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state library of queensland
John Oxley Library

Two Gems for the John Oxley Library

By JOL Admin | 20 September 2012

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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