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Plane table frame used by Captain James Cook

Object type
Surveying equipment

Object number

Surveyor's collapsible amber-coloured boxwood plane table frame [measuring or scientific instrument]. It has brass hinges at the four mitred corners and in the centre of the two facing sides, which allow it to fold down so that all its parts are aligned. One face of the frame is inscribed with graduated degree scales, 0 - 360 degrees, running clockwise and counter-clockwise. The other face is inscribed with two degree scales, 0 - 180 degrees, and 180 - 360 degrees. Both faces of the frame are inscribed with rules in inches, from 1-12 on the two shorter sides and 1-15 on the two longer sides. One face is decorated with an inscribed image of a sea creature. "M/2/62" has been written in permanent pencil on the inward-facing edge of the frame.

Collection name
Captain Cook Plane Table Frame collection

Collection statement of significance
This collection consists of a magnifier on a tortoiseshell mount housed in a silver case, a surveyor's plane table frame with rule and square protractor, in a boxwood frame with brass hinges measuring 34.2 x 41.1 cm., and a pair of late 18th century embroidered maps of the Eastern and Western hemispheres on silk backed with cotton and showing the tracks of Captain Cook's three Pacific voyages, 34.3 cm in diameter.

Each of these three objects attests to the significance of Captain James Cook and his voyages in the British, and subsequently the Australian imagination. The magnifier and plane table frame are excellent examples of the passion for Cook relics which begins at the sale before the mast of his effects and continues to the present day. The plane table frame's exhibition in the 1905 London exhibition (documented by a receipt and letter included in the lot) marks its role in the evolving portrayal of Cook as an imperial hero. The magnifier documents the role of William Bayly, assistant to the Astronomer Royal, who sailed on the second and third of Cook's voyages, and visited Australia twice. The embroidered maps are a very personal celebration of Cook, and a reminder of the limited avenues for expressing devotion available to the women who waited at home for their men to return from dangerous voyages.

Place made

Captain James Cook

Dr William Burney

Reverend Frederick G. Johnson

Associated organisation
Royal Academy
This naval academy at Gosport was run by members of the Burney family and later by Reverend Johnson at Guilford

Place used
Believed to have been used by Captain James Cook

Place used
New Zealand
Believed to have been used by Captain James Cook

Place used
South Pacific,
Believed to have been used by Captain James Cook

Place collected
Gosport, Hampshire, England
In the collection of Dr William Burney

Place collected
Guilford, Surrey, England
In the collection of Reverend Frederick George Johnson

Place used
London, England
Displayed at the 1905 London Naval, Shipping and Fisheries Exhibition

Period of use
1768 - 1780
By Captain James Cook

Wood, Brass

Width: 450mm
Height: 73mm
Depth: 12mm

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