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An Exhibition of Material from the Rare Book Collection
Monash University Library

14 October - 29 November 1993

Exhibition and catalogue by Richard Overell, Rare Books Librarian,
Monash University Library


This Exhibition has been organised to mark the Year of the Indigenous Peoples.

The items on display give some idea of the resources available in the Monash University Library Rare Book Collection. The illustrations range from those made for Cook’s Third Voyage (see item 3) and for the First Fleet Journals of Governors Phillip (items 4 & 5) and Hunter (item 6), through the illustrations in the explorers journals, travel accounts, and emigrants manuals, to the late nineteenth century works of ethnography and anthropology. The catalogue attempts to place the works in their contemporary context, the intention being to encourage students and academics to refer to these primary documents for their research.

The books in which these illustrations occur are valuable sources of first-hand information on the Aborigines. The accounts were often written by men who had the aim of Christianizing and assimilating them, but they were also observers influenced by the nineteenth century ideal of scientific accuracy. In most cases they were describing, as exactly as they could, the customs and habits of the natives from close personal observation. The details they provide are usually the only surviving fragments of cultures which in most cases no longer exist.

The Monash University Library is constantly adding to its collection of early Australiana. This is necessary to support the teaching and research of Australian cultural studies, history and literature being undertaken in the History and English Departments, and especially in the recently established National Centre for Australian Studies. However, this Exhibition would not have been as representative as it is without material from the collection of Sir Robert and Lady Price; these items are marked in the catalogue with an asterisk. Sir Robert Price was the Chairman of the CSIRO from 1970-77 and was on the Council at Monash University from 1977 to 1982. He has generously agreed to make a bequest of his fine collection of early Australiana to the Monash University Library Rare Book Collection.

I wish to thank Dr. Bain Attwood of the Monash University History Department for agreeing to open the Exhibition; and Lorraine David for her usual willing assistance.

Richard Overell

Rare Books Librarian.


  1. A Collection of Voyages. In Four Volumes. Containing I. Captain William Dampier's Voyages round the World ... (London, James and John Knapton, 1729) Vol. I
  2. The earliest description of the Australian Aborigines by an Englishman was that given by William Dampier in his account of a voyage round the world, from 1679 to 1691. During the course of this he landed on north-western Australia, at King Sound, on 5 January 1688. He and his men stayed until 12 March. Dampier described the land and the aborigines. Of the country he wrote.

    "New Holland is a very large tract of land. It is not yet determined whether it is an island or a main continent; but I am certain that it joyns neither to Asia, Africa, nor to America." (p. 463)

    Dampier's statement concerning the natives is now seen as rather more tendentious,

    "The inhabitants of this country are the miserablest People in the world. The Hodmadods of Monomatapa, though a nasty people, yet for wealth are gentlemen to these; who have no houses and skin garments, sheep, poultry and fruits of the earth, ostrich eggs &c. as the Hodmadods have: and setting aside their humane shape, they differ but little from brutes." (p. 464)

  3. HAWKESWORTH, John (ed.) An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the order of His Present Majesty for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere ... by Captain Cook, ... in three volumes. (London, W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1773) Vol. III
  4. The Endeavour sailed into Botany Bay on 28 April 1770. The crew sighted four small canoes, each with one man aboard, "very busily employed in striking fish with a long pike or spear." (p. 492) The boat passed within a quarter of a mile of the men, but, "possibly being deafened by the surf, and their attention wholly fixed upon their business," the aborigines neither saw nor heard them.

    The ship anchored "abreast of a small village." A woman came out of the woods, followed by three children. "She often looked at the ship, but expressed neither fear nor surprise: ... she kindled a fire, and the four canoes came in from fishing. The men landed, and having hauled up their boats, began to dress their dinner, to all appearance wholly unconcerned about us, though we were within half a mile of them." (p. 492)

    After dinner, the Endeavour's boat was put out to go ashore to get water. The crew hoped the natives would continue to pay them scant attention but "as soon as we approached the rocks two of the men came down upon them to dispute our landing, and the rest ran away. Each of the two champions was armed with a lance about ten feet long, and a short stick which he seemed to handle as if it was a machine to assist him in managing or throwing the lance: they called to us in a very loud tone, and in a harsh dissonant language. ... they brandished their weapons, and seemed resolved to defend their coast to the uttermost, though they were but two and we were forty." (pp. 492-3)

    Cook commented, "I could not but admire their courage."

    For Parkinson's illustration of the two Aborigines, see item 59.

  5. "A Man of Van Diemen's Land. A Woman of Van Diemen's Land" in ANDERSON, George William (ed.) A New, Authentic, and Complete Collection of Voyages Round the World undertaken and performed by Royal authority. Containing a new ... account of Captain Cook's ... Voyages (London, Alex. Hogg, [1784])
  6. In January 1777, during Cook's third voyage to the south seas, he landed at Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land. He and his crew spent some time ashore getting supplies of water, and on the 28th they encountered a group of male Aborigines,

    "They approached us without betraying any marks of fear, or rather with the greatest confidence imaginable; none of them having any weapons except one, who held in his hand a stick about two feet long and pointed at one end. They were quite naked, and wore no ornaments unless we consider as such, some large punctures in different parts of their bodies, some in straight and others in curved lines. The men were of middle stature but rather slender. Their skin and hair were black; and the latter as woolly as that of any native of Guinea; but they were not distinguished by remarkable thick lips, nor flat noses. On the contrary, their features were far from being disagreeable. ... Most of them had their hair and beards smeared with a red ointment, and some also had their faces painted with the same composition." (p. 424) The illustration on the dust wrapper of item 58, taken from a portrait by Petit of one of the Tasmanian natives seen during Baudin's visit to Van Diemen's Land in 1802, clearly shows the "red ointment".

    Later a group of women came, "some with children on their backs, and some without children. The former wore a kangaroo skin fastened over their shoulders, the only use of which seemed to be, to support their children on their backs, for it left those parts uncovered which modesty directs us to conceal. Their bodies were black, and marked with scars like those of the men; from whom, however they differed, in having their heads shaved; some of them being completely shorn, others only on one side, while the rest of them had the upper part of their heads shaved, leaving a very narrow circle of hair all round." (p. 424)


  7. "Natives of Botany Bay" in PHILLIP, Arthur. The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay. 2nd ed. (London, John Stockdale, 1790) Ferguson 90.

  8. view
    Governor Phillip's Voyage to Botany Bay, first published in 1789, is possibly the most important of the "First Fleet Journals". It describes the journey out to New South Wales and the settlement of Sydney. The illustrations are by Robert Cleveley, an artist who never went to "Botany Bay". Bernard Smith, in his book, European Vision and the South Pacific, remarks (2nd ed., p. 172) that, although the English publishers had their artists base the natural history illustrations on those drawn on the spot, they rejected similar drawings of the natives. Smith points out that,

    "Both Phillip's Voyage and Hunter's Journal [another of the First Fleet Journals], were expensive quartos handsomely produced by subscription and designed to interest virtuosi and men of taste for whom the image of the native as a noble savage still held a strong quasi-aesthetic appeal. Consequently illustrations of aborigines...[in] Phillip's Voyage are not based upon drawings sent from Sydney but upon neo-classical prototypes of the noble savage as used ... for the illustration of Cook's Voyages." (pp. 172-3)

  9. “Hut in New South Wales” in PHILLIP, Arthur, The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay. (Dublin, P. Byrne [et al] 1790) Ferguson 93.

  10. viewSmith refers to "the curly hair, pale skin and dignified posture based on classical models with which Cleveley has endowed his natives" (p. 173). In particular he refers to one of the illustrations,

    "In Cleveley's Hut in New South Wales a native family is placed in an idealized parkland setting beside a mia-mia commodious and dignified enough for a noble savage to live in, while a putto holding an enormous womerah serves as a piccaninny, and a coconut palm symbolizes the South Seas." (p. 173)

  11. “Family of New South Wales” in HUNTER, John, An Historical Journal of theTransactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island (London, John Stockdale, 1793) Ferguson 153.

