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Fragmente uber Capitain Cooks letze Reise und sein Ende [in] Göttingisches Magazin der Wissenschaften und Litteratur. Herausgegeben von Georg Christoph Lichtenberg und Georg Forster
Gottingen: bei Johann Christian Dieterich, 1780. 6 parts (Stücke) bound in two volumes, small octavo, with 10 plates (including 5 folding plates: one on blue paper and one folding sheet of music); a fine set in later blue marbled boards, black labels, a little chipped at extremities. Forster on the third voyage and Cook's death. First edition: the entire first series of this very important journal which, among many firsts, includes Georg Forster's important report on Captain Cook, 'the earliest authentic and substantial information concerning Cook's Third Voyage, his discovery of Hawaii, and his death at Kealakekua…' (Forbes). Forster co-edited the Göttingisches Magazin with the Anglophile scholar Lichtenberg, whose own biography of Cook, subsequently published as a separate work, appears here. The importance of this volume to Cook's third voyage is remarkable, including as it does three important biographical studies and an important engraved portrait, as well as the first scientific notice of the natural history of Hawaii (Georg Forster's "Beschreibung des rothen Baumlaufers von der Insul O-Waihi" (pp. 346-51), an ornithological treatise which Forbes notes as 'the earliest scientific notice on any aspect of the natural history of Hawaii'). The set also includes both parts of Georg Forster's extremely early account of Tahiti, in part based on the Spanish voyages to Tahiti in the 1770s, and the most significant of the bare handful of contemporary reports to take notice of the voyages of Don Juan de Langara y Huarte and Don Domingo Buenechea, commanders of two of the three Spanish voyages to the region in the 1770s. The portrait of Cook is after the Dance portrait (first published in 1779) and newly engraved by D. Berger. This is one of the earliest portraits of Cook ever issued: it was preceded, of course, by the Dance/Sherwin original, and by an inferior portrait issued with the Westminster Magazine for January 1780 (known to us because Johann Forster here complains to readers of the Göttingisches Magazin that it was a poor likeness at best). The most significant inclusion is Georg Forster's "fragment" on the life of Cook, the first serious biography ever attempted and the only significant biographical document attempted by one of his fellow voyagers. Prior to Forster's attempt, there had really only been brief newspaper and journal reports, most if not all of which openly plagiarised from each other (even Lichtenberg's effort in one of the earlier issues here is evidently cobbled together from newspaper accounts). Forster's account is a very different proposition. It appeared before the two earliest separately published firsthand narratives of the voyage, those by Rickman and Zimmermann; indeed Zimmermann's book, apparently written at Forster's suggestion, draws upon the Fragmente. That the publication dates from after the return of the Resolution and Discovery in September 1780 is shown by the fact that Forster names Zimmermann and Barthel Lohmann as the two members of the expedition whom he had personally interviewed. As well as reports from these actual participants in the voyage, Forster, who sailed as a naturalist on the second voyage, benefited from his own knowledge of Cook and the Pacific in compiling the Fragmente. After Forster's return to Germany following his involvement in Cook's second voyage, he had continued to take a close interest in Pacific exploration, editing and translating a number of German texts on the subject. He enjoyed a considerable reputation in scholarly circles, and his standing is high today as 'the only man to travel with Cook who embraced the whole critical program of the Enlightenment, and probably the most intelligent and farsighted of them all' (Bernard Smith, in Fisher & Johnston, p. 183). The remaining issues of the Göttingisches Magazin contain a mass of articles of literary, philosophical, musical and scientific interest. Each annual issue contains six parts. Publication lapsed in 1784, but resumed briefly in 1785 when a fourth issue containing just two parts appeared. Although this is a very important source, it is not recorded by Beaglehole, Beddie or Holmes, though the latter makes a passing reference to it, ignoring the Forster essay, in a note about Lichtenberg's life of Cook (44n). As O'Reilly and Reitman point out, given that Forster conducted serious interviews of two men on the voyage, and managed to piece together an authentic narrative of the voyage and the circumstances of Cook's death, it is surprising that this important account does not figure in any bibliography of Cook.
      [Bookseller: Hordern House Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2014-07-29           Check availability:      Biblio    

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