Détails nouveaux et circonstanciés sur la mort du Capitaine Cook, traduits de l'Anglois [bound with another unrelated work]. COOK: DEATH, David SAMWELL.
Détails nouveaux et circonstanciés sur la mort du Capitaine Cook, traduits de l'Anglois [bound with another unrelated work].
Détails nouveaux et circonstanciés sur la mort du Capitaine Cook, traduits de l'Anglois [bound with another unrelated work].
Détails nouveaux et circonstanciés sur la mort du Capitaine Cook, traduits de l'Anglois [bound with another unrelated work].
Détails nouveaux et circonstanciés sur la mort du Capitaine Cook, traduits de l'Anglois [bound with another unrelated work].
Détails nouveaux et circonstanciés sur la mort du Capitaine Cook, traduits de l'Anglois [bound with another unrelated work].
Détails nouveaux et circonstanciés sur la mort du Capitaine Cook, traduits de l'Anglois [bound with another unrelated work].

Détails nouveaux et circonstanciés sur la mort du Capitaine Cook…
Détails nouveaux et circonstanciés sur la mort du Capitaine Cook, traduits de l'Anglois [bound with another unrelated work].

À Londres et se trouve à Paris: chez Née de la Rochelle, 1786.

Octavo, 56, (ii) pp and a final blank leaf; neo-classical vignette on title, woodcut head- and tail-pieces; a handsome copy (bound with another work -- see below) in a contemporary French binding of quarter calf over glazed paper boards, the spine with a gilt ornament and a simple red morocco label.

The rare French edition of Samwell's account of Cook's death

Very rare: published only in English and French editions, Samwell's book "may be considered the highlight of a Cook collection" (Hill). The French edition has been conspicuously rare on the market, with no copy appearing at auction in decades, while competition among collectors for the few copies of the English edition that have been offered has been notable. The book is missing from a number of important collections, both private and public. Samwell's account of Cook's death is also one of the earliest books on Hawaii, preceded only by the official account and the handful of unofficial accounts of Cook's third voyage. Of all the early books on Hawaii, it ranks with Zimmermann's narrative of the voyage and Shaw's collection of tapa cloth as among the rarest and most significant.

