & T . Page: W & A Strahan. Beddie number 1287. With an Introduction by William Wales made during the second voyage with Cook, in which he gives a good history of astronomy up to his present day, mentioning how ‘proper’ persons were employed to carry out the calculations which resulted in the first Nautical Almanac. Pub 4to with charts and plates, at the expense of the Board of Longitude. Price 21s.
Wales took sole responsibility for this work, which contained a lot of his Journal entries together with those of William Bayly who sailed with Cook on the third Voyage.
Refs. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15
Copy in BL, CU. NLA, NMM access number PBC 4091, SLNSW, SL

1777: Wales, W. Observations on a Voyage with Captain Cook. A tract.
Ref. 7

1777: Cook, James. A Voyage towards the South Pole and Round the World, in His Majesty’s Ships the Resolution and Adventure., 2 vols., London. Beddie Number 1216.
Edited by Dr John Douglas and assisted by William Wales. Some passages are taken verbatim from Wales’s Journal.
Copies numerous

1778: Wales, W. Observations on the Solar Eclipse which happened June 24, 1778.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society xiv, 460.
Refs. 5

1778: Wales, W. Remarks on Mr Forster’s Account of Captain Cook’s last Voyage round the World, in the Years 1772, 1773, 1774 and 1775. London: 8vo, pp. 53. B. White, etc.. Printed for J. Nourse, opposite Catherine Street, Strand. Price 1s 6d. Beddie Number 1292.
According to A. Chalmers, in this work Wales showed considerable talents as a controversial writer, he developed an intense dislike of the Forsters because he felt that they were inclined to be critical of Cook.
Knight remarks that accusations by J.R. Forster against Cook and his offices are shown to be entirely without foundation (Ref.7)
Wales’s obituary in Gents Magazine describes this work as ‘severe but not unmerited’.
This work has recently been republished as Appendix B to A Voyage round the World , G Forster. Ed Nicholas Thomas and Oliver Berghof,. Pub. 2000. Univ. of Hawaii Press 2 v.
Refs. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 15
Copies in BL, CU, NLA
The above was followed by Reply to Mr Wales’s Remarks by George Forster, pp 53, B. White, London 1778. 4o. (Copies BL, CU. SLNSW, SLV)

1780: Robertson, J. The Elements of Navigation , containing the Theory and Practice, with necessary Tables and Compendiums for Finding the Latitude and Longitude at Sea to which is added a treatise of Marine Fortification. Fourth edition, with additions and revised by William Wales. London: 2 vol., 8o.
A dissertation on the rise and progress of the modern art of navigation. By T. Wilson.
Refs. 6, 10, 11
Copy in BL

1781: Wales, W. An Inquiry into the Present State of the Population in England and Wales, and the proportion which the present number of Inhabitants bears to the number at former periods. London: 8vo, pp. 79, C. Nourse. Price 2s.
These were the results of a series of inquiries he made into the state of the country and the numbering of the population, however he encountered much opposition from people with strong religious views on inquiring into such matters. He did however find that the population was increasing rather than decreasing which was believed at the time. (This is reported in Notes and Queries, Vol. 4. 2nd series (91) Sept 26. 1857. p.242.)
It was Dr Price who calculated that the population was dwindling, this was based on the 1690 Hearth Tax returns, and then from the Window Tax Returns of 1759 and 1777, then it was found that in the Hearth Tax "houses" meant "families" and in the Window Tax untaxed cottages had been filled in by guess work. Wales, then Howlett added estimates of their own, but these relied on Yorkshire statistics, in which Dr Price admitted an increase. Dr Price did adopt some of Wales’s figures, and Wales suggested adjusting taxation so as to promote marriage. This was Wales’s one incursion into political arithmetic.
Refs. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 15
Copy in BL, SLNSW, NLA

1781: Mr Eden, Mr Wales and Mr Hewlett Uncertainty of the present Population of this Kingdom, deduced from a candid review of the accounts lately given of it. London 8o.
Also by Dr Price in his "Essay on the Population of England".
Copy in BL.

