The Royal Society Medal, in commemoration of Captain Cook

Medal. Commemorative portrait medallion of Captain James Cook. D:43mm. Lewis Pingo. The Royal Society Medal, in commemoration of Captain Cook. Obverse: Uniformed bust of James Cook. Reverse: Fortune leaning upon a column, holding a rudder on a globe. Issued in London, Royal Society.


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Description

One of 322 silver specimens of the Royal 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).

Lewis Pingo (1743-1830) designed the medal which was struck for the Royal Society in commemoration of Captain Cook. This medal bears a profile portrait of Cook which resembles the Dance portrait rather than those by Hodges and Webber. Pingo was chief engraver to the Royal Mint.

Additional information
Date

1784

Author/Maker

Lewis Pingo

Material

Silver