This journal was the first published account detailing the voyage of James Cook to the Pacific during 1768-1771. Despite the British Admiralty's mandate that no unofficial accounts be released, this book was printed just two months after the expedition returned. Published anonymously it has been attributed to James Magra (also known as Matra), an American midshipman on the expedition who later used details from the voyage to propose the establishment of a penal colony in Botany Bay. Magra's account provides descriptions and information about the people and places that Cook visited including Australia.
SignificanceJames Magra's popular account of James Cook's expedition to the Pacific in 1768-1771 was the first published account to be released after the ENDEAVOUR returned to England in 1771. Its description of Australia and Magra's knowledge of the continent was of great interest to the British government and 18th century society.
HistoryThis unofficial and anonymous publication was printed in 1771 only two months after HMB ENDEAVOUR returned from its voyage of exploration to the Pacific under the command of James Cook. The British Admiralty hoped to be the first to publish an account of the expedition’s findings and stressed that no other account be released. Magra's account was circulated some two years before the official narrative of the voyage was released by John Hawkesworth.
The book provides 'various occurrences of the voyage, with descriptions of several new discovered countries in the southern hemisphere' and supplied information on the inhabitants of the South Pacific including the Tahitians. It also portrayed Cook in a negative light, probably due to the fact Magra did not get on well with the Captain. Cook described Magra as 'one of those gentlemen, frequently found on board Kings Ships, that can very well be spared, or to speake more planer good for nothing'. The account proved to be popular and was printed in a second English edition and was also translated into German and French.
Some bibliographers have attributed this publication to ship's clerk Richard Orton, William Parry, Joseph Banks or Daniel Solander but evidence seems to point more strongly to James Magra. Magra changed his name in 1775 to Matra (his father had changed it from Matra to Magra in the 1730s).
The full title of the book is 'A Journal of a Voyage round the World, in His Majesty's Ship ENDEAVOUR, in the Years 1768, 1769, 1770 and 1771, Undertaken in Pusuit of Natural Knowledge, at the Desire of the Royal Society with Descriptions of several new discovered Countries in the Southern Hemisphere; and Accounts of their Soil and Productions; and of many Singularities in the Structure, Apparel, Cultures, Manners, Policy, Manufactures, etc of their Inhabitants. To which is added, A Concise Vocabulary of the Language of Otahitee'.