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This is an exceptionally unique presentation of Kapa Cloth and a true piece of Hawaiian history.
This ornately boxed presentation is of 18th and 19th century Kapa / Tapa Cloth Specimens predominantly from the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) with some being collected from Captain Cook’s third and final voyage. The samples presented in the album show the extraordinary variety of kapa made in the 1700-1800s in Hawaii. It is titled Hawaiian Barkcloth, Being a Select Series of 18th & 19th Century Kapa Samples from The Sandwich Islands.
It is presented in half tan calf over marbled boards which is a large art box, red and green gilt morocco title-pieces, with a printed title page. There are 64 folders with 129 examples of kapa or tapa cloth, including 54 full-page and 45 mounted examples. Many of these samples were bought back from Cook’s Voyage as well as subsequent other voyages during the 19th century. It also includes a reference work In Cook’s Wake / Tapa Treasures from the Pacific published in 2018 by NLA Publishing. At least 20 of the samples are identical or near-so to the samples in Alexander Shaw’s A Catalogue of the Different Specimens of Cloth Collected in the Three Voyages of Captain Cook to the Southern Hemisphere.. (London 1787)
Tapa (Kapa in Hawaiian) is cloth made from the bast or internal part of the bark of some trees. The bast would be immersed in water and beaten to crush and release the fiber. They would use beaters with different engravings or imprints that would creat patters and designs into the cloth.
In Hawaii, the kapa was used to make traditional clothing including malo (loincloth, pa’u (women’s skirts), and kihei (shawls). (cf. Kooijman, 1988: 24) Some of the trees used wer the Chinese Mulberry, breadfruit, pipturus (mamaki), and other local wild species. Local plant pigments would be used to provide a range of colors to the cloth.
The term Tapa originated in Tahiti and the Cook Islands. This was were Captain Cook became the first European to collect the cloth and introduce it to the rest of the world. The cloth was made and used by the English, French, and American whalers in the 19th century.
Louis Lemaire Gallery in Paris, 1920s; Sold to the Helmut Zak Collection in Switzerland.