Royal Mail will mark the 250th anniversary of one of the greatest voyages of discovery in history on August 16, with the Captain Cook set of six counter sheet stamps and the Endeavour Voyage miniature sheet of four.

Lieutenant James Cook set sail from Plymouth on August 26, 1768, on the first of his three famous voyages to the outer reaches of the known world. Also on board HMB Endeavour were nearly 100 men, including astronomers, artists and scientists.

The three-year expedition made scientific observations of the transit of Venus (across the face of the Sun) in Tahiti in 1769, circumnavigated and mapped New Zealand for the first time, made the first European contact with the east coast of Australia in 1770, and completed a circumnavigation of the globe in 1771.

In the process, it revealed unprecedented information (to European eyes) about the lands, peoples, flora and fauna of the Pacific, setting new standards for cartography and scientific enquiry.

The sheet stamps were designed by Howard Brown, and printed in litho by International Security Printers in sheets of 60, which yield se-tenant pairs. The miniature sheet, designed by Webb & Webb Design, was also printed in litho by ISP.

This is the third special issue this year to include 2nd class values, while £1.45 is the basic postage rate to Australia and New Zealand.

2nd class JOSEPH BANKS, NATURALIST

The ship’s botanist Joseph Banks, from a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the red-tailed tropicbird, Phaethon rubricauda, as illustrated by Sydney Parkinson, and the red passion flower, Passiflora aurantia, from an sketch by Parkinson finished later by Frederick Nodder.

2nd class THE ENDEAVOUR VOYAGE

The Chief Mourner of Tahiti and a scene with a canoe, from an illustration by Tupaia, the Polynesian navigator who joined the crew of Endeavour in Raiatea, Society Islands.

1st class CAPTAIN JAMES COOK

Captain James Cook, from a contemporary painting by Nathaniel Dance, and HMB Endeavour from Triumph of the Navigators, a modern painting by Robin Brooks.

1st class THE ENDEAVOUR VOYAGE

Drawings of their observations of the transit of Venus, in Tahiti in 1769, by Lieutenant James Cook and by the ship’s astronomer Charles Green, and a photograph of a traditional sextant.

£1.45 THE ENDEAVOUR VOYAGE

Illustration of the scarlet clianthus, Clianthus puniceus, by Sydney Parkinson, and a portrait of a Maori Chief with full facial moko (tattoo), engraved after a sketch by Parkinson.

£1.45 SYDNEY PARKINSON, NATURAL HISTORY ARTIST

Self-portrait of Sydney Parkinson, the ship’s official artist, and the blue-black grassquit, Volatinia jacarina, from an illustration by Parkinson.

 

MINIATURE SHEET

1st class CHARTING A COURSE

A map drawn by Lieutenant Henry Roberts showing the route taken by Endeavour around New Zealand, New Holland (Australia) and the East Indies.

1st class LIFE ON RAIATEA

The boathouse and canoes on Raiatea, in the Society Islands, after an illustration by Sydney Parkinson.

£1.45 MAPPING NEW ZEALAND

A Maori clifftop fort built on an arched rock in New Zealand, after an illustration by Sydney Parkinson.

£1.45 DISASTER AVOIDED

Making repairs to HMB Endeavour on the Endeavour River, in what is now Queensland, Australia, after the ship was damaged on the Great Barrier Reef.

 

OTHER PRODUCTS

The presentation pack, written by the author Nigel Rigby, explores the story of the voyage of Endeavour in detail.

A limited-edition coin cover is available in addition to the standard first day cover and stamp cards.

 

PRICES

Set of 6 stamps   £5.40

Miniature sheet   £4.24

Presentation pack   £10.15

Stamp cards  £4.95

First day cover (stamps)   £6.90

First day cover (mini sheet)   £5.51

Coin cover   £17.50     

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH   5/5

This was arguably the most important voyage of discovery ever made by a British ship

QUALITY OF DESIGN   2/5

The emphasis on contemporary illustrations is well justified, yet the set struggles for coherence

WOW FACTOR   2/5

The historical significance of many of the designs may be lost on casual viewers