  12. viewHunter's Historical Journal came at a point when, according to Smith, "the pictorial convention of the noble savage was rapidly declining from the eminent position it had held during the 1770s." (p. 173) Smith goes on to say,

    "Nevertheless, the publisher has included one example of a typical noble savage family, the Family of New South Wales, engraved by William Blake from a sketch traditionally attributed to Governor King [a photograph of the original watercolour by King can be seen on one of the screens in this Exhibition] ... Blake has, like so many other engravers, elevated the conception and refined the drawing. ... Unlike [the engravers who worked on the illustrations for Cook's Voyages], for whom the noble savage was little more than a special application of the elevated style suited to history painting, Blake was personally interested in the moral status of the life of savages and the problem it posed Christian theology." (p. 173)

    In Smith's opinion, "Although [this illustration] comes towards the end of the history of the type, there is no finer pictorial expression of the idea of the noble savage in visual art than Blake's engraving." (p. 174)


  13. "View of Port Jackson, taken from the South Head" and "View of Murray's Islands, with the natives offering to barter", in FLINDERS, Matthew, A Voyage to Terra Australis (London, G. and W. Nicol, 1814) Vols. I and II. Ferguson 576.
  14. Matthew Flinders (1774-1814) is best remembered as the first man to circumnavigate Australia. This he did in the Investigator during 1801 and 1802. In 1803, on his way back to England in the Cumberland, he encountered a storm while en route to Cape Town and was forced to put in to Mauritius. England and France were at war at the time and Flinders was imprisoned until 1810. After his return to England, he published his Voyage to Terra Australis (1814), 2 vols. 4to, and a folio atlas.

    William Westall was the artist on the Investigator. The two engravings on display are from his sketches.

    The "View of Port Jackson taken from the South Head" shows an aboriginal couple in an Eden-like setting. They are figures in a landscape of recognisable Australian vegetation; note for example the banksia, and the grass trees.

    The "View of Murray's Island with the natives offering to barter" is included partly for its topicality. Murray Island is where the Mabo dispute began. There are actually three islands in this group. They are about 100 miles east north-east of Cape York. The inhabitants are Papuans rather than Australian aboriginals. Flinders visited the island in the Investigator on 29 October 1802.

    The natives were offering to barter coconuts, “joints of bamboo filled with water”, bananas, and bows and arrows, for anything made of iron, preferably axes or hatchets. (see pp.108-9)


  15. "Courtship" in BARRINGTON, George, The History of New South Wales (London, M. Jones, 1810) Ferguson 487.
  16. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, there was a trend away from idealization to ethnographical accuracy. This is best shown in William Watling's illustrations of initiation ceremonies published in David Collins' First Fleet journal, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales (1798); photographs of eight of these illustrations appear on one of the screens in this exhibition. But there was also a tendency in some quarters toward caricature or sensationalism. The hand-coloured illustration of "Courtship" from Barrington's History is an example of this.

    Barrington's History of New South Wales was first published in parts in 1802-03. George Barrington (c.1755-1804) was infamous as "The Prince of Pickpockets". In 1790 he was sentenced to seven years transportation and arrived in Sydney in 1791. The books published over his name, Barrington's Voyage and Barrington's History, were Grub Street productions quite independent of Barrington, written merely to exploit his notoriety with the public. They were cobbled together from a variety of official and unofficial sources. Barrington was angry at this imposition, and received no benefit from the undoubted success of the works. The illustrations, as can be seen from this example, owe more to crude stereotypes of primitive behaviour than to any genuine observation.

  17. DUMONT D'URVILLE, Jules Sebastian César, le Comte. Voyage Pittoresque Autour Du Monde (Paris, Chez L. Tenré, 1835) Two copies of Vol. 2 are on display.

  18. view

    Dumont D'Urville was lieutenant to Duperry during the voyage of La Coquille to the Pacific in 1822-25. That vessel called at Port Jackson in January 1824. He was given command of the ship, renamed L'Astrolabe, in 1826, and made two lengthy voyages during the course of which he surveyed many of the Pacific islands, and parts of Antarctica. He also spent time along the north-west coast of Australia. He is perhaps best remembered as the person who discovered many of the relics of the ill-fated La Perouse expedition.

    This two volume work is a compilation from various travel accounts, and includes many re-engraved illustrations from the earlier works. The illustration of the ceremony for removing the young warrior's tooth is adapted from one of the illustrations to Collins' Account referred to above; while the "Cérémonies Preliminaires d'un Mariage Australien", is another version of the subject treated in the Barrington illustration. There were very intricate marriage taboos among the aborigines and many of the inter-tribal disputes arose from the abduction of women.



  19. "A Native Chief of Baturst" [i.e. Bathurst] in Oxley, John, Journals of Two Expeditions into the Interior of New South Wales (London, John Murray, 1820) Ferguson 796.

  20. viewThe colour portrait of a "Native Chief of Bathurst" appeared in John Oxley's Journals of Two Expeditions into the Interior of New South Wales, undertaken ... in the years 1817-18, a quarto, published in 1820. This is the work of the noted early Sydney artist, John William Lewin, more famous among book collectors for his illustrations of birds and Lepidopterous insects.

    Jonathan Wantrup, in his Australian Rare Books 1788-1900, calls this book "the most handsome of all Australian exploration journals." (p. 182) It was printed in an edition of only 500 copies. Wantrup goes further and says, "Oxley's volume is the foundation work in the field of Australian inland exploration and the first detailed description of the interior of New South Wales." (p. 182) The two expeditions referred to in the title were along the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers. The 1817 expedition started from Bathurst.

  21. "Burial Place near the Budda" and "The Opossum Hunt" in STURT, Charles, Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia during the Years 1828, 1829, 1830, and 1831 ... 2nd ed. (London, Smith, Elder and Co., 1834) 2 vols. Ferguson 1853.

  22. view

    Sturt's first expedition, of 1828-29 was along the Macquarie River to the Darling. He begins his account with the observation that, "The year 1826 was remarkable for the commencement of one of those fearful droughts to which we have reason to believe the climate of New South Wales is periodically subject. It continued during the two following years with unabated severity." (p. 1) This, however, was seen to present an opportunity to reach the interior of the country, remembering that Oxley was prevented from doing so in 1818 by marshes. Sturt's expedition began from Wellington Valley on the Macquarie River, north-west of Bathurst, on 7 December 1828. The party proceeded down the river, deviating slightly to visit a lake called by the natives, "Budda". Sturt describes the recently-made burial mound shown in the frontispiece illustration to Vol. I of his Two Expeditions,

    "About a mile, or a mile and a half from the lake we examined a solitary grave that had recently been constructed. It consisted of an oblong mound, with three semicircular seats. A walk encompassed the whole, from which three others branched off for a few yards only, into the forest. Several cypresses, overhanging the grave, were fancifully carved on the inner side, and on one the shape of a heart was deeply engraved." (p. 14)

    During the 1828-29 expedition, Sturt saw many of the aborigines suffering from the effects of the severe drought. One group he came upon were eating the gum from the trees. After discovering and naming the Darling River, Sturt decided to turn back, "Experience had proved to us, that the dry state of the interior was as injurious to the movements of an expedition as too wet a season would have been." (p. 141)

    The second expedition set out in November 1829 with the intention of proceeding by boat along the Murrumbidgee and the Murray. The party reached Lake Alexandrina but almost perished when, in their weakened condition, the men had to row back.

    The frontispiece to volume two shows the aborigines smoking a possum out of a hollow tree. The illustration is reminiscent of one which had earlier appeared in the New South Wales Supplement to Foreign Field Sports (1814); a colour print of the 1814 engraving is to be seen on one of the screens accompanying this exhibition.

  23. "Cambo", "Native of the Bogan' and "The Murray, 27th of May 1836" in MITCHELL, Thomas, Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia with Descriptions of the recently Explored region of Australia Felix. (London, T. & W. Boone, 1838) 2 Vols. Ferguson 1838 (Two copies of Vol. I and one of Vol. II on display)

  24. view 

  25. "Turandurey and Ballandella" in MITCHELL, Thomas, Three Expeditions ... 2nd ed. (London, T. & W. Boone, 1839) Ferguson 2811.
  26. Major Thomas Mitchell is a figure well known in the history of Victoria, but the first of his expeditions was to the Gwydir and Macintyre Rivers in northern N.S.W. in 1831-32. The second was along the Darling in 1835; and the third, in 1836, was into Australia Felix, or what was to become western Victoria.

