The Observations of Sir Richard Hawkins Knight, in his Voiage into the South Sea. Anno Domini 1593. Sir Richard HAWKINS.
The Observations of Sir Richard Hawkins Knight, in his Voiage into the South Sea. Anno Domini 1593.

The Observations of Sir Richard Hawkins Knight, in his Voiage into the South Sea…
The Observations of Sir Richard Hawkins Knight, in his Voiage into the South Sea. Anno Domini 1593.

London: Printed by I.D. for John Jaggard, 1622.

Small folio; a fine copy in a finely executed 17th-century style binding by Aquarius of black deerskin, heavily gilt to spine and covers.

The classic English exploring voyage into the south seas

A fine, clean copy of the rare first edition: "it deserves its fame, for no other book of the time provides us with a clearer idea of the events and undertakings of a maritime expedition at the end of the sixteenth century. Sir Richard Hawkins was not only an experienced sailor, but also a man of culture and an acute observer. His book is still read today with great interest and true pleasure" (Borba de Moraes). "The book is a unique work for its period. It is not merely a narrative and a rutter, or set of sailing directions for the Pacific voyage, but is deliberately intended as a treatise on the conduct of such expeditions and a body of doctrine on seamanship… It gives a fuller picture of life at sea than is to be found in any other Elizabethan work…" (J. A. Williamson, The Observations of Sir Richard Hawkins, 1933).

A fine, clean copy of the rare first edition: "it deserves its fame, for no other book of the time provides us with a clearer idea of the events and undertakings of a maritime expedition at the end of the sixteenth century. Sir Richard Hawkins was not only an experienced sailor, but also a man of culture and an acute observer. His book is still read today with great interest and true pleasure" (Borba de Moraes). "The book is a unique work for its period. It is not merely a narrative and a rutter, or set of sailing directions for the Pacific voyage, but is deliberately intended as a treatise on the conduct of such expeditions and a body of doctrine on seamanship… It gives a fuller picture of life at sea than is to be found in any other Elizabethan work…" (J. A. Williamson, The Observations of Sir Richard Hawkins, 1933).

"With the Counsels consent, and helpe of my father, Sir John Hawkins, Knight", Hawkins begins, "I resolved a voyage to be made for the ilands of Japan, of the Phillippinas, and Molucas, the kingdomes of China, and East Indies, by the way of the Straites of Magelan, and the South Sea. The principall end of our designements, was, to make a perfect discovery of all those parts, where I shold arrive, as well knowne as unknowne, with their longitudes and latitudes; the lying of their coasts; their head-lands; their ports, and bayes; their citties, townes, and peoplings; their manner of government; with the commodities which the countries yeelded, and of which they have want, and are in necessitie".

As Williamson notes, this "is no doubt true, but probably not the whole truth. There is no mention of attacking the Queen's enemies, nor of searching for the Terra Australis which had so powerfully exercised the minds of Englishmen twenty years earlier. The opening is extremely bald and abrupt… It looks as though Sir Richard made a hurried alteration before sending his script to the printer, and that his opening remarks may originally have contained matter which he thought it better to suppress. To the Spaniards in 1594 he avowed that he sailed with the purpose of attacking them; and since he had been caught in the act there was no reason for denying it. But it was obviously a point that it was inadvisable to labour in the pacific, pro-Spanish atmosphere of 1622… Equally, the true programme may have included Terra Australis among the countries to be explored. If so, there are intelligible reasons why he should not have mentioned this in 1622. Sir William Courteen, a wealthy London merchant… was at that time moving for a patent to monopolise 'all lands in the south parts of the world called Terra Australis…'. The thing was still a living project, and we do not know whether Sir Richard was concerned in it, or how far he considered his own knowledge as confidential".

If the origins of the voyage are obscure, its actual progress, dramatically recounted by Hawkins, was short and sharp. Having sighted an unknown coast (probably the Falklands), he entered the Pacific through the Straits of Magellan, intending to strike well north of Callao. 'But Hawkins, one of the most civilised and attractive of the Elizabethan privateers, was on his own admission too easy-going for a wartime captain' (Rodger, Safeguard of the sea p. 281), and was swayed by his men's appetite for immediate loot to raid Valparaiso, an action that ruined all hope of further surprise. At first Hawkins evaded interception, but he was finally overwhelmed after a three-day running fight with two well-armed Spanish ships commanded by Don Beltrán de Castro. Hawkins was held captive for eight years and probably first drafted his Observations soon after his return to England in 1602.

Provenance: Bernard Quaritch Ltd; private collection (Sydney).

Adams & Waters, English maritime books, 2059; Borba de Moraes, p.395; Hill, 784; Pforzheimer, 456; STC, 12962.

Price (AUD): $42,500.00  other currencies Ref: #4505106

Condition Report