1781: Wales, W. Hints relating to the Use which may be made of the Tables of Natural and Logarithmic Sines, Tangents, etc in the numerical resolution of affected Equations. pp. 23. 1 plate, 4o. Copy in NLA. Also published in, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Vol. 71, No 3. Pp 454-478. (Read 14 June, 1781.
Refs. 93
Copy in NLA

1781: Maskelyne, N. (ed). Requisite Tables. 2nd Edition.
Included Tables by Wales for finding Latitude by two altitudes of the Sun. 10,000 copies were printed and sold initially for 12s each.
This work included an Explanation written by William Wales.
Ref. 14

1784: Cook, James and King, James. Introduction to A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean. Undertaken, by the Command of his Majesty, for making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere. To determine The Position and Extent of the West Side of North America; its Distance from Asia; and the Practicability of a Northern Passage to Europe. Performed under the direction of Captains Cook, Clerke and Gore, In His Majesty’s Ships the Resolution and Discovery. In the Years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779 and 1780. (Cooks 3rd voyage). London: 4 to, in Three Volumes and Atlas, Introduction xcvi.
Vol. I and II written by James Cook, F.R.S. Vol. III by Captain James King, LL.D and F.R.S.
William Wales assisted Dr John Douglas (Canon of Windsor and St. Paul’s) with the editing of this third edition of this work. It included a chapter concerning the location of Cape Circumcision by Wales, pp557-564 ,which was also published as a pamphlet (see next entry).
Ian MacLean in Canada has a lot to say about how Douglas changed Cook’s words.
Refs. 1, 2

1784: Wales, W. A Defence (against P.C. Le Monnier) of the Arguments advanced in the Introduction to Captain Cook’s Last Voyage against the existence of Cape Circumcision. A pamphlet., Beddie number 1553.
In 1739 (?) the French captain De Bouvet had discovered, to the south of the Cape of Good Hope, an island, to which he gave the name of De Bouvet, or Cap Circumcision; but its geographical position being erroneously stated. Captain Cook, in his voyages to the south, had been unable to find it, and he was led to suspect that the French seaman had mistaken some bank of ice for an island. On this occasion Leruonnier ungenerously stated, in a paper which was read at a sitting of the Academis des Soionora, that Cook from jealousy had sought for the island under a meridian different from that which had been assigned to it; William Wales published this pamphlet in which the statement is disproved. The island, or cape, is now supposed to have been that which was, in 1808, discovered by the Swan and the Otter in 54 degrees 20 minutes S lat. And about 2 degrees E long. from Greenwich, it is now called Bouvet Island.
Refs. 7, 10, 11
Copies in BL, CU. NLA, ATL., SLNSW

1784: Long, Roger (1680-1770). Astronomy: in five books. Cambridge, 2 vols., 1742-1785 (xvi, 728 pages, 97 plates, 4to.)
Note: The text from p.655 largely written by Dunthorn (1711-1775) and Wales, and the whole section from p.655 to the end published in 1784. Vol. 2 has imprint: Cambridge, Printed for the author, 1764: colophon, vol. 2: "Finished by J. Archdeacon Printer to the University, 1784."
A two large volume book on Astronomy, published by the printer to Cambridge University. The original author died in 1770, and the work was then carried on by Richard Dunthorn(e) who died in 1775, then William Wales took it over and finished the job in 1784.
Ref. Cambridge University Web-site.

1785: Wales, W. A Defence (against P.C. Le Monier) of the Arguments advanced in the Introduction to Captain Cook’s Last Voyage, against the existence of Cape Circumcision, in, third edition, 1785, paged 557-64, of, Cook, James and King, James. A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean …, London [first and second edition, 1784] Beddie number 1553. (also published as a pamphlet (see above).
Copies in BL, NLA, ATL, SLNSW.

1786: Robertson, J. The elements of Navigation; containing the theory and practice. With the necessary tables. To which is added A treatise of marine fortification. (in vole 1). The fifth edition, with additions, carefully revised and corrected by William Wales.
London: Publisher C. Nourse, 2 vole, with plates: ill, maps (80); 23 cm.
Refs. 6, 10, 11
Copies in BL, NMM Access No. PBE 6440

1788: Wales, W. Footnote describing the life of Charles Green. In Kippis, A. The Life of Captain James Cook. London: 176-178fn.
There is a copy in the La Trobe Library Rare Book Collection, Melbourne. Under ref. [*LTF 910.41 C77ZK(1)].
Copy in ATL,

1788: (?) Wales, W. Éclaircissemens sur le Cap de la Circoncision…Preuves que le capitaine Cook a chereché le Cap … sous son véritable méridien, etc. [In answer to P.C. Le Monnier]
Copy in BL

