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Three-Part World Map From the Encyclopedia Britannica Showing the Voyages of Cook and Phipps to the Poles

This tri-partite world map featured in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The map shows the world divided in three: the North and South Pole on Polar projections, with a cylindrical projection of the tropics at the bottom. 

The South Pole projection is on the left, showing the region radiating around the pole to the Tropic of Capricorn. The tips of South America and Africa just peek out from the rim, while New Holland and New Zealand are also labeled. At the center of the projection, however, is nothing except for criss-crossing tracks of ships, those of the Resolution and Adventure. At the center of the ships' transits is only a "Southern Icy Ocean."

The North Pole projection is more dominated by land, with the much of North America, Europe, and Asia showing, along with North Africa. However, like the South, the pole itself is covered only with a "Northern Icy Ocean". A ship's track is also shown here, this time that of Commodore Constantine John Phipps.

Running below the circular maps is a cylindrical projection showing the latitudes missing from the polar projections, the "Torrid Zone or Tropical Regions of the World". Unusually, the Pacific Ocean is placed at the center, the better to highlight the "New discoveries in the Pacific Ocean or South Sea." The map's purpose is to show the achievements of recent exploration, thus the Pacific is dotted with islands that only recently had become familiar to readers of voyage accounts.

The South Pole and Cook

This map was originally created between the second and third voyages of James Cook, the most famous and celebrated of all explorers. His fame in Britain, but also throughout Europe, was unparalleled for the time and would only augment after his death in Hawaii in 1779, on his third voyage. On his first voyage, from 1768-1771, Lieutenant Cook led his crew to observe the Transit of Venus and helped introduce Europe to the island paradise of Tahiti, forever changing how Europeans viewed the Pacific Islands.

This map highlights the second voyage (1772-5), however, which was dispatched with the intention of settling once and for all the question of a Southern Continent. The recently-promoted Commander Cook sailed in the Resolution, while his second-in-command, Tobias Furneaux, accompanied in the Adventure. The ships circled the world at an extreme southern latitude, one of the first voyages to cross the Antarctic Circle. Furneaux departed for New Zealand and then Britain, but Cook stayed in the South, restocked at Tahiti, and then went south again and eventually stopped at Easter Island, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu. Some of these are labeled in the map at the bottom. He then rounded Cape Horn, explored the South Atlantic, and then headed home via South Africa. The Southern Continent, imagined to cover a huge area, had been reduced to mere myth.

Cook is not the only explorer mentioned on the map. Dates from the seventeenth century and Dutch toponyms in New Holland remind us that ships of the Dutch East India Company frequently were wrecked or blown near the Australian shore more than a century before Cook encountered the eastern side of the continent. Similarly, the Straits of Magellan references the first recorded European to venture there. Finally, there is an "Isle discovered by Kerquelin" in the Southern Indian Ocean, a reference to the Kerguelen Islands. French explorer Yves Joseph de Kerguelen de Tremarec discovered the islands in 1772. Cook visited them on his third voyage, in 1776, but they were clearly well-publicized prior to his leaving, as they are included here.

The North Pole and Phipps

Cook's fame is massive, yet other explorers also gained notoriety in this period. One of them was Constantine John Phipps. Phipps was a career Royal Naval officer who served in the French & Indian War and the American Revolution. In June 1773, Phipps led the Racehorse and Carcass on a voyage to the North Pole, the track of which is shown here. With Phipps in the Racehorse was Olaudah Equiano, the abolitionist. The Carcass was commanded by the fantastically named Skeffington Lutwidge, who had as a midshipman one Horatio Nelson. It was on this voyage that Nelson had a not-so-close encounter with a polar bear, a story that would be exaggerated into a perilous tale of close combat when Nelson later achieved fame as Britain's premier naval strategist and savior.

The voyage did not discover previously unknown lands or make it to the North Pole, but Phipps' published account was the first to describe the polar bear, as well as the ivory gull. Phipps, an Irishman, became Lord Mulgrave in 1775 and served as a Lord of the Admiralty. He retired to land after the American Revolution and died young, at 48, in 1792.

Encyclopedia Britannica in Britain, Ireland, and America

The map first appeared in several editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the oldest English-language encyclopedia still in production. The first edition was released in serial pamphlet form from 1768 to 1771; when bound it filled three volumes. This first edition's section on geography included several maps, all engraved by Andrew Bell. Bell was the engraver of all the illustrations for the original Encyclopedia, while the printing and fundraising was done by Colin Macfarquhar and the writing and research by William Smellie. All three were Scots and the Encyclopedia was published in Edinburgh for its first six editions, or until 1826.

The second edition (1777-1784) expanded to ten volumes, and the geography article was significantly lengthened. The plates also multiplied to 340, and it is in the second edition that this particular tri-part map debuted; this map is plate 213, as seen in the upper right corner. Andrew Bell is listed as the engraver in the bottom right corner of the second edition states.

The map was also in the third Edinburgh edition (18 volumes, 542 plates; 1788-1797). This edition was pirated by James Moore in Dublin, but the map in the Dublin edition has no engraver included. Additionally, the third edition was reprinted and slightly expanded (21 volumes (with 3 volume supplement), 595 plates; 1789-1798, supplement in 1803) by the American publisher Thomas Dobson, who also released the first Hebrew Bible printed in the United Sates.   

The map was also reprinted, in a slightly altered state, in several compilations of Pacific voyage accounts. The new state updated the northern polar projection to include Cook's third expedition to find the Northwest Passage (1776-9) and added decorative scrolls and cartouches around the titles. For example, it was in Hervey's revised edition of The New System of Geography (London: J. Johnson and G & T Wilkie, 1785) and New Discoveries Concerning the World (London: J. Johnson, 1788). 

Robert D. Arner, Dobson's Encyclopaedia: The Publisher, Text, and Publication of America's First Britannica, 1789-1803 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991)Thomas Melville Perry and Dorothy Francis, compilers, A Guide to Maps of Australia in Books Published 1780-1830 (Canberra: ANU, 1996)