London: John Webber, 1788-92 & 1809 (1820). Two versions of Webber's print of Macao; the rarest Lifetime Issue colored by Webber himself & the Boydell Issue. The rare lifetime issue was self-published by Webber and is a soft ground etching. This is an extremely rare hand colored copy, which Sir Maurice Holmes states in his "Captain James Cook RN FRS, A Bibliographical Excursion" (1952) that the original drawings were "etched and coloured by himself". Impression mark 450 x 323 mm with large margins, 539 x 390 mm. With notations in pencil, quite possibly by Webber - "Pl.13" penciled in the top right corner, along with "1st Augt. 1788" in the lower right. Soft ground etching with hand color. Watermark J. Whatman. Joppien 3.372A.a.
The Boydell issue, published in John Webber's "Views in the South Seas", which has been called "the most striking publication resulting from Cook's expeditions". (Parsons Collection 136). Vide Cook's Last Voyage Vol. 3 Chap. 11. London. Pubd. April 1, 1809 by Boydell & Compy. No. 90 Cheapside. Impression mark 450 x 325 mm, on paper 500 x 363 mm. Colored aquatint. Light foxing in the margins and some offsetting from the accompanying text page, which is drawn from the published account of the voyage. Both the print and letterpress are watermarked J. Whatman 1820. Joppien & Smith 3.372A.b.
Webber was engaged as the official artist for Cook's third voyage, during which Cook discovered Hawaii & Alaska. Webber was more fully trained than any of the artists of the previous voyages, and he and Cook worked closely together to illuminate "the unavoidable imperfections of written accounts, by enabling us to preserve, and to bring home, such drawings of the most memorable scenes of our transactions, as could only be expected by a professed and skilled artist." (J. Cook & J. King, Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, London 1784, Vol I, p.5). Because he was there with Cook in the field, his paintings "constituted a new visual source for the study of history..." (Smith, Bernard, Art as Information. Sydney, 1978). Cook's ships were the first Western contact with the natives of Nootka Sound and the furs they traded with them were sold at a vast profit in Macao in the following year, 1779. Soon American and English ships were making annual trips to the Northwest Coast in search of "Sea Beaver" pelts.
After the publication of the official history, Webber issued a series of twelve splendid soft ground etchings produced between 1788 and 1792 and this print is one of those early issues. It is extraordinarily rare. The culmination of his long concentration on his sixteen subjects was finally issued as a book after his death by Mr. Boydell under the title "Views in the South Seas..." The proof reader did a poor job, with two mistakes on the title page, mistaking Webber's last name for James and Captain Cook's name as "Cooke". In this issue, which is also scarce, the plates are dated April 1, 1809, although the watermarks are nearly always later.
Only 16 views were published in the book - the two views of Macao indicate its significance in the East. Item #9137