Making new “Friends”: A generous gift from the Friends of the Oakton Library

December 21, 2023
by Megan Scauri
Title page of volume IV of A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about an early Jewish bookseller in New York City, Benjamin Gomez, illuminating the details of his life that could be discerned from within the pages of the books he published and sold at his shop on Maiden Lane. As fate would have it, a public library in Virginia received a donation of antique books for their “Friends of the Library” sale, and as they researched the individual titles, they found one that had been published by Benjamin Gomez – and happened upon my blog post.

The book is A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean; for making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere: performed under the direction of Captains Cook, Clerke, and Gore, In the Years 1776, 1778, 1779, 1789, published in 1796 by Benjamin Gomez in New York. It is the first expanded American edition of Cook’s Third Voyage, published in four volumes, containing many beautifully illustrated plates, including some folding plates. This edition was preceded only by a single volume edition in 1783, and an abridged edition in 1792. The additional material found within these four volumes includes expanded text detailing “The Life of Captain Cook” at the end of volume IV, as well as the plates that had been originally published in the folio atlas of the 1784 English edition.

Spines of the four volume set of A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean

While not holding particular significance for Jewish history beyond its printer, this book was one of the most important publications detailing European exploration in the Americas at the time of its publication. In this third voyage, Captain Cook was attempting to locate the mythical Northwest Passage, but he and his crew instead eventually found themselves in the Hawaiian islands. For more about Captain Cook and his infamous demise, check out this page from Hawai’i’s Bishop Museum.

We are so grateful to the Friends of the Oakton Library in Oakton, Virginia, for donating this precious and historically important book to the American Jewish Historical Society. It joins its fellow Gomez-published titles for future researchers to learn from and enjoy, and enriches our shelves by its presence.

Learn more about AJHS library collections, and support them here!