1788: Wales, W. (ed.). Astronomical Observations, Made in the Voyages which were undertaken by Order of His Present Majesty, for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, Tamer, Swallow, and Endeavour. Drawn up from the journals which were kept by the several commanders, and from the papers of Mr Charles Green.
London: Elmsly. 4to, Commissioned by the Admiralty Commissioners of Longitude, Illustrated with maps from the original drawings by Captain Cook. Folding maps. pp146.
Introduction signed by William Wales, "Master of the Royal Mathematical School in Christ’s Hospital 27th March 1788".
Published by C. Buckton, also P. Elmsley.
Wallis and Carteret had been to the South Pacific in 1766. It was in 1778 that Wales was given the task of producing the official astronomical account of Cook’s first voyage following the death of Charles Green. In order to clarify Green’s accounts earlier observations had to be included, and with Cook’s untimely death during the third Voyage Wales had a mammoth task producing this work without Green or Cook’s assistance, and he gives his excuses for taking so long – "I was engaged in another work for the Board … and after that was completed, bad health, and some avociations which required to be performed immediately, prevented me from resuming this for some time afterwards". Once published however, this information was of great value to seamen.
Refs. 1, 3, 9, 10, 11, 12
Copies in BL, NLA, NMM Access No. PBC 1333, SLNSW

1794: Wales, W. The Method of finding the Longitude at Sea by Timekeepers; to which are added , The Tables of Equations to equal Altitudes, more extensive and accurate than any hitherto published. (These tables first appeared in the 1773 Nautical Almanac, and again in the 1774 Almanac.) London: 8vo. Price 2s. 6d. A treatise.
Refs. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 15
Copies in BL, NMM

1796: The Elements of Navigation (see 1786, but Publishers are - i. F. Wingrave;
ii. GG & J Robinson and TN Longman; iii. J. Scatcherd; iv. W. Richardson.
Pub London. 4o. Pagination 2v in 1 – 6th Edition.
Copies in BL, NLA, NMM Access Nos. PBE 6437 and PBE 5230.

1797: Wales, W. Achronical Rising of the Pleiades, a dissertation appended to Voyage of Nearchus; from the Indus to the Euphrates. Written by William Vincent (1739-1815) London. Printed for T. Cadell Jr & W. Davies (successors to Mr Cadell), Cloth, 4to. pp.xv,530, 7 leaves of plates (5 folded); maps.
The text of Vincent’s book was collected from the original journal preserved by Arrian, and illustrated by authorities ancient and modern containing an account of the first navigation attempted by Europeans in the Indian Ocean.
Three dissertations are appendixed, another on the Achronical rising of the Pliedes by Dr Samuel Horsley, and one by Mr de la Rochette on the first meridian of Ptolemy.
Refs. 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 15
Copies in BL, NLA, SLNSW

1802: Wales, W. Tables requisite to be used with the Nautical Ephemeris. The Third Edition improved. London: Commissioners of Longitude. 8o. 5s.0d.
The explanation and use of the tables by Wales and prepared before his death, were the Appendix to the third edition edited by Nevil Maskelyne, being new tables of natural sines, natural versed sines and logarithms of numbers. Refs. 11, 14
Copy in the British Library.

In 1792 William Wales negotiated the sale to Messrs Strahan and Cadell of Samuel Hearne’s Journal, in 1795 he witnessed the contract which ensured the publication of this entitled A Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort, in Hudson’s Bay, to the northern ocean, Undertaken by order of the Hudson Bay Company for the discovery of Copper mines and the North West Passage etc in the years 1769, 1770, 1771 and 1772. (It is thought that William Wales may have contributed much to this volume. Second Edition pub. 1796. Pub Dublin.
Ref. 2.
Copy in NMM of 2nd Edition. Access No. PBC 4923.


  1. Lee, S. (Ed). Dictionary of National Biography. 1917. Oxford University Press.
  2. Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. iv, University of Toronto Press. Toronto 1979
  3. From transit of Venus to teaching Navigation: the work of William Wales. By Wayne Orchiston and the late Derek Howse. In Astronomy and Geophysics Vole 39, December 1998.
  4. Chalmers, A. A General biographical dictionary 1812-1817.. 32v
  5. Watt, R. Bibliotheca Britannica . 1824 4v.
  6. Gorton, J. A general biographical dictionary. 1841. New ed 3v.
  7. Knight, C. The English cyclopaedia. Div. 111 7v.
  8. Palgrave, Sir R.M.I. Dictionary of Political Economy. 1894-9. 3v.
  9. Orchiston, W. Nautical Astronomy in New Zealand. The Voyages of James Cook. 1998. Carter Observatory Board.
  10. Smith, B. Imagining the Pacific. 1992. Melbourne University Press.
  11. Opac 97 British Library Internet site.
  12. Beaglehole, J. The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discovery. II The Voyage of the Resolution and Adventure 1772-1775. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press 1961.
  13. Hutton, C. A Philosophical and Mathematical Dictionary 1815, London.
  14. Howse, D. Nevil Maskelyne. The Seaman’s Astronomer. Cambridge University Press. 1989.
  15. Gentlemans Magazine, 1798 ii. 1155.

Compiled by J. Elliston, W. Wales and W. Whelen.

Originally published (without the references) in Cook's Log, page 1839, volume 24, number 2 (2001).

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