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The Cook Voyages Encounters by Janet Davidson

James Cook first sighted Aotearoa in 1769 and it was the first of his three voyages to New Zealand. During their encounters the crew of his ships and indigenous people did not share a language so trade became a key form of communication. This is how a wide range of what used to be called artificial curiosities, found their way to private collections in other parts of the world.


These curiosities were works of human manufacture from exotic locations including adze, bowls, cloaks, combs, fishing hooks, hei tiki, weapons and more. Over the years, many of these items were returned to New Zealand to be held at Te Papa in Wellington.


This comprehensive guide to the objects associated with the voyages of James Cook held at our national museum is a treasure trove of information. It was published to mark the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific and his arrival in New Zealand in 1769.


Hundreds of images are accompanied by accessible writing by renowned archaeologist Janet Davidson. Most of what is known about the voyages was recorded at the time by those on the ships including diaries and logs. The Cook Voyages Encounters includes many prints and paintings from Te Papa’s art collection as well as engravings documenting the Cook voyages. This was a time when photography was unknown and artists were relied on to depict scenes, people and curiosities.

This is undeniably, an important book documenting for the first time the entire collection of Maori, Pacific and Native American objects associated with the voyages.

Reviewer: Andrea Molloy

Te Papa Press, RRP $65.00

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