Captain Cook. Gould, Rupert T. 1978

Captain Cook. Gould, Rupert T. 1978

Gould, Rupert T.
Captain Cook.

"Captain Cook" by Rupert T. Gould was first published in 1935. A new edition and introduction came out in 1978 published by Duckworth, London; it is distributed in the USA by the Longwood Publishing Group, Dover, New Hampshire.

This small book in 128 pages, with an index, gives a concise chronological account of Cook's life. In editing the 1978 edition Gavin Kennedy notes that almost nothing needed correction in light of Beaglehole's outstanding 40 years of study that culminated in the biography "The Life of Captain James Cook".

Gould served in the Royal Navy and the Hydrographic Department of the Admiralty, and was a skilled navy historian, chartmaker and surveyor. He reconstructed the Harrison chronometers in 1933. This background, similar in many respects to that of Cook, gives him a meaningful insight and understanding to Cook.

The biography presents the first realistic and balanced account that acknowledged Cook's faults and flares of bad temper as well as his many virtues as a diligent explorer, navigator and surveyor.

There are six chapters; early years, how the first voyage came about, the first voyage, the second voyage, the last voyage, and Cook's death and after, which give a balanced account of the major phases of Cook's life.

A few charts are provided to illustrate the regions of the globe that Cook accurately charted and where large land areas had previously been speculated to lie. The treatment has an easily readable and concise style that covers nearly all the known significant events.

For the topical stamp collector, who needs a very short and precise history to guide the annotation of a mounted collection, this book provides a great starting point. I used this book as my primary guide to plan and layout my collection.

There are few events not referred to, such as the transit of Mercury that gave an independent fix to the longitude in New Zealand on the first voyage. Norfolk Island, a source of excellent topical stamps, is not included in the list of discovered islands in 1774. Cook is attributed to have visited his parent's Ayton house in 1772, which is now believed not to have been built until 1775.
The description of Cook's death follows the accepted views in 1935 for which new insight has since been provided in Gavin Kennedy's "The Death of Captain Cook", published in 1978 (see page 279). These are but minor corrections in this well written account of Cook's life.

Gould has provided an excellent and concise account of Cook's life that corrects many errors in the first Kippis biography and agrees closely with Beaglehole's later definitive biography. The brief and accurate treatment is an excellent guide for the topical stamp collector.

Brian Sandford

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 482, volume 9, number 4 (1986).

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