Silver commemorative medallion of Captain James Cook in commemoration of his third and final voyage.

Silver; Diam: 43mm; Obverse: Uniformed bust of James Cook; Reverse: Fortune leaning upon a column, holding a rudder on a globe
Designed by: Lewis Pingo (1743-1830) - chief engraver, Royal Mint

This medallion was issued in London by the Royal Society in 1784 and is one of 322 silver specimens of the Society’s formal memorial to the great navigator. Fellows of the Royal Society were entitled to a free bronze medal, while silver and gold issues were available by subscription only; some were reserved for presentation. L. Richard Smith (in The Royal Society Cook Medal, Sydney, 1982) has suggested a probable final minting figure of 22 gold, 322 silver and 577 bronze medals. An engraving of the medal was printed on the title-page of the second and third editions (and some copies of the first) of the official account.

The commissioning of this medal was due above all else to the efforts of Sir Joseph Banks, who supervised ‘the minting and distribution of the Royal Society Cook medal as a personal task coincident with the publication of the narrative of the tragic third voyage’ (H.B. Carter, Sir Joseph Banks, 1988, p. 168). Cook’s European reputation is borne out by several letters to Banks from the Continent requesting specimens of the medal, including one from Bougainville, who wrote in June 1785 to remind Banks that as a member since 1756 he felt entitled to one (see The Banks Letters, ed. W.R. Dawson, 1958, p. 122).

The profile portrait of Cook on the medallion resembles the Dance portrait rather than those by Hodges and Webber.