    The "Native of the Bogan" is after a sketch by Mitchell. The Bogan was the river along which Mitchell headed north towards the Darling in his 1835 expedition.

    The illustration of "Cambo", the frontispiece to volume 1 of the Three Expeditions, is a coloured lithograph from a sketch also done by the Major. Cambo was a native of the Hunter Valley, the area from which Mitchell started on his 1831 expedition.

    Both of these illustrations appear to be faithful representations of their subjects. Cambo's rather uncomfortable posture is explained by Mitchell in the text. The aboriginal was both suspicious and afraid at having his portrait sketched, until he “suddenly darted from my presence, but speedily returned, bearing in one hand his club, and in the other his boomerang” (p.21)

    The illustration of the woman with her child shows one of the guides Mitchell used on the Lachlan River during his second expedition. (see vol. 2, p. 60 ff.) Mitchell generally had good relations with the aborigines, however, during a skirmish with the Murray tribes on 27 May 1836, a number of natives were killed. The illustration of the incident shown here is based on Mitchell's sketch of the scene. (see note to item 21 for more details)

  27. "An Aboriginal Dance" in MITCHELL, Thomas, Journal of an Expedition into the Interior of Tropical Australia, in search of a Route from Sydney to the Gulf of Carpenteria (London, Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1848) Ferguson 4828.
  28. Mitchell's fourth expedition, into the mid-west of Queensland, took place in 1846. Although he did not achieve his aim of reaching the Gulf, Mitchell opened up much new land to pastoralists, as he had done earlier in "Australia Felix".

    The illustration is of an incident during which the wild natives attempted unsuccessfully to lure Dicky, Mitchell's guide, away from the party. Mitchell seems to have been well-liked by his Aboriginal employees, and he is known to have paid for an education for one of the young Aborigines who returned to Sydney with him after the Australia Felix expedition.


  29. "Figures drawn on side wall of cave discd. March 26th [1838]", in GREY, George, Journals of Two Expeditions of Discovery in North-west and Western Australia during the years 1837, 38, and 39, ... . Describing many newly discovered, important, and fertile districts, with observations on the moral and physical condition of the aboriginal inhabitants. (London, T. and W. Boone, 1841) Vol. I. Ferguson 3228.

  30. view

    Sir George Grey (1812-98) is perhaps best known as the Governor of South Australia, an office to which he was appointed in 1841. However, his first contact with Australia was as an explorer in Western Australia. In 1836 he had suggested to the Colonial Office that they should commission him to explore the north-western coast of Australia. They agreed to this, and he and his party landed at Hanover Bay in the Kimberleys on 2 December 1837. Their mission was to proceed south to the Swan River Colony. They did not get very far because of the extremely inhospitable terrain; in addition to which Grey was wounded in the leg by an aboriginal spear. The most memorable result of this short-lived expedition was the discovery of several very striking cave paintings of which Grey made colour sketches. Grey describes them in detail, giving their dimensions. The illustration with the four figures was in the first cave he found. He described it as "a very singular painting, vividly coloured, representing four heads joined together.” (p. 203)

  31. "Clothed figure - painting" in WORSNOP, Thomas, The Prehistoric Arts, Manufactures, Works, Weapons, etc., of the Aborigines of Australia. (Adelaide, C. E. Bristow, Govt., Printer, 1897) Ferguson 18888.
  32. The second cave painting is taken from a later work on the aborigines, by Thomas Worsnop. His book gathers together material from a variety of early sources, and reproduces some of the cave paintings which had first appeared in Grey's account. The illustration is of the principal figure found in another cave, that “of a man, ten feet six inches in length ...

    "The face and head of the figure were enveloped in a succession of circular bandages or rollers, ... These were coloured red, yellow, and white; and the eyes were the only features represented on the face. Upon the highest bandage or roller, a series of lines were painted in red, but although so regularly done as to indicate that they have some meaning, it was impossible to tell whether they were intended to depict written characters or some ornament for the head. This figure was so drawn on the roof that its feet were just in front of the natural seat, whilst its head and face looked directly down on any one who stood in the entrance of the cave, but it was totally invisible from the outside. The painting was more injured by the damp and atmosphere, and had the appearance of being much more defaced and ancient than any of the others which we had seen." (Grey, p. 214-5)

    There were also paintings of "some fabulous species of turtle" in this cave. Grey comments that "the natives of Australia are generally fond of narrating tales of fabulous and extraordinary animals, such as gigantic snakes, &c." (Grey, p. 215)

  33. "Native of Western Australia" in GREY, George, Journals of Two Expeditions ... (London, T. and W. Boone, 1841) Vol. II. Ferguson 3228.
  34. Grey tried to redeem the failure of his first attempt at exploration, when, in 1839, he led an expedition from Shark Bay, overland to Perth. Although this too was a journey dogged by difficulties, and the death of one of his party, they reached the Swan River, having discovered much good land along the way. Grey returned to England in 1840 and arranged to have the accounts of his two expeditions published. The work appeared in two volumes in 1841 as Journals of Two Expeditions of Discovery in North-West and Western Australia during the years 1837, 38, and 39, ... describing many newly discovered, important and fertile districts, with observations on the moral and physical condition of the aboriginal inhabitants. This coloured lithograph of a "Native of Western Australia", taken from a sketch of Grey's, is the frontispiece from volume two of the work. He devotes almost half of this volume to a description of the aborigines, their language, customs, and the bad effect the whites had had on them. Grey wrote,

    "If we enquire into the causes which tend to retain them in their present depressed condition, we shall find the chief one is - 'prejudice'. The Australians have been most unfairly represented as a very inferior race, in fact as one occupying a scale in the creation which nearly places them on a level with the brutes, and some years must elapse, ere a prejudice so firmly rooted as this can be altogether eradicated, but certainly a more unfounded one never had possession of the public mind." (p. 367)

    Grey presented a report to Lord John Russell, Secretary of State for the Colonies, on "the best Means of Promoting the Civilization of the Aboriginal Inhabitants of Australia." This is included in volume two of his Journals. (p. 373-388) Grey placed great store on allowing the aborigines to retain their own laws and customs and of applying British law to them only when it could be shown that the aborigines could be reasonably expected to understand the points involved. He sought to ensure that the aborigines be paid fairly for their labour and that they be given land grants to set up their own farms after a period of three years employment. Some of his ideas were put into practice when he was made Governor of South Australia. Eyre was one of those employed by Grey to oversee the establishment of native schools and to ensure the training of aboriginal labour.

  35. " Charley [and] Harry Brown" in LEICHHARDT, Ludwig, Journal of an Overland Expedition in Australia from Moreton Bay to Port Essington ... during the Years 1844-1845. (London, T. and W. Boone, 1847) Ferguson 4571.

  36. viewLeichhardt had three blacks on his first expedition, Harry Brown, Charlie Fisher, and an American negro cook named Caleb. Charlie Fisher had been a native policeman and tracker.


  37. "Kangaroo Dance of King Georges Sound", in EYRE, Edward John, Journals of Expeditions of Discovery into Central Australia and Overland from Adelaide to King George's Sound, in the years 1840-1; ... Including an Account of the Manners and Customs of the Aborigines and the State of their Relations with Europeans. ( London, T. and W. Boone, 1845) Ferguson 4031. Vol. II.

  38. view

    Edward John Eyre (1815-1901) crossed the southern coast of Australia from Adelaide to King George Sound in 1841. The tragic story of the expedition and of earlier ones undertaken by Eyre into the interior of South Australia is told in his Journals (1845). Eyre reached King George Sound with his loyal native guide, Wylie, on 7 July 1841. There had been two other natives of the party, but they had fled after having murdered John Baxter, Eyre's assistant, earlier on the journey.

    This decidedly infernal illustration of the "Kangaroo Dance of King Georges Sound" appears in a chapter on the "amusements " of the aborigines. Eyre devotes several pages to descriptions of their corroborees.

