Grenfell Price, A.
The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific: As Told by Selections of His Own Journals 1768-1779.
This selection of passages from Captain James Cook's journals was originally published in 1957 by Georgian House and the Limited Editions Club, and has been reissued in later editions, including the 1971 paperbound edition by Dover Publications. The book's 292 pages include three dozen line drawings by Geoffrey C. Ingleton. Maps illustrating understanding of the Pacific geography before and after Cook are also included. Regrettably, there is no index.
This edition contains an introduction by Professor Percy C. Adams placing various editions of Cook's journals and voyages in perspective. There is a short chapter on "ocean problems of the eighteenth century" and a short summary of Cook's early career. A brief bibliography cites J. C. Beaglehole's edition of the journals published by the Hakluyt Society, as well as other primary and secondary sources. Professor Beaglehole checked journal extracts included in this edition that corresponded to his research at the time of publication.
The text is structured in sections organized around each of the Three Voyages. The editor's commentary is found at the beginning and end of the seventeen chapters and occasionally within connecting journal extracts to provide continuity. Cook's death is based upon Lieutenant James King's account. A final chapter summarizes Cook's achievements. The editor concludes, "No previous navigator had contributed voyages of such length; remained at sea for such long periods, or brought back so much accurate knowledge of such an immense extent of the Earth."
There are several reasons to acquire a volume that was initially published fifty years ago. The editor's introductions are brief but useful and lead the reader to an understanding of highlights during Cook's three voyages. The text contains extracts of the Admiralty's instructions to Cook for each expedition as well as a few citations from Cook's letters to the Admiralty as, for example, the encounter with the Great Barrier Reef in June 1770.
For readers unable to locate or read J. C. Beaglehole's four volumes of the journals or other versions, such as Philip Edwards's James Cook: The Journals, the Grenfell Price book serves as a very manageable and useful introduction to Cook's journals, navigation, and voyages of exploration. Although published some time ago, the book remains in print today and is relatively inexpensive in either new or used copies.
James C. Hamilton
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 47, volume 33, number 1 (2010).