A catalogue of the different specimens of cloth


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A catalogue of the different specimens of cloth
collected in the three voyages of Captain Cook,
to the Southern Hemisphere …

London: Printed for Alexander Shaw, 1787
Grimwade Collection
Rare Books Collection
University of Melbourne Library

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Rare Books Collection, University of Melbourne Library

This catalogue of specimens of Pacific bark cloth, which is a hybrid between printed book and artefact, is a bounty of historical information.

The making and dyeing of bark cloth are artforms practised throughout the islands of the Pacific. The cloth is used for many purposes, including clothing. This book contains genuine examples of cloth and other organic materials from Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii and Jamaica, all collected during the three voyages made by Captain James Cook, with printed commentary and handwritten annotations. Many of the samples were collected by James King, an officer on Cook’s third and last voyage, during which Cook was killed in Hawaii. Some samples are accompanied by a story of how they were traded or otherwise acquired.

The book was published in London in an edition of only 30 or 40 copies, and no two copies are the same. This particular one belonged to Melbourne businessman and philanthropist Sir Russell Grimwade (1879–1955), who is perhaps best remembered for securing Captain Cook’s Cottage for Melbourne. Grimwade’s collections of books, artworks and family papers (now held in the Baillieu Library, Ian Potter Museum of Art and University of Melbourne Archives respectively) reflect his keen interest in British exploration and settlement of Australia.

Teaching ideas

The University of Melbourne’s curriculum is rich and varied, and changes from year to year. For more teaching ideas, contact a collection manager.

Conservation Research and Object-Based Learning

Conduct a detailed study of bark cloth in the context of the history, manufacture, value and use of traditional and modern materials, their properties and behaviour, and their complex chemical and physical deterioration processes.

Technical Examination and Documentation

Visually examine and document a book approved by the Rare Book curators in the Baillieu Library, using normal and ultraviolet light, and document your observations to produce a condition report.


Explore issues relating to context, disruption, authenticity, legal standing, development, reinvention, identity and minority status in the preservation of cultural material of the Pacific. Understand the importance of material culture in people’s lives.

Literature, Ecology, Catastrophe

Place A catalogue of the different specimens of cloth in an understanding of relations between literature, science and natural history.

Historicising the Colonial Mythscape

Engage with archival and cultural materials to understand the intersection of archival, political and literary documentation in disclosing new perspectives on key historical events, relating especially to themes of national amnesia, memory and memorials.

The Australian Imaginary

Think about colonialism and colonial writing in Australia, modes of Australian social realism, the emergence of an Australian modernism, ways of representing region, suburb and city, postcolonialism in Australia, ‘multicultural’ writing, and Indigenous literature.

Racial Literacy: Indigeneity and Whiteness

Understand modes of race representation through A catalogue of the different specimens of cloth.

Global Literature and Postcolonialism

Use examples from the Grimwade Collection to discuss themes such as civilisation, cultural encounter, and interracial conflict and desire.

Society and Environments

Examine A catalogue of the different specimens of cloth to think critically and rigorously about the relationship between the social and natural worlds.

To learn more, visit the Rare Books Collection website.


Ian Morrison, [A catalogue of the different specimens of cloth], in Chris McAuliffe & Peter Yule (eds), Treasures: Highlights of the cultural collections of the University of Melbourne, Melbourne University Publishing, 2003, p. 48.

Further reading

Rachel Kent, Art, industry and science: The Grimwade legacy: Works of art from the Russell and Mab Grimwade Bequest, University of Melbourne Museum of Art, [1997?].

John Poynter & Benjamin Thomas, Miegunyah: The bequests of Russell and Mab Grimwade, Melbourne: Miegunyah Press, 2015.

Works of art from the Russell and Mab Grimwade Bequest: The University of Melbourne Art Collection, Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, 1989.