New Book | Endeavouring Banks

Posted in books by Editor on June 25, 2016

News emerged in May that the wreckage of the Endeavour has been located off the coast of Rhode Island—as reported, for instance, in The Guardian (2 May 2016). After Cook’s voyage, the ship was renamed the Lord Sandwich and used in the revolutionary war blockade, sinking in 1778. This volume appears with an eye toward the 250th anniversary of the first voyage (the Endeavour sailed from Plymouth in August 1768). From Paul Holberton:

Neil Chambers, ed., with with a foreword by Sir David Attenborough and contributions by Anna Agnarsdóttir, Jeremy Coote, Philip J. Hatfield and John Gascoigne, Endeavouring Banks: Exploring the Collections from the Endeavour Voyage, 1768–1771 (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2016), 304 pages, ISBN: 978-1907372902, £40 / $50.

61wP0mItz1L._SX427_BO1,204,203,200_When English naturalist Joseph Banks (1743–1820) accompanied Captain James Cook (1728–1779) on his historic mission into the Pacific, the Endeavour voyage of 1768–1771, he took with him a team of collectors and illustrators. They returned with unprecedented collections of artefacts and specimens of stunning birds, fish, and other animals as well as thousands of plants, most seen for the first time in Europe. They produced, too, remarkable landscape and figure drawings of the peoples encountered on the voyage along with detailed journals and descriptions of the places visited, which, with the first detailed maps of these lands (Tahiti, New Zealand, and the East Coast of Australia), were afterwards used to create lavishly illustrated accounts of the mission. These caused a storm of interest in Europe, where plays, poems, and satirical caricatures were also produced to celebrate and examine the voyage, its personnel, and many ‘new’ discoveries.

Along with specimens and artefacts, contemporary portraits of key personalities aboard the ship, scale models and plans of Endeavour itself, scientific instruments taken on the voyage, commemorative medals and sketches, the objects (over 140) featured in this new book tell the story of the Endeavour voyage and its impact ahead of the 250th anniversary in 2018 of the launch of this seminal mission. Items separated in some cases for more than two centuries are brought together to reveal their fascinating history not only during but since that mission. Original voyage specimens will feature together with illustrations and descriptions of them, showing a rich diversity of newly discovered species and how Banks organized this material, planning but ultimately failing to publish it. Drawings of people and places visited during the mission are reproduced. And by comparing these voyage originals with the often stylized engravings later produced in London for the official account, this book investigates how knowledge gained on the mission was gathered, later revised and then printed in Europe.

The book focuses on the contribution of Banks’s often neglected artists—Sydney Parkinson, Herman Diedrich Spöring, Alexander Buchan as well as the priest Tupaia, who joined Endeavour in the Society Islands—none of whom survived the mission. These men illustrated island scenes of bays, dwellings, canoes as well as the dress, faces, possessions, and ceremonies of Pacific peoples. Of particular interest, and only recently recognised as by him, are the original artworks of Tupaia, who produced as part of this mission the first charts and illustrations on paper by any Polynesian. The surviving Endeavour voyage illustrations and maps were the most important body of images produced since Europeans entered this region, matching the truly historic value of the plant specimens and artefacts seen alongside them in this handsome book.

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