  39. "Messrs. Fitzmaurice and Keys dancing for their lives" in STOKES, John Lort, Discoveries in Australia; with an account of the Coasts and Rivers explored and surveyed during the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle in the years 1837-38-39-40-41-42-43. (London, T. and W. Boone, 1846) Vol. II. Ferguson 4406.

  40. view

    This illustration is the frontispiece to vol. II of Stokes’s two volume work. John Lort Stokes (1812-85) was the mate and assistant surveyor on the H.M.S. Beagle on the voyage around the world immortalised by Charles Darwin. This took place between December 1831 and October 1836. Darwin’s observations on the fauna of the Galapagos Islands are perhaps the best remembered aspects of this voyage, but it also took in, during 1836, Sydney, Hobart and King George Sound. The Beagle was a survey craft, and was sent back to Australia in 1837 to survey parts of the coast of northern Australia not seen by Flinders or King.

    The account of the incident shown, "Messrs. Fitzmaurice and Keys dancing for their lives", occurs in volume I, ch. 11. The ship was in the vicinity of present-day Darwin; two of the men were ashore, when surprised by "a large party of natives with poised and quivering spears." (p. 413) The aborigines were on the top of some cliffs overlooking the two men,

    "They were evidently in earnest and bent on mischief.

    "It was, therefore, not a little surprising to behold this paroxysm of rage evaporate before the happy presence of mind displayed by Mr. Fitzmaurice, in immediately beginning to dance and shout, though in momentary expectation of being pierced by a dozen spears." (vol. 1, p. 413-4)

    The two men were able to escape when a boat landed in the bay and distracted the war party. The place was named, Escape Cliffs.

    Stokes was himself wounded by a native at Point Pearce, near the mouth of the Victoria River, at a spot to which he later gave the name, Treachery Bay. Stokes gave a vivid description of the affair.

    "I had just turned my head round to look after my followers when I was suddenly staggered by a violent and piercing blow about the left shoulder: and ere the dart had ceased to quiver in its destined mark, a loud long yell, ... told me by whom I had been speared. ... I drew out the spear, which had entered the cavity of the chest, and retreated. ... I fully expected another spear while my back was turned; but fortunately the savages seemed only to think of getting down to the beach to complete their work. ... Onward I hurried, carrying the spear which I had drawn from the wound, ... The savage cry behind me soon told me that my pursuers had found their way to the beach: while at every respiration, the air escaping through the orifice of the wound, warned me that the strength by which I was still enabled to struggle through the deep pools and various other impediments in my path must fail me. I had fallen twice: each disaster being announced by a shout of vindictive triumph, from the blood-hounds behind. To add to my distress, I now saw with utter dismay, that Mr. Tarrant, and the man with the instruments, unconscious of the fact that I had been speared, ... were moving off towards the boat." (vol. 2, p. 108-9)

    But the initial yell of the spear throwing native had been heard by others back on the ship, and a boat had been sent. Tarrant and the rest of the party on shore noticed the boat approaching and turned to see Stokes was wounded. They ran back to him, and, when the other boat arrived, the natives fled.

    Stokes' account has all the intensity of a nightmare. He comments, "Another moment, and ours would have been the fate of so many other explorers; ... we should have fallen a sacrifice in the cause of discovery, and our bones left to moulder on this distant shore, would have been trodden heedlessly underfoot by the wandering native." (vol. 2, p. 110)

  41. “Facing the Enemy”, in WARBURTON, Peter Egerton, Journey across the Western Interior of Australia (London, Sampson Low, Marston, Low, & Searle, 1875) Ferguson 18187.

  42. view

    Warburton’s expedition set out from Alice Springs in April 1873 to explore the country between there and Perth. However he encountered extremely trying conditions and finally had to be content to reach the coast of north-western Western Australia. The caption, "Facing the Enemy", could equally well be used by the explorer or by the aborigines. This particular incident was a harmless encounter. Warburton was attacked from behind by a party of nine warriors, but when he turned and advanced on them with his pistol drawn, "they lowered their spears." (p. 232) They took him back to their camp where the older men of the tribe befriended him, " thanks to my grey beard, the few who were similarly adorned fraternized readily with me. We passed our hands over each other's beards ... and after this little formality we were good friends." (p. 232) They gave him some water and he bartered with them for a wallaby.

    Of course, as we have already heard from Stokes, not all encounters between explorers and aborigines ended so satisfactorily. Mitchell was attacked by a party of about two hundred of them on 27 May 1836 near the Murray, at a spot which he ominously named Mount Dispersion. Seven aboriginals were killed. This led to a public enquiry by the New South Wales Executive Council under Governor Bourke. Mitchell was reprimanded, but, taking into account the grave danger the party were placed in, no further action was taken. (see Mitchell's Three Expeditions, vol. 2, pp. 101-103; and William Foster's biography, pp. 179-185)


  43. "Jenny, Native of Port Sorell, Van Diemen's Land" in STRZELECKI, Paul de, Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. (London, Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1845) Ferguson 4168.

  44. view

    The Tasmanian aborigines have always presented a conundrum to anthropologists. They differ in appearance from the mainland tribes, and are held to be more akin to the Melanesians. One theory as to their origin is that they were the original inhabitants of Australia, who were forced into the southernmost area by the invading tribes from the north. (Ultimately the mainland aborigines are thought to originate from certain Indian tribes such as the Dravidians, and to have migrated to Australia.) The Tasmanians are supposed to have retreated to Tasmania while there was still a land bridge.

    Strzelecki is well known for his explorations in the Australian Alps and Gippsland in 1840. From 1840 to 1842 he undertook geological expeditions in Van Diemen's Land and on the islands of Bass Strait.

    The frontispiece to his Physical Description shows a Tasmanian aboriginal woman. It is engraved from a painting by Thomas Bock, done as part of a series of portraits of Tasmanian aborigines, undertaken by the artist for Lady Franklin.

  45. "Timmy, Native of the Eastern Coast" in FENTON, James, History of Tasmania (Hobart, J. Walch and Sons, 1884) Ferguson 9580.

  46. view

    This chromo-lithograph of "Timmy" is also based on one of the Thomas Bock portraits.


  47. "Wooreddy, Truganina's Husband" and "Lalla Rookh, or Truganina, the Last Tasmanian Woman" in BONWICK, James, The Lost Tasmanian Race. (London, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1884) Ferguson 7253. [Two copies on display]

  48. view 


  49. "Lalla Rookh" in BONWICK, James, Daily Life and Origin of the Tasmanians. (London, Sampson Low, Son, & Marston, 1870) Ferguson 7233.
  50. Truganina (1803-1876), or Truganini as she is usually known, was originally of the Bruny Island tribe. She assisted G. A. Robinson, the Protector of Aborigines, in making contact with the natives during Robinson's journeys in the bush from 1830-1835; and on at least one occasion, saved his life. She accompanied him to Port Phillip when he was made Protector there in 1838. She returned to Flinders Island, then to Oyster Bay, and eventually to Hobart, where she died on 8 May 1876. Traditionally, she has been considered as the last full-blooded Tasmanian aboriginal. She is said to have had five husbands. The engraving of Wooreddy is after a portrait by Benjamin Duterreau. Duterreau painted in Hobart from 1832 until his death in 1851. He is best remembered for his painting of Robinson with the Van Diemen's Land aborigines, "The Conciliation".


  51. "Australian Aboriginal Group of Women and Children" in WESTGARTH, William, Australia Felix; or, a Historical and Descriptive Account of the Settlement of Port Phillip, New South Wales: including full particulars of the manners and condition of the aboriginal natives ... (Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1848) Ferguson 4954.
  52. William Westgarth was a Scotsman who migrated to Melbourne in 1840. He was a successful merchant, and founded the Chamber of Commerce. One of his earliest publications was, A Report on the Condition, Capabilities and Prospects of the Australian Aborigines (1846); although he is best remembered for the several books he wrote promoting investment in the colony. Australia Felix (1848) was the first of these; it includes four chapters on the Aborigines, much of which is gleaned from written and oral accounts by early settlers. He also includes an appendix on the "Bunyup".

