Recently three Cook Medals came to my company for sale, and I thought members might be interested to see and read about them. The main reference for each one is taken from CCS member Allan Klenman’s book The Faces of Captain Cook.
The Resolution and Adventure medal.
Silver medal; 44mm, near fleur de coin. London, 1772. AUS$18,750
A very fine example of the rare silver issue of the famous medal issued for the departure of Cook’s second voyage in the Resolution and Adventure. Only 142 (or 106 – there is disagreement) specimens were struck in silver. The silver medals (and two in gold) were commissioned by Banks for his private use and remained his responsibility after his withdrawal from the expedition.
There were also 2000 medals struck in bronze: the entire bronze issue was purchased by the Admiralty for distribution among the natives of the lands to be visited on the second voyage. Some examples have been found on the coasts of some of these islands, including New Zealand.
One oddity is that the bronze medals were struck from a cracked die, and therefore all have a flaw. For the silver examples the die was renewed. There are a few differences in detail between the two dies, the most notable being that in the first (cracked) die the anchor of the Resolution is vertical or “weighed” while in the second (uncracked) die it is horizontal or “home”.
The Royal Society Medal, in commemoration of Captain Cook.
Obverse: Uniformed bust of James Cook.
Reverse: Fortune leaning upon a column, holding a rudder on a globe.
Bronze medal, 43 mm. diameter; traces of original mint red, “good extremely fine”. London, Royal Society, 1784. AUS$4,400
An especially good example of the Royal Society’s formal memorial to the great navigator: one of 577 bronze medals struck. Fellows of the Royal Society were entitled to a free bronze medal, while silver and gold issues were available by subscription only; some were reserved for presentation. L. Richard Smith (The Royal Society Cook Medal, Sydney, 1982) has suggested a probable final minting figure of 22 gold, 322 silver and 577 bronze medals. An engraving of the medal was printed on the title-page of the second and third editions (and some copies of the first) of the official account of the third voyage.
The commissioning of this medal was due above all else to the efforts of Sir Joseph Banks, who supervised “the minting and distribution of the Royal Society Cook medal as a personal task coincident with the publication of the narrative of the tragic third voyage” (H.B. Carter, Sir Joseph Banks, 1988, p.168). Cook’s European reputation is borne out by several letters to Banks from the Continent requesting specimens of the medal, including one from Bougainville, who wrote in June 1785 to remind Banks that as a member since 1756 he felt entitled to one (see The Banks Letters, ed. W.R. Dawson, 1958, p. 122).
[Portrait medallion, inscribed on obverse:] Jacobus Cook [and on reverse:] Natus An. MDCCXXVIII. Marton in Cumbria Angliae obiit An. MDCCLXXIX…
Engraved copper medal, 42 mm. diameter; “good extremely fine”. London, Durand’s Universal Series, 1823. AUS$1,850
Scarce: a fine specimen of this portrait medal of Captain Cook.
The text says: “NATUS / AN.M.DCC.XXVII./ MARTON / IN CUMBRIA ANGLIAE / OBIIT / AN.M.DCC.LXXIX. / [LINE] / SERIES NUMISMATICA / UNIVERSALIS VIRORUM ILLUSTRATUM / [LINE] M.DCCC.XXIII. / DURAND EDIDIT [curved]
Note that it is, ‘VIRORUM’ not ‘VICORUM’ as noted in Klenman.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1965, volume 25, number 3 (2002).
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