Floyd, Professor Barry.
Captain James Cook The Explorer: an historical and philatelic review.
V.M. Setia Marketing.
An unusual and, for me at least, an interesting book on an historical and philatelic review of Captain James Cook. The particular interests of Cook enthusiasts throughout the world vary widely but philately must be high on the list. This is borne out by the amount of philatelic related material on sale at the auctions held by the Captain Cook Society. To combine an historical and philatelic review into one book and at the same time making it interesting to read is challenging given the extensive amount of relevant material available on Cook.
The author, by his own admission, has been a lifelong devotee of stamp collecting and has previously written numerous articles on thematic subjects. He has a special interest in historical personalities featured on stamps. Hence this book on Captain James Cook.
The book is primarily aimed at the general reader and amateur stamp collector rather than the specialist. Of the 500 plus stamps that have been issued by more than 80 countries the author has chosen the stamps that appeal to him as well as having been issued by countries visited by Cook. The stamps illustrated in the book are all in colour, very appealing to the eye and have been reproduced to a very high quality, thus becoming miniature pictures or portraits.
The author first became greatly interested in Cook later on in his life after a visit to the "Big Island" of Hawaii where his youngest son lives. After purchasing an album of Pacific stamps honouring Captain Cook he became "hooked on Cook". He has also visited many countries in the Pacific that lay claim to a landing by Cook. As a result, he has visited many of the places mentioned and illustrated in this book and writes knowledgeably of them.
The foreword is written by the CCS President Cliff Thornton, and both Alwyn Peel and Ian Boreham get special mention for their advice. This is a fitting tribute to our Society which itself gets a special mention in the author's hope of attracting new members to it. A worthy goal.
Following an interesting introduction the book is divided into five parts. Each part has two sections, the first section containing a concise illustrated historical narrative whilst the second contains illustrations of relevant stamps.
The book begins with a short history of Cook's life prior to the First Voyage in Endeavour. There are few stamps commemorating this period so most of the philatelic images are of Cook. An outline map of place names in the Pacific is helpful for those readers unfamiliar with the geography of the area. The three voyages of exploration take up the majority of the book with a somewhat abrupt end after Cook's death on Hawaii. There are many pictorial and philatelic illustrations and a useful outline map of each voyage. There are some brief concluding thoughts from the author and some contemporary reassessments of the life of Cook and the contributions he made to global exploration in the eighteenth century.
Three appendices follow with the first appendix wandering off the subject of Cook himself. This section details contributions to global discoveries and takes its facts mainly from a fairly recent book "1421 The Year China Discovered the World" by Gavin Menzies. It is claimed that Chinese ships explored large areas of the globe some three centuries before Cook's voyages and met with greater success in locating new lands than James Cook was able to record. As in keeping with the rest of the book this appendix also contains several philatelic illustrations. I am not sure if this section fits comfortably into the overall objective of the book but it does provide food for thought and a source for further study in early global exploration. The book concludes with a comprehensive list of selected references for further reading.
As a non philatelist, I found the book interesting to read. It is very attractively produced and profusely illustrated, mostly in colour, to a high standard. It is aimed for the general reader with a philatelic bias and would be of less interest to the serious Cook historian and philatelic collector.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 43, volume 30, number 1 (2007).