  53. "Notabilities of Bendigo" in The News Letter of Australasia, (Melbourne, George Slater, 1857) no. xv, Sept., 1857.
  54. The News Letter of Australasia was a folded single-sheet publication with articles on current events in the colonies, illustrated by notable artists of the day. The inner two pages were blank so the colonists could write letters home. This particular issue includes engravings by F. Grosse after sketches by Nicholas Chevalier and Ludwig Becker. The Becker illustration shows an aboriginal woman with a child on the diggings at Bendigo.

  55. [KERR, J. H.] Glimpses of Life in Victoria, by a Resident (Edinburgh, Edmonston & Douglas, 1872) Ferguson 11124.
  56. The engraved title page shows two Victorian Aborigines. The Victorian natives were noted for their use of possum skin cloaks, as can be seen from the figure holding the spear and woomera. This copy of the work includes a manuscript key to the identity of many of the people who are referred in the text only by initials.

  57. "Collins Street, Town of Melbourne, Port Philip, New South Wales" in BONWICK, James, Port Phillip Settlement. (London, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1883) Ferguson 7252.
  58. This illustration from Bonwick's Port Philip Settlement (1883) shows Collins Street; a group of Aborigines are standing on what would later become Scots Church Hill, looking south towards Spencer Street. In Garryowen's Chronicles of Early Melbourne (1888), this illustration was used again, reworked more artistically by Walter Withers, and entitled, "Collins Street 1839". However, for the later publication, there was a significant difference, the aborigines had been replaced with a man, a child, and a horse.

  59. "Kulpendurra, son of Billibellary, Chief of the Yarra Tribe, fights his father for maltreating his mother. Native Encampment, Merri Creek, April 5th" in BRIDE, Thomas Francis (ed.), Letters from Victorian Pioneers (Melbourne, Published for the Trustees of the Public Library, by Robert S. Brain, Government Printer, 1898) Ferguson 7385.
  60. In 1853 Governor La Trobe sent a circular letter and questionnaire to many of the early settlers in the Port Phillip District, as Victoria was known before separation. Fifty-eight replies were received, and are now kept in the Australian Manuscripts Collection in the La Trobe Library, State Library of Victoria. La Trobe was intending to use the information in a history of the colony, but failing health prevented him from doing so and he presented the documents to the Library with instructions to make them accessible. They were edited by Thomas Bride, the Principal Librarian, and published in 1898. Although no copy of the questionnaire survives, La Trobe had apparently asked the settlers to include details about the customs of the Aborigines and their relations with the whites. Many of the answers refer extensively to such concerns; in particular William Thomas, Assistant Protector, submitted two lengthy documents to La Trobe which are included here, as is a paper on the language of the Barrabool tribe and a list of members of that tribe compiled in 1842 by Mrs. Davenport. However, the greatest value to scholars lies perhaps in the responses from the ordinary settlers which reveal their attitudes to the natives.


    From the earliest period of white contact, artists had been attracted to the spectacle of the corroboree. An early illustration can be seen in the frontispiece to volume two of Collins First Fleet Journal, a reproduction of which appears on one of the screens in this exhibition. George French Angas's South Australia Illustrated includes some superb colour illustrations. A facsimile of this work is included in the large upright case (item 63)

  61. "Dance at the Conclusion of the Cavarra Ceremonies" in HODGKINSON, Clement, Australia, from Port Macquarie to Moreton Bay; with descriptions of the natives, their manners and customs. (London, T. and W. Boone, 1845) Ferguson 4067.

  62. view

    Clement Hodgkinson (1818-1893) was a government surveyor in the northern rivers district of New South Wales from 1840-42. His account of his experiences appeared in 1845. The illustrations are quite remarkable. That of the corroboree shows members of the Yarra-Hapinni tribe dancing at the conclusion of the male initiation ceremonies. The dancers "were so elaborately painted with white for the occasion, that even their very toes and fingers were carefully and regularly coloured with concentric rings, whilst their hair was drawn up in a close knot, and stuck all over with the snowy down of the white cockatoo ... . In this dance, the performers arranged themselves in the form of a semicircle, and grasping the ends of their boomerangs, which are also painted with great minuteness and regularity, they swayed their bodies rapidly from right to left . Each movement of their bodies to and fro was accompanied by a loud hiss, whilst a number of other natives similarly painted, beat time with sticks, and kept up an incessant ... song. Every now and then the dancers would stop and rush, crowding together, into a circle, raising their weapons with outstretched arms, and joining with frantic energy in the song." (p. 233)

    Hodgkinson finishes his chapter on the aborigines with some observations on attempts to civilise them.

    "indeed I think that all endeavours to make them adopt more settled habits will be useless, for what great inducement does the monotonous and toilsome existence of the labouring classes in civilized communities offer, to make the savage abandon his independent and careless life, diversified by the exciting occupations of hunting, fighting, and dancing." (p. 242)

    He believed “their mental faculties” had been “too much underrated” (p. 242) and gave some examples from his own experience, concluding that, "in every thing requiring the exercise of mechanical ingenuity or dexterity, the Australian Aborigines are most apt scholars." (p. 243)

  63. "The Corroboree" in The News Letter of Australasia (Melbourne, George Slater, 1857) no. XII, June 1857.
  64. This is a wood-cut by Nicholas Chevalier, after a sketch by Ludwig Becker. The illustration is accompanied by a detailed description. The climax of the performance is described,

    "They jump simultaneously from side to side, the alternate rows moving respectively to the right and left. This movement is at first slow, but as the dance proceeds it becomes more rapid, until, at last, a general excitement prevails, and the eye almost fails to follow the evolutions. At a given point, when the maximum of velocity appears to have been attained, the whole crowd suddenly stop, as with one act. ... The performance is varied by the throwing of boomerangs which have been lighted at one end, and the remarkable convolutions of these singular weapons, marked by curves of light, gleaming amidst the surrounding gloom, have a very striking effect. This description is necessary to explain the picture; but, after all, the pencil is better calculated than the pen to convey an adequate idea of this wild and mysterious solemnity."

  65. "Dance of the Natives" in LUMHOLTZ, Carl, Among Cannibals: an account of four year's travels in Australia and of camp life with the aborigines of Queensland. (London, John Murray, 1889) Ferguson 11770

  66. view

    Carl Lumholtz (1851-1922) was a Norwegian zoologist and anthropologist who conducted field research in western and northern Queensland from 1881 to 1884. This included fourteen months living with a tribe in the Herbert district. His book includes very detailed descriptions of the Aborigines and their customs. He witnessed several corroborees, and gives a ground plan showing a typical arrangement of the participants (p. 237). He tells us that, "The dance always begins with the full moon and about half an hour before sunset." (p. 240) He gives details of the dances, observing that "they had a somewhat different programme for each evening. They several times produced what might be called a pantomime." (p. 239). After describing the dance shown in the illustration, he gives an assessment of the social significance of the "korroboree",

    "These festivals ... are, of course, evidence of friendly relations between the tribes. On this occasion the dance was given by several neighbouring tribes that were on friendly terms with each other. As a rule, however, the korroborees in Australia are given upon the settlement of wars and feuds among the tribes, and are a sort of ratification of the treaty of peace. Doubtless these festivals have, in the history of Australia, been of considerable importance in regard to the social development of the natives. The korroborees have facilitated bartering among them, and have also contributed toward promoting social intercourse among the tribes. It is a curious fact that these "ratifications of treaties of peace" frequently give rise to new feuds, on account of insults to the women that are apt to occur at such festivals." (p. 240)

  67. "War Dance. A Drawing by an Aboriginal of the Kingston Tribe." in CONIGRAVE, John Fairfax, South Australia: a Sketch of its History & Resources. A Handbook; compiled ... for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, London, 1886. ([Adelaide, E. Spiller, Government Printer, 1886]) Ferguson 8593.

  68. view

    This work was meant to promote investment in South Australia, and does not include any text on the Aborigines. Nevertheless, it is of interest for the illustrations; two engravings, apparently from photographs, of a man and a woman of the Narranyeri Tribe, and four sketches by Aborigines of aspects of their own lives, including this representation of a corroboree.


  69. "Night Fishing on the Lakes in Gipps Land" in HAYDON, George Henry, Five Year's Experience in Australia Felix. (London, Hamilton, Adams, & Co., 1846) Ferguson 4305.

