The British Library will display Captain James Cook's log books, artwork, specimens and maps in a major exhibition to mark 250 years since Cook's ship Endeavour set sail from Plymouth

To mark 250 years since Captain James Cook’s ship Endeavour set sail from Plymouth, the British Library in London will host a major exhibition,  James Cook: The Voyages, from 27 April to 28 August.

The exhibition 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.

Captain James Cook

Captain James Cook

From Cook’s journal detailing the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle to handwritten log books, stunning 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 in 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.

Captain Cook British Library Exhibition

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 distinguished collections of original maps, artworks and journals from the voyages and, 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.

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Exhibition highlights include:


  • Paintings depicting Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia by the Polynesian high priest and navigator Tupaia going on public display as a group for the very first time
  • James Cook’s handwritten journals for the second and third voyages, featuring his journal entry describing the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle
  • Specimens from the first voyage, such as the mouth parts of a squid on loan from the Royal College of Surgeons
  • The earliest complete surviving chart of New Zealand by James Cook
  • Expedition artist John Webber’s watercolour landscapes, including the first European depictions of Hawaii
  • Watercolour paintings of animals, including the first European depiction of a kangaroo by Sydney Parkinson, on loan from the Natural History Museum
  • Joseph Banks’ journal and landscape watercolours by William Hodges depicting the Antarctic for the first time on loan from the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
  • Jewellery, weaponry and musical instruments from Tierra del Fuego, Tahiti, New Zealand, Nootka Sound (Vancouver Island), Alaska and northern Russia on loan from Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge


James Cook: The Voyages is supported by PONANT Yacht Cruises & Expeditions and the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. For more information click here.