1780 Cook Benard Antique Print Portrait of Omai 1st Polynesian to Visit England

Cartographer : Captain James Cook

  • Title  : Omai Amene en Angleterre par le Cap Furneaux
  • Date  : 1780
  • Condition: (A+) Fine Condition
  • Ref # : 16355
  • Size  : 10in x 8in (955mm x 205mm)


This finely engraved original antique print a portrait of Omai the first Tahitian to visit England after Cooks second voyage to the South Seas was engraved by Robert Benard after Webber for the French edition of Cooks voyages published in 1780.

In 1774, the first Polynesian to visit London travelled to England with the crew of Captain Cook's second Pacific voyage and became an overnight sensation. Seen as a living example of the 'Noble Savage', Omai as he was known, was discussed by scientists and philosophers, celebrated in all the best circles and written about in everything from poetry to pornography. He proved a lightning rod for European anxieties regarding imperialism, civilisation and the true nature of mankind. The artistic and literary legacy of Omai's encounter with Europe provides a fascinating insight into European culture in a moment of transition, when old certainties were collapsing and new ones were yet to form. Omai arrived at Portsmouth on 14 July 1774 as a crew-member on board HMS Adventure, captained by Tobias Furneaux. Taken immediately to meet Lord Sandwich, the First Lord of the Admiralty, he was then placed in the care of Joseph Banks and Dr Solander, both of whom he claimed to remember from their visit to Tahiti five years earlier. Three days later, on 17 July, he was presented to King George III and Queen Charlotte at Kew. It was at this introduction that Omai would reveal the grace and ‘natural’ good manners that first astounded and then delighted his audience. Once approved by the highest in the land, Omai’s career as a ‘social lion’ was assured. When Omai returned to the Pacific in 1776, many felt that the failure to convert him to Christianity was an important opportunity missed. 

Cook's Third Voyage (1776-1779) In the course of his first two voyages, Cook circumnavigated the globe twice, sailed extensively into the Antarctic, and charted coastlines from Newfoundland to New Zealand. Following these achievements, Cook's third voyage was organized to seek an efficient route from England to southern and eastern Asia that would not entail rounding the Cape of Good Hope. The search for such a Northwest (or Northeast) Passage had been on the agenda of northern European mariners and merchants since the beginning of European expansion in the late fifteenth century. England's growing economic and colonial interests in India in the later eighteenth century provided the stimulus for the latest exploration for this route.

Cook, again in command of the Resolution, was to approach the Northwest Passage from the Pacific accompanied by a second ship, the Discovery, captained by Charles Clerke. The ships left England separately, regrouped at Cape Town, and continued on to Tasmania, New Zealand, and Tahiti. The expedition then sailed north and made landfall at Christmas Island and the Hawaiian Islands. Cook continued northward and charted the west coast of North America from Northern California as far as the Bering Strait. He returned to Hawaii for the winter and was killed in a skirmish with natives on February 14, 1779. Upon Cook's death, Clerke took command of the expedition but died six months later. The ships returned to England in 1780 under John Gore, who had commanded the Discovery after Cook's death. From start to finish, the voyage had lasted more than four years. (Ref Tooley; M&B; Clancy)

General Description:
Paper thickness and quality: - Heavy and stable
Paper color: - off white
Age of map color: - 
Colors used: - 
General color appearance: - 
Paper size: - 10in x 8in (255mm x 205mm)
Plate size: - 10in x 7 1/2in (245mm x 190mm)
Margins: - 1/2in (12mm)

Margins: - Light age toning
Plate area: - None
Verso: - Light age toning