An ‘old sea dog’ donates Capt. James Cook’s journals to museum

Don Hope’s chance find in a Victoria bookstore decades ago has become the latest addition to the Maritime Museum of B.C. collection.

Now 90, Hope said he was in his 20s when a trip to the Haunted Bookshop in Victoria turned up a second-edition set of Capt. James Cook’s journals, published in 1785. The former merchant seaman and navy diver has donated the set to the museum, along with a book of charts and other items that came with it.

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Hope, who describes himself as “an old seadog,” said he was surprised when he came across the Cook material.

“I thought it was almost unfortunate that what I considered to be a very significant, valuable collection of Cook’s voyages was sitting in there,” he said. “I didn’t think the price was unreasonable, although it was pretty steep for those days.”

The cost was $60 — about two-thirds of his monthly income at the time.

The museum is grateful for Hope’s generosity, said associate director Brittany Vis.

“We have two sets of the 1785 published journals already, but the reason that this one is particularly interesting is, of course, the addition of the folio — which is a compilation of maps and charts and sketches that were done by artists on the boats.”

Cook was one of the first British explorers to chart the B.C. coast.

“He was in this area at the same time as Spanish explorers, Russian explorers, French explorers,” Vis said.

“There was lots of exploration happening on this coast at the time and he was in the mix there.”

Vis said the Hope donation has been sent for conservation to Meadland Bindery, a company in Brentwood Bay.

“The binding just needs a little bit of reinforcing and some of the pages also need a bit of reinforcing.”

The process involves a lot of time and expertise, so Vis doesn’t expect to have the material back for about six months.

Hope said his Cook items had sat on a basement bookshelf for years. “I was the only one that ever looked at them.”

He said time started to take its toll. “I was worried and concerned at the fact that the leather parts of the books were deteriorating. They were starting to give way at the seams.”

A flood in the basement helped convince him that the historic objects needed a new home. “I thought better that they go to some institution where they’re more appreciated and they’re looked after.”

He said the Maritime Museum was the logical place to him because it gives a needed profile to the region’s maritime heritage.

The museum is operating in space at Nootka Court that only has a small exhibition area. The move came after it had to give up its home in Bastion Square’s heritage courthouse building due to safety concerns; efforts to relocate to the CPR Steamship Building were unsuccessful.

“It’s been working out for us,” Vis said of the current location.

“But if there happened to be a larger location that fit all of our needs that came up, we would definitely explore that.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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