A discourse upon some late improvements of the means for preserving the health of mariners. Delivered at the anniversary meeting of the royal society, november 30, 1776. By sir john pringle, baronet, president. Published by their order.
Small quarto, [iv], 44 pp. with the half-title, woodcut title device and headpiece, leaf C4 a cancel as usual; modern green quarter morocco.
London, Royal Society, 1776.
Published shortly after the second voyage, this is one of the most significant and one of the rarest of all the printed works relating to Cook’s voyages: the first appearance in print of Cook’s epoch-making account of the successful measures taken against scurvy on the first two voyages. There were several later versions and translations, but this original edition has long been acknowledged as a major rarity.
The paper on scurvy was read to the Royal Society by its president, Sir John Pringle – in the absence of Cook himself, then just beginning his final voyage – as the year’s Copley medal award, and immediately published in this form.
Pringle’s long presentation address, quoting directly from Cook and other sources, is followed by Cook’s paper and an extract from a letter by Cook to Pringle written from Plymouth Sound in July 1776. The paper subsequently appeared in the official account of the second voyage and in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. In 1783 a series of six of Pringle’s discourses at the annual presentations of the Copley medal was published in one volume.
The winning of the battle against scurvy was one of the most important achievements in the general field of exploration. It made possible the major voyages that followed. As Robert Hughes so aptly put it in The Fatal Shore: ‘malt juice and pickled cabbage put Europeans in Australia as microchip circuitry would put Americans on the moon…’.
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