Sunday, Oct 11, 2020
Two hundred and fifty years ago Captain Cook and his crew on HMB Endeavour made their first sighting of the coast of New Zealand (6 October 1769) and first landing (Poverty Bay, two days later). Six months later they made the east coast of Australia (Point Hicks, 20 April) and shortly afterwards the first landfall on the coast (Botany Bay, 29 April 1770). Our catalogue “Common friends to mankind” sets out to mark the anniversary by telling the story of Cook’s great Endeavour voyage, and his two subsequent voyages of exploration and discovery, from original printed, graphic and manuscript materials in our stock.
During the American War of Independence, Benjamin Franklin instructed captains at sea that should they come into contact with Cook’s vessel they must “not consider her an enemy, nor suffer any plunder to be made of the effects contained in her, nor obstruct her immediate return to England by detaining her or sending her into any other part of Europe or to America; but that you treat the said Captain Cook and his people with all civility and kindness… as common friends to mankind”.
Common friends to mankind they were: though in a more nuanced age, and since the effects of original European discovery morphed into colonisation, colonialism and beyond, things are more complicated. We believe that the original story of discovery and exploration should be distinguished from the later narrative of colonisation. Our catalogue aims to tell that earlier story.