Cook's mementos

Captain James Cook's widow, Elizabeth, cherished mementos of her husband's life, until her own death in 1835. Like so many army or navy widows, Elizabeth also carefully preserved items from her husband's uniform, including his dress sword and shoe buckles. Long after the official period of mourning for her husband's death, Elizabeth Cook continued to wear a cameo-style memorial ring. So long in fact, that she was still wearing it in a portrait painted of her aged in her eighties. Many of these artefacts survive and are held by the Library, including his ammunition belt.

Possibly the memento which evokes the greatest response almost two-and-a half centuries later is the waistcoat made from Tahitian tapa, or bark, cloth. Cook brought the cloth back from his second voyage through the Pacific and it was embroidered by his wife during his fateful third voyage. When Cook did not return from the voyage, the waistcoat remained unfinished. The Library also holds a fascinating Collection of Specimens of Bark Cloth Collected in the different Voyages of Capt. Cook to the South Sea (1787).

Another intriguing object is a small, coffin-shaped, carved wooden ditty box with a lid which swivels open to reveal a tiny naive painting of Cook's death and a lock of his hair. This little relic was carved by sailors on Cook's last ship, HMS Resolution, as a keepsake for his wife.

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> See printed plates from Cook's 3rd voyage presented to Mrs Cook by the Admiralty in memory of her husband after his death catalogue link