Banks and a Maori by Tupaia

This year marks 250 years since Captain James Cook’s ship the Endeavour set sail from Plymouth, and the British Library in London will host a major exhibition to mark the anniversary.

James Cook: The Voyages, running from 27th April until 28th August, will tell the story of Cook’s three great voyages through original documents, many of which were produced by the artists, scientists and seamen on board the ship.

New light shed on historic sailings

From Cook’s journal detailing the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle to handwritten log books, artwork and intricate maps, this exhibition will chart the three voyages, which spanned more than a decade, and shed new light on the experiences of people on the ship and the places visited.

Drawings by the Polynesian high priest and navigator Tupaia, who joined the first voyage at Tahiti and accompanied Cook to New Zealand and Australia, will be going on public display for the first time together, alongside works by expedition artists Sydney Parkinson, John Webber and William Hodges. 

Tupaia’s paintings include a series of depictions of Tahitian society and culture, as well as drawings from New Zealand and Australia.

The exhibition will also examine the scientific work of the expeditions and will feature some of the original natural history drawings made on the voyages, including the first European depiction of a kangaroo drawn by Sydney Parkinson, on loan from the Natural History Museum.

The British Library holds several collections of original maps, artworks and journals from the voyages. Alongside rare printed books and newly commissioned video content, the exhibition will seek to shed new light on encounters that ‘completed the outline of the known world and formed the starting point for the following two centuries of globalisation’.

The British Library welcomes groups of ten or more people and offers a 10% discount on a group visit to the James Cook: The Voyages exhibition.

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(Photo credit: British Library Board).