  70. viewThe tinted lithographs are based on sketches done by Haydon. He arrived in Melbourne in 1840 and worked as an architect and artist. He was a friend of the Aborigines and believed the protectorate system was "a pack of humbug."

    He studied the Aborigines’ language and customs, and wrote of them sympathetically. In the text accompanying this illustration he describes the method of fishing employed by the Aborigines on the Gippsland lakes.

    "The night is the favourite season when their fragile canoes having a fire in them placed on mud or stones may be observed creeping along the shores in great numbers. Torches are lit and held high above the head of the fisherman, who waits patiently, scarcely moving except to wave his light and so throw out a stronger glare upon the waters. Presently a fish is discovered at a great depth, perhaps ten or twelve feet, about the length of the spear used. The native now intent upon his much coveted prey, ... taking a steady aim, taught by nature to make an allowance for the refraction, ... brings his spear down as near the fish as its length will allow, and darts it with all his force." (p. 43-44)

  71. "Blacks stalking emeus" in BADEN-POWELL, George, New Homes for the Old Country, (London, Richard Bentley and Son, 1872) Ferguson 14299.

  72. view

    This illustration is the frontispiece of George Baden-Powell's New Homes for the Old Country. This is basically an emigrant's guide, but like most such works has some information on the aborigines. He also has several chapters on the prospects of hunting game. It is in the chapter entitled "Land game birds" , (ch. 40), that his description of the method used by the aborigines to hunt emu occurs.

    "A black, on spying emeus feeding on a plain, will cover his back and head with an emeu skin ... . In his right hand he will carry, hidden by the skin, a boomerang and one or two throwing sticks or "waddies." Then his left arm will protrude beyond the skin straight out to the elbow, and the fore-arm will be bent up, with the hand at right angles to it, thereby forming a capital imitation of an emeu's head and neck.

    "Every now and then, this hand or head will be brought to the ground as if for feeding; and as he walks along he imitates every motion of the bird, whilst at the same time, by means of the big toe, a spear will be dragged along the ground." (p. 346)

  73. "Ausgraben der Eier des Talegallahuhns", in OBERLANDER, Richard, Australien. Geschichte der Entdeckung und Kolonization. (Leipzig, Otto Spamer, 1880) Ferguson 13514.
  74. This illustration, "Digging up the eggs of the scrub turkey", shows an aboriginal family gathering food. In the foreground we see the results of the day's hunt, a rabbit, an echidna, and a baby emu, while the scrub turkey flees into the distance. The father of the family is uncovering the eggs which the turkey had left to incubate in a mound of sticks and leaves.

  75. "Native Australian Bee-Hunters" in ARTHUR, J. K., Kangaroo and Kauri: sketches and anecdotes of Australia and New Zealand. (London, Sampson Low, Marston & Company, 1894) Ferguson 6137.

  76. view

    This illustration is accompanied by a detailed account of the method used by the Aborigines to find honey. The simple explanation is that, "they watch the bee coming to drink and then follow it home." (p. 71) Arthur watched Warruyallah, an Aborigine from a tribe on the Upper Darling, doing this. The Aborigine lay motionless for about an hour, with his mouth full of water, and his face over a pool, until a bee came to drink. He then "discharged the water from his mouth over the little "buzzer," ... he seized it in a most dexterous manner by the wings and proceeded to prepare it for the chase. This he did by fastening to it a bunch of flocculent wild cotton with some resinous gum. The hunter now explained that as soon as he let the bee go it would make for the hive, and the cotton which he had fastened on would serve the twofold purpose of impeding its progress and showing a mark in the air for him to follow. We were soon joined by some of the tribe and the bee was let go." (p. 72)

    The aborigines gave chase, "over bramble and brake. In the course of half an hour, however, I came up with them. They had stopped at the foot of an immense gum-tree, into the top of which, I was informed the bee had gone. Warruyallah quickly mounted with his stone tomahawk, and in the course of a short time he brought down a quantity of honey-comb." (pp. 72-73)


  77. "Ouzo-Mare of the Gwea-Gal Tribe, called Bulldog at Sydney" in HAMILTON SMITH, Charles, The Natural History of the Human Species, (London, Henry G. Bohn, [1848]) Not in Ferguson.

  78. view

    This colour plate of Bulldog, a native of Sydney, is meant to be seen in conjunction with the plate below, that of a Jamaican, Grant, Charleston Maroons. One of those who slew Three fingered Jack. This is a work of comparative ethnography. The intention in such works was partly to place human races in relation to each other. For example, were the Australian aborigines, negroid, Melenesian or Indian? Hamilton-Smith set great store on the use of hair as a criterion, so his theory concerning the Australian aborigines was that they were negroes with some inter-mixture of Malay characterictics.

  79. "Australian Race, Willilnga. A Native of the Interior of Australia" in PICKERING, Charles, The Races of Man; and their Geographical Distribution, new ed., (London, H. G. Bohn, 1851) Ferguson 14138.

  80. view

    This work first appeared in 1848 as the ninth volume of the report of the United States Exploring Expedition. Pickering was the naturalist on the voyage, and paid special attention to anthropology and natural history; the fifteenth volume of the report, entitled The Geographical Distribution of Animals and Plants (1854), was also by him.

    He arrived in Sydney predisposed to regard the Australian Aborigines as being negroes, but soon concluded that this was not the case. He refers to specific instances of Indians he observed, in particular in Western Hindostan, who resembled the Australians.

  81. SADLEIR, Richard, The Aborigines of Australia. (Sydney, Thomas Richards, Government Printer, 1883) Ferguson 15343.
  82. Richard Sadleir arrived in New South Wales in 1825. As he wrote in a manuscript preserved in the National Library of Australia, "I was first employed on a mission of enquiry as to the state of the aborigines. There had been many murders & martial law proclaimed ... I travelled 1600 miles thru the outskirts of the Colony ... made my report which was approved of but never acted upon owing to the expense 6000£ per annum out of the land revenue." (see note to Ferguson 15342g)

    In the "Introductory Remarks" to The Aborigines of Australia, he gave more details of his journey and his recommendations, "My journey, extending over 1,600 miles, occupied six months. I lived partly with these people, so as to ascertain their number, language, habits, &c., and proposed a scheme of reserves, as in Canada, a border police, and missionary education." (p. [5])

    Sadleir later became a radical member of Parliament and wrote many political and religious pamphlets. This book was his last publication. In the Introduction he tells us that it formed "part of a large manuscript".

  83. FLANAGAN, Roderick J., The Aborigines of Australia. (Sydney, Edward F. Flanagan and George Robertson, 1888) Ferguson 9635.
  84. Flanagan was a journalist on Henry Parkes's Empire. He rose to be editor, and, in 1853, contributed a series of articles on the Aborigines. These were published in book form in 1888, partly in response to the historical interest aroused by the centenary of colonization.

    As well as the usual chapters on the customs and beliefs of the Aborigines, Flanagan devoted a chapter to the Myall Creek Massacre of 1839, and one to the general unrest and hostility which marked the relations between blacks and whites during 1840-1842.

  85. SMYTH, Robert Brough, The Aborigines of Victoria. (Melbourne, Jophn Ferres, Government Printer, 1878) 2 Vols. Ferguson 15882.
  86. Brough Smyth's book was compiled for the Victorian Government. The material was gathered from a variety of sources. Although he is perhaps best remembered for his book on The Gold Fields and Mineral Districts of Victoria (1869), a work stemming from his employment as Secretary for Mines, he had also been Secretary of the Board for the Protection of the Aborigines, and, as he tells us in the preface to The Aborigines of Victoria, this prompted him "to collect information respecting the customs of the people who had formerly owned the soil of Australia, and to make accurate drawings of their weapons and ornaments. I did not know then that I was commencing a work which would engage all my leisure for many years." (p. v)

    The work is valuable as it preserves the observations of many of the early workers in the field, such as William Thomas, one of the early Protectors; John Bulmer, the Superintendant of Lake Tyers; John Green, the Superintendant of Coranderrk; William Ridley, the expert on aboriginal languages; and most importantly, it includes much material contributed by Alfred Howitt. It is well illustrated and includes a map showing the tribal boundaries of the Victorian Aborigines.

