Manuscript documents relating to the publication of the first French edition of Cook's Second Voyage…
Suite of original contracts and documents commissioning the French translation and publication of the official account of Cook's Second Voyage.

Paris: 11 June-14 July 1777.

Six original documents, octavo and quarto, comprising about a dozen pages; loosely stored in card folder, within an 18th-century style French marbled calf chemise.

Commissioning French publication of Cook's Second Voyage

An exceptional group of original contracts and documents commissioning the French translation and publication of the official account of Cook's second voyage; the various agreements minuted here in six original manuscripts outline arrangements between the main collaborators for the publication: the influential Parisian publisher Charles Joseph Panckoucke, Jean Nicolas Démeunier as translator, and Robert Bénard as engraver and image editor.

An exceptional group of original contracts and documents commissioning the French translation and publication of the official account of Cook's second voyage; the various agreements minuted here in six original manuscripts outline arrangements between the main collaborators for the publication: the influential Parisian publisher Charles Joseph Panckoucke, Jean Nicolas Démeunier as translator, and Robert Bénard as engraver and image editor.

These remarkable documents highlight the publication process of one of the most important texts of the enlightenment, Cook's second voyage. Historically the most important of his three voyages, Cook crossed the Antarctic circle when, early in the voyage, he cruised as far south as possible, round the edge of the Antarctic ice. In the Pacific, he visited New Zealand again, and either discovered or revisited many of the islands, including New Caledonia, Palmerston and Norfolk Islands, Easter Island, the Marquesas, New Hebrides, Tonga, the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia.

The great second voyage constituted 'arguably the greatest, most perfect, of all seaborne voyages of exploration. In his three years away, he disposed of the theory of a great southern continent, reached closer to the South Pole than any other man, and touched on a multitude of lands - New Zealand and Tahiti again, and for the first time Easter Island, the Marquesas, the New Hebrides, and New Caledonia' (Marshall & Williams, p. 276).

There was a wide continental audience ready and waiting for the extensive official narrative to appear in French: Cook had already departed on his final voyage when the full account appeared in English in 1777; the publisher Pancoucke acted quickly to secure the rights to publish the voyage in French, as he had the account of the first voyage, and to arrange the team to bring it into being. His edition appeared in five quarto volumes published in Paris at his premises at the Hôtel de Thou (no longer extant) in 1778, under the title "Voyage dans L'Hémisphère Austral et Autour du Monde, fait sur les Vaisseaux de Roi, L'Aventure, & La Résolution, en 1772, 1773, 1774 & 1775".

The documents show that Robert Bénard (1734-1785) undertook to produce the sixty-four engravings for the Voyage and to deliver his work by November 1777. The engravings were derived from those prepared, mostly after original work by the voyage artist William Hodges, for the English edition. We learn from this document that the total print run for these, and therefore for the publication as a whole, would be capped at 2250 copies. Bénard is known for having supplied a large quantity of plates for Diderot's Encyclopédie. He directed the engraving of plates for the 1777 Supplement on science, liberal arts, and mechanical arts; he worked on the Geneva edition of the Encyclopédie, in charge of the engraving, and on that of the Methodical Encyclopedia which appeared from 1782.

The statement of costs gives fascinating details of the engraving: there will be 2250 pulls ("épreuves") needed for the publication. This table establishes the cost invoiced for each engraving. Each of them is numbered 1 to 64 vertically on the left side of the page. There are columns for "Engravings, maps", "Printing", "Paper" then the formats "quarré", "grand raisin", "dovecote", and "Jesus". A space at the bottom is reserved for totals. Thus "portraits" cost a third more to engrave than "instruments, plants etc.". The "subjects of marine history and landscapes with figures" on double plates cost, logically, a third less than the same subjects engraved on triple plates. To gauge the total cost of an engraving, one needs to add that of the engraving itself, that of its printing and that of the paper chosen according to its format. At the bottom of the sheet are entered the intermediate results and the total cost of all the prints according to these three criteria: 25,728 livres to produce the plates, 9,186 livres for their printing and 4,793 livres for the paper. The illustration of the French edition of Cook's Second Voyage thus cost Panckoucke a total of 39,708 livres. This table alone constitutes an extremely rare example of an account sheet from one of the greatest 18th-century publishers for one of the most important books of the Age of Enlightenment.

It should be noted that while Démeunier was clearly contracted to do the hard work for the translation into French, and to be paid page by page, it was in fact Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Suard, Pancoucke's brother-in-law, who was ultimately credited with the work, perhaps out of nepotism or simply on account of having a supervisory role.

Further details are available on request.


