Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2004 Issue

Voyages and More<br>From Hordern House


Hordern House's 2004 catalogue

By Michael Stillman

Hordern House, a major Australian bookseller, has issued its catalogue for 2004. While most of what Hordern House offers has an Australian connection, many items connect with other areas of the world. This is not surprising as much of the material pertains to exploratory voyages that visited many other lands as well. Americana collectors in particular will be pleased to find that there are many items that belong as much in their collections as in those of collectors of Australiana.

Here is an item that will lead us to that connection. Item 3 is a copy of George Barrington's A Voyage to New South Wales..., published in London in 1795. Barrington was a pickpocket who, after several opportunities to change his ways, was banished to the penal colony in Australia. However, he was smarter than most criminals of the day, and after helping stave off a mutiny on his transport, ended up supervising criminals in Australia. His rogue reputation helped him develop a following back in England, which made him the perfect name to author a book on Australia for the masses, who could not afford the official printings of travels to this unknown land. However, in reality, Barrington was not an author, and he probably had little if anything to do with the writing of this and other books attributed to him. His name was simply good advertising for inexpensive compilations of reports from others, much of which was inaccurate. Nevertheless, this became the prime source of information about Australia for many. Priced at Australian $7,500 (approximately $5,300 U.S. dollars).

That leads us to the Americana connection. Item 4 is the first American edition of the same Barrington title. This was published in Philadelphia in 1796, and is only the second book about Australia published in the United States (the first is unobtainable). AUD $6,400 (US $4,523).

George Vancouver led an expedition in the 1790s that made discoveries all the way from Australia to the west coast of America (it is for him that Vancouver city and Vancouver Island are named). He searched for and concluded there was no Northwest Passage to shorten the journey from Europe to the Pacific. He also did much surveying of the American coast from California to Alaska and negotiated settlements between England and Spain over that territory. Less well known, at least in America, is that Vancouver did much surveying of southwest Australia on his way to America's west coast. The book is A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean..., and this is a first edition published in 1798. Item 72. AUD $68,500 (US $48,414).

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