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Epic voyage . . . Bill Nye, of Adventure Books, with all four volumes of A Voyage to the Pacific, published between 1781 and 1785, which chronicle Captain James Cook's third and final voyage. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

A 230-year-old collection of books that document Captain James Cook’s third voyage are as attractive as they are unique, according to the Oamaru book store owner who is selling them.

Bill Nye, of Adventure Books, has the complete set of four volumes of A Voyage to the Pacific, three of which are penned by Cook and Captain James King, who helped Cook on his final voyage.

The books, published between 1781 and 1785, are still in their original 18th Century bindings and are valued at $12,000.

They give a dramatic account of the voyage around the Pacific between 1776 and 1780, and feature maps, engravings and charts relating to the voyage.

What makes the set unique is that while volumes one, three and four are the official account of the voyage, volume two is what Mr Nye describes as a “rogue” journal, based on the narrative of Lieutenant John Rickman, titled Journal of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage.

The unofficial account was written and produced despite the fact those who were part of the voyage were instructed not to by the Admiralty.

“It is unique,” Mr Nye said.

“Especially with Rickman’s volume two, because most of the full volumes after that were just the three – two by Cook and one by King.”

The books are bound with half calf leather, and feature marbled boards, a ribbed spine with red title labels and thick, laid paper.

Mr Nye, after consulting local bookbinder Michael O’Brien, discovered early repairs were made to volume four between 1806 and 1808, as the first rear endpaper and pastedown were replaced by thinner and inferior wove-paper – a hallmark of the advent of paper mechanisation.

Rebacking repairs were done on all four books, retaining their original spines, boards and bindings.

After extensive research, Mr Nye revealed his books were sold in 1808 and remained in England until they were sold abroad.

A man of Scottish ancestry who lived in Otago sold them to a Dunedin book collector, who then sold them to Mr Nye through an auction.

He has had two collectors place bids on the books, and expects them to sell quickly.

Learning more about the books had been special, Mr Nye said.

is exploring the books. It’s like a detective story – you try finding out about the publication, the history and its provenance through time.

“It a real privilege to handle them and enjoy the engravings in the books. It’s really fulfilling and exciting for me to make sure they go to a good home, where people are going to enjoy and preserve them, and appreciate them, because they they have travelled through time to now.

“It’s a thrill to be able to pass them along.”