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Published: 07 August 2021

By Andy Ross

Captain Cook and the tapa cloth book

In the 18th Century, Captain James Cook ventured to the Southern Hemisphere, ostensibly on a search for scientific information but also on a secret journey to discover the fabled southern continent.

Nowadays the explorations of Captain Cook are not as favourably looked-upon as they once were but they were instrumental at the time in adding to knowledge. One small item from those voyages preserves a unique record from the Pacific. A few museums and libraries around the world hold a copy of  A Catalogue of the different specimens of cloth collected in the three voyages of Captain Cook to the Southern Hemisphere with a particular account of the manner of the manufacturing of the same in the various islands of the South Seas. This book is a unique record of tapa cloths, those fabrics made from pounded wood and bark. 

To see a copy follow this link and leaf through the digital book. If you enjoy tapa cloth head over to the Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Oregon to see their fabulous collection.