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Endeavouring Banks: Exploring Collections from the Endeavour Voyage 1768–1771

Endeavouring Banks: Exploring Collections from the Endeavour Voyage 1768–1771


When English naturalist Joseph Banks (1743–1820) accompanied Captain James Cook (1728–1779) on his historic mission into the Pacific, the Endeavour voyage of 1768–1771, he took with him a team of collectors and illustrators. They returned with unprecedented collections of artefacts and specimens of stunning birds, fish and other animals as well as thousands of plants, most seen for the first time in Europe. They produced, too, remarkable landscape and figure drawings of the peoples encountered on the voyage along with detailed journals and descriptions of the places visited, which, with the first detailed maps of these lands (Tahiti, New Zealand and the East Coast of Australia), were afterwards used to create lavishly illustrated accounts of the mission. These caused a storm of interest in Europe, where plays, poems and satirical caricatures were also produced to celebrate and examine the voyage, its personnel and many ‘new’ discoveries.


Along with specimens and artefacts, contemporary portraits of key personalities aboard the ship, scale models and plans of Endeavouritself, scientific instruments taken on the voyage, commemorative medals and sketches, the objects (over 140) featured in this new book tell the story of the Endeavour voyage and its impact ahead of the 250th anniversary in 2018 of the launch of this seminal mission. Items separated in some cases for more than two centuries are brought together to reveal their fascinating history not only during but since that mission. Original voyage specimens will feature together with illustrations and descriptions of them, showing a rich diversity of newly discovered species and how Banks organized this material, planning but ultimately failing to publish it. Drawings of people and places visited during the mission are reproduced. And by comparing these voyage originals with the often stylized engravings later produced in London for the official account, this book investigates how knowledge gained on the mission was gathered, later revised and then printed in Europe.


The book focuses on the contribution of Banks’s often neglected artists – Sydney Parkinson, Herman Diedrich Spöring, Alexander Buchan as well as the priest Tupaia, who joined Endeavour in the Society Islands – none of whom survived the mission. These men illustrated island scenes of bays, dwellings, canoes as well as the dress, faces, possessions and ceremonies of Pacific peoples. Of particular interest, and only recently recognised as by him, are the original artworks of Tupaia, who produced as part of this mission the first charts and illustrations on paper by any Polynesian. The surviving Endeavour voyage illustrations and maps were the most important body of images produced since Europeans entered this region, matching the truly historic value of the plant specimens and artefacts seen alongside them in this handsome book.

  • Edited by Neil Chambers

    With a foreword by Sir David Attenborough and contributions by Anna Agnarsdóttir, Jeremy Coote, Philip J. Hatfield and John Gascoigne


    Hardback, 280 x 235 mm, 304 pages, 150 colour illus.
    PRICE: £40.00
    ISBN: 978 1 907372 90 2

  • In the press

    "A new book, Endeavouring Banks, gathers in its pages exquisite botanical drawings alongside an astonishing selection of ethnographic objects from the Endeavour’s haul."—The Telegraph (exerpt from the book, by Sir David Attenborough) 


    "A superbly assembled survey of the Endeavour collections … a splendid and worthy contribution to Enlightenment studies." —Literary Review


    "A lavish publication, with large format and fine images." —Journal of the History of Collections 


    “Handsome volume … a work of fine scholarship.” —International Journal of Maritime History


    "An inspiring tome" —NZ Gardener 


    "In 1771 the Endeavour returned with not only artefacts, specimens of birds, fish and other exotic animals and plants, but also with detailed written reports and portraits. This English language edition throughly discusses the findings." —Vind


    "Endeavouring Banks is beautifully illustrated: 143 objects heavy with the weight of  provenance. More powerful perhaps are the underlying resonances … it was a different world that the Endeavour had sailed into, in more than the physical sense." —World of Interiors 


    "Beautifully presented and detailed … an authoritative and high-quality book which will be enjoyed by many readers." —Journal of Historical Geography


    "Expert … well structured essays … production values are high." —Archives of Natural History 


    "This fascinating publication … gives insight into what it might have been like to explore the uncharted South Pacific." —Gardening Australia 


    "A handsome tome…glorious" —Australian Women's Weekly 


    "A lavishly illustrated account of the expedition" —Australian Geographic 


    "As informative as it is beautiful." —Blue Wolf Reviews

  • Awards

    Nominated for the 2017 William MB Berger Prize for British Art History

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