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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Book plate from James Cook's Antarctic voyage sold for $3,737.50. Photo courtesy of Pacific Book Auction
Sailing far enough to tumble off the end of the earth was a myth explorers dismissed early on. Later, 18th century British seamen like Captain James Cook voyaged to the Pacific Ocean and resolved other brainteasers like vanishing continents and life in the Antarctic.

Cook was considered the greatest navigator, explorer, seaman and cartographer of his era. More importantly, he carefully kept journals as he circled the globe three times and contemplated places like New Zealand, Botany Bay, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Northwest Passage.

His journals enabled the rest of humankind to peek over his shoulder as he battled constant gales, heavy seas, icebergs and human sacrifice. You got to go with him as he explored the unexplored and answered questions about the character of mother earth.

The official accounts of Cook’s voyages from 1772 to 1775 form a set of three books with an atlas. “They’re the most important accounts of Pacific exploration ever done,” said Bruce MacMakin, vice president of cataloguing and appraisals for Pacific Book Auction Galleries, San Francisco. “But not the rarest.”

The huge interest in Cook’s travels called for the production of four editions of the set. Large numbers were produced, so they’re not scarce. Although the numbers decrease when print dealers cut out the engravings and frame and sell them as works of art

You can find the volumes in most rare book libraries, but probably not at flea markets. Even if you know nothing about old books, these old books are hard to miss. Their impressive bindings, size and engravings speak loud and clear.

The first set details Cooks voyage to Tahiti and his charting of New Zealand. The second set was a search for the great Antarctic continent. The final set compiled by Captain James King was a search for the Northwest Passage during which Captain Cook was clubbed and stabbed to death by the once friendly natives of Hawaii.

The atlas contains copper-engravings of Pacific islanders, coastal scenes of northwest America, artifacts, a large folding chart of the world, plus a lot more.

The complete set of Cook with Atlas went on the block on Dec. 4, 1997, at Pacific Book Auction Galleries in San Francisco. Estimated to sell for $12,000 to $18,000 the books hammered down at $12,650, plus a 15 percent buyer’s premium.

“In the past this same set sold for $18,000,” said MacMakin. “But this series came to us from Hawaii with condition problems. The humidity in the area had caused foxing (staining) which kept the price down. Plus the set included a mix of first, second and third editions.”

Individual copies of each volume also sold in the auction. Voyage 1 to Tahiti, second edition, brought $2,587.50. Voyage II to Antarctic, first edition, sold for $3,737.50. Volume III, Northwest Passage journey, first edition, brought $5,175.

Condition and edition are everything with old books. Tears, staining, and dog-ears can make the difference in the same book selling for $10 versus $100.

You’ll hear book collectors talk about their collections of first edition books. How can you tell the difference between a first and later edition?

“Look at the title page,” said MacMakin. “With many first edition books, the copyright notice on the back of the title page will match the date on the title page.”

Unfortunately, different countries handled title pages differently. So, the rule changes with countries and publishers.

Q. I often get questions about collector clubs and newsletters. I thought I’d include some updated info.

Buckeye Marble Collectors Club Goofus Glass Gazette
437 Meadowbrook Drive 9 Lindenwood Conn.
Newark, Ohio 43055 Sterling, Va. 20165

Depression Glass Daze Fry Society
Box 57 PO Box 41
Otisville, Mich. 48463 Beaver, Pa. 15009

Fiesta Club of America
Box 19134-S
Loves Park, Ill. 61132

Doorstop Collectors of America
2413 Madison Avenue
Vineland, N.J. 08630

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