Saturday, 16 August 2014

Special Collections Celebrates National Science Week: Age of Discovery and the Anonymous Endeavour Journal

Across National Science Week we will highlight a number of Rare Books published during the Age of Discovery.


The Anonymous Endeavour Journal

The Endeavour Replica. (Australian National Maritime Museum).
The voyage around the world on the Endeavour from 1768 to 1771 commanded by James Cook was the first of three great world voyages undertaken in the pursuit of natural knowledge at the desire of the Royal Society of London. The aims of the Endeavour voyage were to chart the South Pacific Ocean; to record the transit of Venus in Tahiti; to take detailed scientific observations about the landscape, its flora and fauna and the local indigenous peoples; and to find and claim for King George III the Great South Land.

Eagerly awaited, the first publication to arise from the Endeavour's return, was a relatively short but highly readable anonymous journal, since attributed to James Matra. It was published in 1771 just three months after the return of the Endeavour to England. Matra sang the praises of Eastern Australia as an ideal place for a British colonization and in 1783 put forward a Proposal for Establishing a Settlement in New South Wales.

Matra’s journal is a personal and astonishing account ranging from visits with the Patagonian tribes, through Otahitee (Tahiti) and onto the discovery of the East Coast of Australia. Surprisingly, Cook’s own journal held in the National Library of Australia, Journal of the H.M.S. Endeavour, was not published until 125 years after the Endeavour’s journey was made! Read an online transcript of Cook’s Endeavour Journal, Project Gutenberg, Australia. As with Cook’s journal, Banks’ was not published until 125 years later (See Sir Joseph Bank’s Journal on the Internet Archive). It was in Cook’s journal that reference was made to the very large and sheltered harbour north of Botany Bay, Sydney Harbour. This reference was essential when Captain Arthur Phillip sailed the first fleet in 1788 to Australia, and he found Botany Bay too open to the weather for safe harbour, and so he sailed to the sheltered harbor mentioned by Cook, north of Botany Bay and founded Sydney Cove, an ideal base for the infant Colony of New South Wales.

The “official” publication of the journey compiled by John Hawkesworth was not published until 1773 (See An Account of the Voyages ... on the Internet Archive). There were three voyages around the world and not time to publish to the satisfaction of some of the scientists in between voyages. Hawkesworth’s publication is a compilation of numerous journals written by those on board the Endeavour, in three large volumes. There were several scientists on board (besides Cook), including the naturalists Sir Joseph Banks, Dr Daniel Solander, and Herman Sporing, and the astronomer Charles Green. Banks was a very wealthy man and funded his own staff: Swedish naturalist, Linnaeus’ pupil in fact, Dr Daniel Solander; and scientific illustrator Sydney Parkinson. Solander was the first university educated scientist to set foot on Australian soil.

Sir Joseph Banks ordered copper-plate engravings made of the plants collected on the first and second voyages around the world. Known as Banks' Florilegium, they were printed and published over 125 years later in 1900 in Illustrations of the Botany of Captain Cook's Voyage Round the World in H.M.S. Endeavour in 1768-71. (See full document of same on the Internet Archive). Some examples are shown below.

Photolithographs (30 x 50cm) of the copper-plate engravings in Illustrations of the Botany of Captain Cook's Voyage Round the World in H.M.S. Endeavour in 1768-71, Part 1-3, in 3 volumes (1900-1905). From left to right:

* Banksia serrata, Botany Bay.
* Clerodendrum floribundum, Palm Island.
* Dillenia alata, Endeavour River.
* Myrmecodia beccarii (Ant House Plant). Endeavour River.
* Barringtonia gracilis, Lizard Island.

James Matra’s Journal, Hawkesworth’s compilation, the Illustrations of the Botany of Captain Cook’s Voyage and many, many other significant journals and publications from the Age of Discovery are housed and available for viewing in the Special Collections at Eddie Koiki Mabo Library. Visitors are welcome between the hours of 9.30 am and 4.30 pm Monday to Friday.

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