The documents are as follows:

1. THE TRANSLATION: deed signed by signed by Panckoucke and Jean Nicolas Démeunier. Paris, June 11, 1777, 4 pp. octavo:

"The undersigned Jean Nicolas Démeunier, on the one hand, and Charles Joseph Panckoucke, bookseller in Paris on the other hand, have agreed as follows:

1. Sieur Démeunier having undertaken the translation of Captain Cook's Second Voyage… for which he obtained a privilege cedes to Sieur Panckoucke and his heirs the translation and the privilege of the said work.

2. He undertakes to provide well and legibly written sheets of the said translation as required, so that printing can be started immediately.

3. He expressly undertakes to complete the entire translation within four months at the latest and to make his work as faithful and as exact as possible

4. To help him in this work, M. Panckoucke agrees that he associates himself with M. de Fréville from whom he will be paid forty-eight livres for each sheet, namely twenty-four livres [? on terms of 3, 6, 9] at the point that M. de Fréville provides his copy and twenty-four livres as a deduction from the sum of which M. de Fréville remains debtor towards M. Panckoucke. It is understood that M. Démeunier will give M. de Fréville only about twenty sheets of the English copy to translate.

5. For the payment of the copy of the entire translation of the two English quarto volumes, it is agreed to a sum of three thousand livres at the point when Mr. Démeunier hands over the entire work (…) If Mr. Démeunier needed in advance, Mr. Panckoucke obliges himself to give them to him in parts every month (…)

6. M. Démeunier similarly obliges himself when the Voyage of Doctor Forster [Georg Forster] will have appeared to translate it on the spot, for which he will be paid 1200 livres.

7. If it would be appropriate for Sr Panckoucke to make an abridgment of the Second Voyage du Cap. Cook in one or two octavo volumes, M. Démeunier agrees to do it. This abstract will be paid to him at the rate of twenty-five louis per volume.

8. Mr. Démeunier will be given 25 wrappered copies of the said work.

("Les soussignés Jean Nicolas Démeunier, d'une part, et Charles Joseph Panckoucke, libraire à Paris d'autre part, sont convenus de ce qui suit :

1° Le Sieur Démeunier ayant entrepris la traduction du Second Voyage autour du Monde et en pôle austral du Capitaine Cook, en 2 volumes in-4° ornés de figures pour lequel il a obtenu un privilège cède au Sieur Panckoucke et à ses ayants cause la traduction et le privilège du dit ouvrage.

2° Il s'oblige de fournir à mesure les feuilles bien et lisiblement écrites de la dite traduction, pour que l'impression en soit commencée sur le champ.

3° Il s'oblige expressément d'en achever la traduction entière d'ici à quatre mois au plus tard et de se rendre le plus fidèle et le plus exacte qu'il sera possible

4° Pour l'aider dans ce travail, M. Panckoucke consent qu'il s'associe M. de Fréville duquel il sera payé quarante-huit livres pour chaque feuille, savoir vingt-quatre livres en effets à 3, 6, 9 à l'instant que M. de Fréville aura fourni sa copie et vingt-quatre livres en déduction de la somme dont M. de Fréville reste débiteur envers M. Panckoucke. Il est bien entendu que M. Démeunier ne donnera à traduire à M. de Fréville qu'une vingtaine de feuilles de la copie anglaise.

5° Pour le paiement de la copie de la traduction entière des deux volumes in-quarto anglais, il est convenu à une somme de trois mille livres à l'instant que M. Démeunier aurait remis la copie entière (…) Si M. Démeunier avait besoin d'avance, M. Panckoucke s'oblige de les lui faire par parties chaque mois (…)

6° M. Démeunier s'oblige pareillement lorsque le Voyage du docteur Forster [Georg Forster] aura paru d'en faire la traduction sur le champ, laquelle lui sera payées 1200 livres.

7° Dans le cas où il conviendrait au Sr Panckoucke de faire un abrégé du Second Voyage du Cap. Cook en un ou deux volumes in-8, M. Démeunier consent de s'en charger. Cet abrégé lui sera payé à raison de vingt-cinq louis par volume

8° Il sera donné à M. Démeunier 25 exemplaires brochés dudit ouvrage pour ses présents").

2. THE TRANSLATOR PREPARES: "addition to the deed between M. Démeunier and Panckoucke on June 11, 1777", signed by Panckoucke and Démeunier. Paris, July 14, 1777, 1 p. octavo.

"By the clause of the said act, Mr. Démeunier was obliged to translate Doctor Forster's Voyage for the sum of eleven hundred livres, but S. Panckoucke considering that the said voyage is much more considerable than had been believed, undertakes to pay for the translation two thousand seven hundred livres so that the two Voyages of Cook and Forster will form at least four quarto volumes of translation of five hundred to five hundred and fifty pages and in the case where this translation would form five volumes, M. Démeunier could not claim more".