Very rare: published only in English and French editions, Samwell's book "may be considered the highlight of a Cook collection" (Hill). The French edition has been conspicuously rare on the market, with no copy appearing at auction in decades, while competition among collectors for the few copies of the English edition that have been offered has been notable. The book is missing from a number of important collections, both private and public. Samwell's account of Cook's death is also one of the earliest books on Hawaii, preceded only by the official account and the handful of unofficial accounts of Cook's third voyage. Of all the early books on Hawaii, it ranks with Zimmermann's narrative of the voyage and Shaw's collection of tapa cloth as among the rarest and most significant.
David Samwell was a surgeon's mate and later surgeon on Cook's third voyage, originally on board the Discovery, but transferring to the Resolution in mid-1778. His eye-witness account of the events at Kealakakua Bay ("the frankest and most reliable of all contemporary accounts…" - Beaglehole) forms the basis of our knowledge of the details of the event, particularly since the visual record is so muddled by myth-making aspects. As a surgeon he was also well placed to make the observations that appear in a final section here about venereal disease in the islands. Perhaps however his conclusion that the disease had been indigenous before Cook's visit looks a little doubtful today; or could it be taken as another suggestion of pre-Cook European discovery?
The official account of the third voyage had finally been published in 1784, four years after Cook's ships returned to England. Many of the eyewitnesses to Cook's death in Hawaii were unimpressed by the rather sanitised version included in that work, but only Samwell ventured into print, issuing what is now regarded as one of the rarest books relating to Cook as A Narrative of the Death of Captain James Cook in May 1786. By returning some of the more unpalatable truths about events in Hawaii to the record, Samwell's influential account is now considered the most compelling and reliable version of the fatal events at Kealakekua Bay.
Only two editions (this and the English one) of his narrative were published, unlike most of the other third-voyage accounts which appeared in numerous European, Russian or Scandinavian editions as well as Irish, and even American, piracies. This French version was published in Paris less than four weeks after the original English edition, to correct "l'omission de quelques details relatifs à la mort de l'infortuné Cook…". Beaglehole has since described how "the death of Cook is of course Samwell's great set piece, or was to become so. He felt deeply about it, and though he saw nothing of the incidents, was clearly determined to collect and put on record every detail, so far as he could get if from witnesses…" (Journals, III:1, pp. cxciii-cxciv). In particular, Samwell was highly critical of the actions of Lieut. Williamson, describing that man's failure to bring the ship's launch closer to shore as having been "the fatal turn of the affair", and the moment which dashed "every chance which remained with Captain Cook, of escaping with his life."
Apart from Kippis' use of the material in his later Life of Cook and his Biographia Britannica of 1789, the book was not reprinted until David Magee republished the English text in 1957 (Captain Cook and Hawaii), with an introduction by the Cook bibliographer Sir Maurice Holmes who noted that "The fullest, most detailed and most objective [account of Cook's death] is that by David Samwell, which is here reprinted. Such a reprint is certainly called for. In its original form it is of great rarity and correspondingly expensive…". "Apart from its rarity, this pamphlet is of the greatest importance, since it fills in gaps, e.g., as to the responsibility for Cook's death, which are suppressed in the official account. Samwell's estimate of Cook's character, coming as it did from an educated man who knew him well, needs to be read alongside that of King in the official account to get a true picture of Cook as he appeared to those under his command…" (Holmes). The Hill catalogue notes of the original English edition (acquired at the Streeter sale in 1969) that "this exceedingly rare work may perhaps be considered the highlight of a Cook collection".
The English edition, published on 1 May 1786, is exceptionally rare, and one of the great desiderata of Cook and Pacific collectors. Testament to the enormous interest in Cook in France, this French translation was published the same month (the license was dated 27 May 1786) and is the only other full contemporary edition of Samwell's book, if anything even rarer than the London original.
It is remarkable that in the last fifty years, while several copies of the English version are recorded as having been sold at auction (1982: £15,400; 1986: £19,800; 1988: £23,100; 2000: US$134,500; 2005: £84,000; 2014: £104,500) with a further copy recently sold at a reported price of £160,000, there is no record of a copy of this French edition at auction in fifty years. We know of three copies in long-term private collections while Forbes records two copies in Australian libraries (NLA and ML), one in New Zealand (Turnbull), and two in the United States (Yale and UCLA, the latter the Cook bibliographer Holmes' copy). To these should be added copies at the John Rylands library (Manchester, U.K.), the Bavarian State Library, and the John Oxley Library in Queensland. Another copy changed hands without coming onto the market when the Kahn collection was acquired in its entirety by the Hawaiian State Archives in the early 1990s.
The Samwell is the second work bound in the volume offered here, preceded by a copy of Madame de Charrière, Lettres Écrites de Lausanne (Geneva, Buisson, 1786). Charrière (1740-1805) was a Dutch-born writer and Enlightenment novelist who lived much of her life in Switzerland: as the present work suggests, she is particularly known for her correspondence. The French bibliographer Michaud called this "le plus remarquable de ses ouvrages". It is a copy of the first edition, second issue (with a cancel title-page). Although there is little relation between her work and that of Samwell, the two titles were published in the same year, which is no doubt how they came to be bound together.

Beaglehole, III, ccix; Beddie, 1618; Forbes, 'Hawaiian National Bibliography', 118; Hawaii Hundred, 6; Hill, 1521 (not this edition); Holmes, 62; Kahn, 2/34; Kroepelien, 1144; O'Reilly-Reitman, 453. (For the Charrière work: Michaud, Biographie Universelle, vol. 8).

Price (AUD): $28,500.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504728

Condition Report