  87. "A Native, with Wife and Mother", in Living Races of Mankind. (London, Hutchinson, [1903]) Volume 1.
  88. This illustration is of a photo by J. W. Lindt, one of the most important photographers in early Melbourne. It is a studio portrait of a family group, and is shown here in a popular work of comparative ethnography, Living Races of Mankind, [1903]

    Lindt undertook a series of studies of such aboriginal groups while he was based in Grafton in 1873. He gathered the photographs into an Album of Australian Aboriginals which was presented to the museums in the colonies.

  89. BEVERIDGE, Peter. The Aborigines of Victoria and the Riverina. (Melbourne, M. L. Hutchinson, 1889) Ferguson 6992
  90. Peter Beveridge (1829-1885) arrived as a child of ten in the Port Phillip District in 1839. His family settled at Mercer's Vale, and Peter later took up a run at Tyntynder, ten miles down the Murray from the present site of Swan Hill. He made a close study of the Aborigines of the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Darling regions, and published numerous papers on their customs. This book is the result of a paper read to the Royal Society of New South Wales in June 1883.

  91. FISON, Lorimer, and HOWITT, A. W., Kamilaroi and Kurnai: Group-Marriage and relationship, and Marriage by elopement drawn chiefly from the usage of the Australian Aborigines; also The Kurnai Tribe: their customs in peace and war. (Melbourne, George Robertson, 1880) Ferguson 9617.
  92. Lorimer Fison (1832-1907) arrived in Victoria at the time of the gold rush. He became a Methodist minister and volunteered for missionary service in Fiji in 1864. While there he became interested in anthropology, making a particular study of Fijian And Tongan customs. He returned to Australia in 1871 where he began to investigate relationships among the Australian Aborigines. He continued his research despite returning to Fiji in 1875. In 1880 he published, with A. W. Howitt, the ground-breaking work, Kamilaroi and Kurnai, which Baldwin Spencer considered to have "laid the foundations of the scientific study of the Australian aborigines."

  93. HOWITT, A. W., The Native Tribes of South-East Australia. (London, Macmillan, 1904)

  94. view

    Alfred William Howitt (1830-1908) was the son of the well-known nineteenth century writers, William and Mary Howitt. Alfred came with his father and brother to Melbourne in 1852 during the gold rush; William Howitt's Land, Labour and Gold (1855) gives an account of their adventures. Alfred stayed on after his father and brother returned to England. He was a noted bushman and is perhaps best-remembered as the leader of the search party which rescued John King and found the bodies of Burke and Wills. While in the centre he became interested in the aborigines and maintained this interest for the rest of his life. He became the Warden of the Gippsland goldfields and was for a time the Gippsland Police Magistrate. He took a close interest in the aborigines of the Gippsland area, particularly the Kurnai tribe, of which he was made an initiated member. As noted above, in 1880 he published with Lorimer Fison, Kamilaroi and Kurnai (see item 46). This was in some ways a preliminary report, and the considered results of his many years of close study of the aborigines appeared in 1904 in The Native Tribes of South-east Australia. The cover decoration on the book is rather startling; it shows "The Bret or dead hand". There was a custom among the Kurnai to cut one or both hands from a corpse and dry it.

    "A string of twisted opossum fur was attached to it, so that it could be hung round the neck and worn in contact with the bare skin under the left arm. It was carried by the parent, child, brother or sister. The belief of the Kurnai was that at the approach of an enemy the hand would push or pinch the wearer. Such a signal being experienced, the hand would be taken from the neck and suspended in front of the face, the string being held between the finger and thumb. The person would then say, "Which way are they coming?" If the hand remained at rest, the question would again be put, but now facing another way and so on. The response being that the hand vibrated in some direction, and it was thence that the danger was coming. My informants have told me that the swinging of the Bret was sometimes so violent that the string broke." (p. 460)

  95. "Vieille femme haranguant des natifs", in PERRON D'ARC, Henri, Aventures d'un voyageur en Australie neuf mois de sejour chez les Nagarnooks 2nd ed. (Paris, Hachette, 1870) Ferguson 14036.

  96. view

    Henri Perron D'Arc came to Victoria during the gold rush. He wrote two books on Australia, both in French, [The gold fields of Bendigo] Les Champs d'Or de Bendigo (1863), and [Adventures of a traveller in Australia during nine months sojourn with the Nagarnooks] . This illustration comes from the second of these. Perron d'Arc spent nine months living with the Nagarnooks, a tribe of aborigines in the Murray-Darling region. His book has 24 illustrations, most are of the aborigines. These are unusual and, being published in France, most later writers have overlooked them. This illustration of a "woman haranguing the natives", occurs in a chapter on the songs and music of the aborigines. He transcribes several chants, including ones connected with their funeral ceremonies. Here the woman is declaiming to the warriors of the tribe urging them to seek vengeance for the death of her grand-son, although, as Perron d'Arc tells us, the boy had died of natural causes.

  97. The Native Tribes of South Australia. (Adelaide, E. S. Wigg, 1879) Ferguson 13095.
  98. This consists of a series of articles on various South Australian tribes. Among the contributors we find the Rev. George Taplin writing on the Narrinyeri. Taplin was a missionary who set up a school and mission station to the Narrinyeri on the shores of Lake Alexandrina. He published many works on the language and customs of that tribe.

  99. Answers to Questions on the manners &c. of Aboriginal Natives of South Australia in the Fowlers Bay District. [manuscript] (1892).
  100. Fowlers Bay is a small port on the Great Australian Bight, west of Ceduna. This large exercise book contains a series of manuscript responses to a lengthy questionnaire (210 questions) sent to the Police stations in the vicinity in 1892. In fact it contains replies from as far afield as the Diamentina. Many of the responses are extremely detailed and some include native vocabularies.

  101. CALVERT, Albert F., The Aborigines of Western Australia. (London, Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., 1894) Ferguson 7816.
  102. An earlier edition of this work appeared in 1892. Albert Frederick Calvert (1872-1946) was a mining engineer, but is perhaps best known as the author of The Discovery of Australia (1893), a book which deals, among other things,with the role of the Portuguese. Through most of the 1890s Calvert was involved in mining exploration and investment in the West, and was a tireless promoter of the colony of Western Australia among English businessmen. His book on the Aborigines consists largely of details which he noted during his travels in the interior. In his "Preface" he points out some of the difficulties he encountered, "They have no written language, and are forbidden to speak of the dead: two serious obstacles to research."

  103. "Ethno-Pornographical", in ROTH, Walter E., Ethnological Studies among the North-West-Central Queensland Aborigines. (Brisbane, Edmund Gregory, Government Printer, 1897) Ferguson 15115.

  104. view

    Walter Edmund Roth (1861-1933) was a doctor in north-west Queensland and was appointed government medical officer in Normanton in 1896. His observations of the cultures of the Aborigines in that part of Queensland are respected for their accuracy. He became Protector of the Aborigines in Queensland and was President of the Anthropology section of the Australasian Assiciation for the Advancement of Science. His book contains a grammar and vocabulary of the Pitta-Pitta language, and details of their use of signs; as well as extremely detailed descriptions of the customs and habits of the north-west Queensland tribes. There are also hundreds of illustrations, many in colour. The figures on display show aspects of the sexual life of the Aborigines.

  105. SPENCER, Baldwin, and GILLEN, F. J., The Native Tribes of Central Australia. (London, Macmillan, 1899) Ferguson 16074.
  106. Francis James Gillen (1855-1912) and Walter Baldwin Spencer (1860-1929) wrote four books together on the Aborigines of Central and Northern Australia. This was the first of them . Gillen was a special magistrate and Aboriginal sub-Protector in Alice Springs in the 1890s when Spencer met him. Gillen was well-respected by the Aranda elders and his knowledge of the Aborigines enabled him to provide detailed information to Spencer.

    Spencer was a doctor, biologist, naturalist and anthropologist. He arrived in Melbourne in 1887 to take up the foundation chair of biology at the University of Melbourne. In 1894 he took part in the Horn scientific expedition to central Australia, and later edited the four volumes of reports. It was at this time he met Gillen. Their book Native Tribes of Central Australia, became internationally famous in anthropological circles, influencing Sir James Frazer's theories on the origins of art and ceremony.