("Par la clause du dit acte, M. Démeunier s'était obligé de traduire le Voyage du docteur Forster pour la somme d'onze cent livres, mais le S. Panckoucke considérant que le dit voyage est beaucoup plus considérable qu'on ne l'avait cru, s'oblige d'en payer la traduction deux mille sept cents livres de sorte que les deux Voyages de Cook et de Forster formeront au moins quatre volumes in-4 de traduction de cinq cent à cinq cent cinquante pages et dans le cas où cette traduction formerait 5 volumes, M. Démeunier ne pourra prétendre davantage").

3. THE ENGRAVINGS: deed signed by Charles Joseph Panckoucke and Robert Bénard, Paris, June 11, 1777, 3 ½ pages quarto.

"The undersigned, Mr. Panckoucke, bookseller in Paris on the one hand, and Mr. Bénard, engraver, rue Saint Thomas Porte Saint Jacques, on the other hand have agreed as follows:

Sr Bernard agreed to take charge of the direction of the engraving of all the plates which must go into the translation of the Voyage du Captain Cook & knowledge of sixteen plates of maps in different formats, in the same size and accuracy as the originals of the English edition; of five plates of tools, instruments, plants &c to be contained in the height and width of the quarto engravings of Banks and Solander's Voyage, of a sixth quarto plate of birds; which six plates will be engraved with neatness and cleanliness and perfectly in conformity with those which were given to him, as well as the four doubles of the quarto with instruments, utensils and plants.

He also undertakes to take charge of the engraving of nineteen portrait plates to be reduced in the single format of the same work, fourteen double plates of different subjects of landscape, marine & with figures; & five triple plates loaded with historiated subjects of large composition, which nineteen last plates will be particularly contained in the height of quarto format and perfectly in conformity with the originals which were given to him.

He also undertakes to return all the 64 plates detailed above by the end of next November at the latest, and he is responsible for maintaining the prints of the said 64 plates up to the number of 2250 pulls for each plate.

Mr. Panckoucke undertakes to pay Sr Bernard for the cost of the direction and the engraving of the aforesaid sixty-four plates the sum of eleven thousand seven hundred and forty-eight livres … "

("Les soussignés, Monsieur Panckoucke, libraire à Paris d'une part, et M. Benard, graveur, rue Saint Thomas Porte Saint Jacques, d'autre part sont convenus de ce qui suit:

Le Sr Benard est convenu de se charger de la direction de la gravure de toutes les planches qui doivent entrer dans la traduction du Voyage du Capitaine Cook & savoir de seize planches de cartes géographiques de différents formats, dans la même grandeur et justesse de celle des originaux de l'édition angloise ; de cinq planches d'outils, d'instruments, de plantes & à contenir dans la hauteur et la largeur des gravures de l'in-4° du Voyage de Banks et Solander, d'une sixième planche in-4 d'oiseaux ; lesquelles six planches seront gravées avec netteté et propreté et parfaitement conformes à celles qui lui ont été remises, ainsi que les quatre pl. doubles de l'in-4° chargées d'instruments, d'ustensiles et de plantes.

Il s'oblige également de se charger de la gravure de dix-neuf planches de portraits à réduire dans le format simple du même ouvrage, de quatorze planches doubles des différents sujets de paysage, de marine & avec figures ; & de cinq planches triples chargées de sujets historiés de grande composition, lesquelles dix-neuf dernières planches seront particulièrement contenues dans la hauteur de format in-4° et parfaitement conformes aux originaux qui lui ont été remis.

Il s'oblige aussi de rendre toutes les 64 planches détaillées ci-dessus d'ici à la fin du mois de novembre prochain au plus tard, et il se charge d'entretenir les tirages des dites 64 planches jusqu'au nombre de 2250 épreuves pour chaque planche

Monsieur Panckoucke s'oblige de payer au Sr Benard pour prix de la direction et de la gravure des susdites soixante-quatre planches la somme de onze mille sept cent quarante-huit livres…")

4. BUDGET FOR ENGRAVINGS (large table of accounts): "Statement of the sums to be costed for the engraving of the plates from Captain Cook's Voyage, including the brass and engraving of letters; And estimate of the printing of said plates, and the amount of paper to use for a print run of 2250 pulls of each plate, with the price of the ream of each particular paper required by the format and type of engravings in this work … " 2 pages quarto.

("État des sommes que coûtera la gravure des planches du Voyage du Capitaine Cook, des cuivres et de la gravure de lettres compris; Et estimation de l'impression des dites planches, et la quantité du papier à employer pour un tirage de 2250 Épr. de chaque planche, avec le prix de la rame de chaque papier particulier nécessité par le format et le genre de gravures de cet ouvrage…").

5. List of Banks [i.e., Pancoucke's edition of Cook's first voyage] quarto Plates, one octavo page

6. A summary note: Total charges, one duodecimo page.


Suzanne Tucoo-Chala, Charles Joseph Panckoucke et la librairie française 1736-1798, Pau-Paris, 1977.

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