ZIMMERMANN, Johann Heinrich, 1741-1805
Dernier Voyage du Capitaine Cook autour du monde
où se trouvent les circonstances de sa mort, publié en allemand par Henri Zimmermann témoin oculaire, & traduit avec un abrégé de la vie de ce navigateur célèbre, & des notes. Berne : Nouvelle Société Typographique, 1782. Octavo, recent half calf over marbled boards with contrasting morocco title label, lettered in gilt, later endpapers, pp. xvi, 200, a very good, clean copy.
The first French edition of one of the rarest accounts of Cook’s voyages, written from a first-hand perspective by Zimmermann, who sailed on the third voyage.
Heinrich Zimmermann was born near Speyer on the Rhine in 1741 and travelled through Europe looking for work from an early age, living in Geneva, Lyon and Paris. In 1776 he arrived in London, where he learned of plans fpr an expedition to search for a northwest passage from Asia to Europe being commanded by the then famous circumnavigator Cook. Zimmermann signed on as coxswain. Against explicit British Admiralty orders, he kept a small notebook where he recorded his observations during the voyage, written partly in German shorthand in case it was discovered.
The expedition sailed to the South Seas, and returned Omai to his home in Tahiti. (Omai had spent two years in England after joining Cook’s second voyage). It visited the islands of Hawaii in 1788, the first European ships to do so, and then sailed up to the Bering Strait in Alaska in an effort to explore the possibility of a passage to Europe. The expedition returned to Hawaii where Cook met with his untimely death, and under the command of Clerke sailed back to England. The results of the voayge were a military secret, closely guarded by the English naval officers, and Zimmermann knew that if he published his report it would cause an uproar. In the introduction he explains that while some of the secrets of the expedition do belong rightfully to Great Britain, he was not privy to these; that the details which he affords the reader in his account are simply truthful descriptions of the exotic lands he has visited; and that it is his duty to fellow seamen that he inform them of what lies on the far side of the world. Furthermore, Zimmermann presents, from a seaman’s perspective, his appreciation of the personal qualities of Cook as a commander and as a man, which provides a valuable comparison with the official account.
Writing on Zimmermann, Holmes says: ‘Both French editions are of great rarity and interest’; Davidson comments: ‘It is hard to predict the realization price for a copy if one were to come into the open market, as competition between collectors would be very keen’.
Beddie 1629, Forbes 47, Holmes 44; Kroepelien 1363
Provenance: Justin Godart (1871-1956), French politician, Lyon, his bookplate to front pastedown; John Howell, bookseller, San Francisco, his printed description c.1980 loosely enclosed.