  107. BUNCE, Daniel, Language of the Aborigines of the Colony of Victoria, and other Australian Districts; with parallel translations and familiar specimens in dialogue as a guide to Aboriginal Protectors, and others engaged in ameliorationg their condition. 2nd ed., (Geelong, THomas Brown, 1859) Ferguson 7665.
  108. Daniel Bunce (1813-1872) was a botanist who emigrated to Hobart in 1835. He opened a nursery in Launceston and, after moving to Melbourne in 1839, opened another in St. Kilda. In 1846 he joined Leichhardt’s second expedition, but after it failed, returned south. He voyaged down the Murray and explored in the Gippsland area. His best known work, Australasiatic Reminiscences of Twenty-three Years Wanderings, appeared in 1857, and contained an account of his journeys, including that with Leichhardt. From his first landing in the Port Phillip District he had made a study of the Aborigines, especially their languages and this stood him in good stead during his later journeyings. The book on display contains many instances of the similar vocabulary to be found in the Aboriginal languages from Queensland to Victoria.

    His study was not however confined to philology, and, as he tells us in his “Preface”, he had intended to have published a more extensive work treating of the customs and habits of the natives, “from the abundant materials at his command”, but for reasons of the expense of printing he had had to limit the work to the languages. He does however provide an “Introduction” which has many general observations touching upon the beliefs of the Aborigines as he had observed them. Bunce’s work is a very practical one; in his “Directions in Pronunciation” he advises, “By speaking this language with a soft Italian accent, the reader will have little trouble in making himself understood by the natives.” (p. 1) The first edition had appeared in 1851.

  109. RIDLEY, William, Kamilaroi and other Australian Languages. (Sydney, Thomas Richards, Government Printer, 1875) Ferguson 14916.
  110. William Ridley (1819-1878) was recruited in London by Rev. J. D. Lang and arrived in Sydney in 1850. He was ordained by Lang and, in 1853 began to work with the Aborigines in the New England District. He extended his ministry to Moreton Bay and the Darling Downs, and began to publish works on the Kamilaroi language in 1856. The work on display concentrates on Kamilaroi, the particular language group defined as “The language of the Aborigines of the Namoi, Barwan, Bundarra, and Balonne Rivers, and of the Liverpool Plains and the Upper Hunter.” (p. [1]), but also includes information on many other languages, such as Turuwul, “The language spoken by the now extinct tribe of Port Jackson and Botany Bay.” (p. [99])

    There is a chapter which includes a comparative table of words in twenty languages; as well as chapters on the Aboriginal traditions; their songs and tales, transcribed in the native languages, accompanied by translations; their habits and manners; their institutions and laws; and a concluding chapter on their treatment at the hands of the white man,

    “there has been war, and along certain lines of Australian territory there is still war, between the Colonists and the Aborigines. ... There has been a tendency to seek reasons for believing these people are not of the same species as ourselves. And even in a volume of Gospel Sermons the assertion has been, somewhat oracularly, published to the world, that for the Aborigines there is no immortality, that they have no idea of God, no devout feeling, nor any capacity for such thoughts and feelings.

    “It has, however been shown, in this book, out of their own mouths, from their songs and their cherished traditions, that they are by no means destitute of some qualities in which civilized men glory - such as the power of inventing tragic and sarcastic fiction, the thirst for religious mystery, stoical contempt of pain, and reverence for departed friends and ancestors. ...

    Hitherto, it must be confessed, British colonization has done much to destroy, and British Christianity has done little to save, the Aborigines of Australia. Sometimes effort for their good is discouraged by the anticipation of their speedy extinction. But this too popular theory of the speedy extinction of the Aboriginal race must be modified, if not negatived by such a sight as I have seen, and as may still be seen in some parts of New South Wales, - an assembly of hundreds of them, including dozens of hoary heads, and dozens of infants at the breast. (p. 171-172)

  111. CURR, Edward Micklethwaite, The Australian Race: its origins, languages, customs. (Melbourne, 1886-87) 4 vols. Ferguson 8879.
  112. E. M. Curr (1820-89) was a squatter, born in Van Diemen’s Land and educated in England and France. He returned to Australia in 1839 and in 1840 came with his father to the Port Phillip District to take up a run near Heathcote. He managed various runs for his father in the western Goulburn region and became interested in the Aborigines of the area. His Recollections of Squatting in Victoria (1883) includes much on their habits and customs, but his major ethnographical work was The Australian Race (1886-87) in three volumes octavo and one large atlas volume, containing the most extensive tables of comparison between the Aboriginal languages published to that time.

  113. THRELKELD, L. E., An Australian Language as spoken by the Awabakal the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (near Newcastle, New South Wales) being an account of their language, traditions , and customs: Re-arranged, condensed, and edited, with an appendix by John Fraser. (Sydney, Charles Potter, 1892) Ferguson 17144.
  114. Lancelot Edward Threlkeld (1788-1859) like many of the early writers on the Aborigines, was a missionary, although with an unusual background, having been a circus performer and actor before ordaination. In 1817 he took up a post as a missionary in the Society Islands, and in 1824 settled in New South Wales. He worked as a missionary to the Aborigines in the Newcastle district and published several studies of their language, including An Australian Spelling Book in the language as spoken by the Aborigines in the vicinity of Hunter’s River (1836).

    In the volume on display, Dr. John Fraser, himself the author of a book on the Aborigines, has gathered Threlkeld’s work together into a systematic grammar and extensive vocabulary of the Hunter Valley language.


  115. "Ouriaga. a native of Bruny Island" in PLOMLEY, N. J. B., Baudin Expedition and the Tasmanian Aborigines 1802. (Hobart, Blubber Head Press, 1983)
  116. The illustration from the dust wrapper of Plomley's book is of a gouache portrait by Petit, one of the artists on the Baudin voyage. It was reproduced as an engraving in the Atlas volume of the account of that voyage.

  117. "Two of the Natives of New Holland Advancing to Combat" in MURRAY-OLIVER, Anthony, Captain Cook's Artists in the Pacific 1769-1779. ([Christchurch], Avon Fine Prints, 1969)

  118. view

    This illustration appeared in Sydney Parkinson's Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas, in his Majesty's Ship The Endeavour ... (London, 1773). The description of the incident quoted above from Hawkesworth's account (see item 2) emphasises the bravery of the two men, so it is perhaps fitting that Parkinson's illustration shows them in postures which recall those of classical warriors. This is a fine example of the late eighteenth century tendency to see natives as "noble savages".

  119. "Arrival of the Party at Duroadoo" in TIPPING, Marjorie, Ludwig Becker, Artist & Naturalist with the Burke & Wills Expedition. (Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, on behalf of the Library Council of Victoria, 1979)
  120. The original of this illustration is a watercolour in the Manuscript Collection at the State Library of Victoria. One of the Exploration party described the encounter with this group of Aborigines, noting that the men were circumcised. Marjorie Tipping notes "The eastern margin of the tribal area of this group [the Wanjiwalku people] formed part of the boundary between the area where circumcision was practised (to the west) and where it was absent." (p. 176)

  121. "Balloderree" in SMITH, Bernard, and WHEELER, Alwyne, The Art of the First Fleet & Other Early Australian Drawings. (Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1988)
  122. The original of this illustration is an ink and water-colour portrait in the British Museum. The artist is unknown, but has been given the epithet "The Port Jackson Painter"

  123. "Sydney Cove and Town, New South Wales" in McCORMICK, Tim [et al] First Views of Australia 1788-1825. (Sydney, David Ell Press, 1987)
  124. This view, showing an Aboriginal family in the foreground and Aborigines in canoes on the Harbour, is from an album of watercolours by an unknown painter dated 1816.

  125. "Portraits of the Aboriginal Inhabitants" in ANGAS, George French, South Australia Illustrated. (London, Thomas M'Lean, 1847; facsimile by A. H. & A. W. Reed, Artamon, N.S.W., 1967)
  126. The illustration shows Aboriginals painted and decorated for a corroborree.

  127. STRUTT, William. Victoria the Golden. (Melbourne, Library Committee, Parliament of Victoria, 1980)
  128. These illustrations show various members of the Native Police in Victoria. The book is a reproduction of a sketch book held in the Parliamentary Library.