Two Gems for the John Oxley Library

Recent functions at the State Library celebrated the acquisition of two rare first-edition publications relating to Captain James Cook’s voyage of discovery on HMS Endeavour 1768–1771 and early Queensland history. The first involved an evening viewing and talk in the John Oxley Library Reading Room for Queensland Library Foundation Partners, whose generosity made the acquisition possible.



The next day our wonderful Foundation Donors attended a morning tea, talk and viewing in the State Library's Board Room. These events were the culmination of many months of work, especially by Queensland Memory’s rare book experts Helen Cole and Christene Drewe and the Queensland Library Foundation's team of Sheila Collins, Kate Hall and Kylie Strudwick.

Thanks went to Brian Randall and Dianne Byrne for placing the acquisitions in context and explaining their historical significance to guests, Leif Ekstrom who has handsomely photographed the books, and David Ashe who has designed a series of postcards and bookmarks using Leif's images. A special thank you also to rare book collector and historian James McCourt who spoke about these acquisitions in the context of the other key publications relating to the Endeavour voyage.

The books acquired are the very first published account of that journey attributed to Midshipman James Magra titled A journal of a voyage round the world, in his Majesty’s ship Endeavour. In the Years 1768,1769,1770 and 1771; undertaken in pursuit of natural knowledge, at the desire of the Royal Society…with a dedication page to Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. This copy has a fine contemporary binding and was once held in the pacific collection of the Hawaiian property developer Donald H. Graham Jr.

The other is William Wales’ Astronomical Observations made in the voyages which were undertaken by order of his present Majesty, for making discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and successively preformed by Commodore Byron, Captain Carteret, Captain Wallis, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, Tamer, Swallow, and Endeavour…published in 1788. This is the rarest publication relating to Cook’s Endeavour voyage with only a handful of institutional copies existing in the world.  Formerly in the holdings of the Radcliffe Observatory at Oxford University the Wales includes a beautiful map engraved by James Basire of the east coast of Australia where Cook and the crew of the Endeavour spent over 100 days.

This acquisition demonstrates the Queensland Library Foundation’s important role in securing invaluable collections for the State Library of Queensland. A heartfelt thank you to our generous benefactors for these two beautiful rare gems.

Simon Farley

Manager, Arts Portfolio - Queensland Memory - State Library of Queensland


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The two new acquisitions are wonderful news. Will they be available for reading by the public? I did read from Cook's journal in the National Library. Last year I adapted 80 episodes from Cook's Journal which were broadcast by the local ABC radio in honour of the circumnavigation of Australia by the Endeavour Replica. Having so much research on hand I wrote my usual birthday books to three grandchildren on the First Voyage. The 12 year old's book was all about the difficulties of fixing longitude and talked about Galileo Galilee's suggestion of using the moons of Jupiter and how Cook and Mr. Green observed this in what became Cooktown. The second book was called 'The Earl of Pembroke' and traced the life of the Endeavour to it becoming the Lord Sandwich and its part in the American Revolution and its scuttling, then the Replica and then the Endeavour Space Shuttle which is right now being transported to a museum in California. The third book was 'Adventures in the Antipodes' and told the story of the stowaway, the Kidnapping in N,.Z. etc.I congratulate the State Library on acquiring these two rare books and I look forward to seeing them when next in Brisbane.Mareeba being so close to Cooktown does rather make the whole slice of history come alive. The more I read the more I am amazed at what this voyage achieved and how important it is to the early history of this State. Indeed Cook's Journal is our first history book! Sincerely Irene Shanks.

Thanks Irene, great to hear from you. These are very exciting acquisitions. They are beautiful rare books but also important for the historical information they contain. I agree with you...Cook's journal is marvelous and so is the journal of Sir Joseph Banks which is the great jewel of the Mitchell Library collection. This link takes you to the books as they appear on our catalogue: They are currently having boxes made for them but will shortly be available for viewing and research in the John Oxley Library Reading Room. If you are making a trip to Brisbane to see them please call us on 38407666 to ensure they will be available on the day you are here. Once the Solander boxes for these books are created they will be stored in our rare and restricted repository but will always be available for the public to see in the Reading Room under the supervision of library staff. Collection items stored in the rare and restricted repository have to be ordered into the Reading Room through our catalogue or by calling us on the number above to make the arrangement.Your adaptation of Cook's journal for broadcast sounds brilliant. I think your grandchildren are tremendously lucky to have a grandmother who creates birthday books for them...especially books based around Cook's first voyage and the subsequent history of the HMS Endeavour.Thankyou so much for your comment Irene. I look forward to meeting you in person in the future.RegardsSimon Farley