The Discovery of Tahiti

George Robertson

Illustrated by Robert Gibbings

Introduced by Oliver Warner

A vivid and lively account of the HMS Dolphin’s visit to Tahiti, featuring exquisite wood engravings by Robert Gibbings.


On 19 June 1767, the sea-weary crew of HMS Dolphin were the first Europeans to make landfall on the shores of Tahiti. They were in search of a large continent that was believed to exist in the southern Pacific. Instead, they had stumbled on an earthly paradise whose natural resources and inhabitants would save their life. This narrative, kept by the ship’s master, George Robertson, records an extraordinary encounter between cultures.

The crew of the Dolphin was fortunate in that the inhabitants of Tahiti received them – quite literally in some cases – with open arms. The Tahitians were eager to trade food for nails; in fact some of the English sailors later had to be disciplined for stealing nails out of the ship to barter. Early hostilities soon gave way to friendlier relations, with the sailors taking full advantage of the company of the island’s young women. The officers also befriended Purea, the island’s queen, who wept when the sailors departed; their gifts to her included: ‘two Turkeys, two geese, three guinea-hens, a cat big with kitten, some china, looking-glasses, glass bottles [and] shirts’.

Production Details

Quarter-bound in buckram with paper sides printed with a design by the artist

Set in Poliphilus

128 pages

Frontispiece and 10 black & white wood engravings

Coloured page tops

Plain slipcase

9˝ × 5¾˝ 

A voyage of discovery

This edition contains an introduction by the distinguished naval historian Oliver Warner, and engravings by Robert Gibbings. One of the foremost wood-engravers of the 20th century, Gibbings was responsible for the printing of Eric Gill’s The Canterbury Tales at the Golden Cockerel Press. His engravings, exquisite in detail, draw on his own voyages to Tahiti and the Polynesian islands.