Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2012 Issue

Edwards Collection of Australiana Offered by Hordern House

Hordernedwards

The Robert Edwards collection.

Hordern House has released a detailed and extensively illustrated catalogue of The Collection of Robert Edwards AO (Order of Australia). Mr. Edwards, along with being a notable contributor to Australian cultural institutions, is a major collector of Australiana. He has spent most of his lifetime since he was a boy collecting books in his field of interest. Much of that time was spent in English bookshops, the land which became the source of so many of the people, and so much of the culture, that would become today's Australia. His collection became a major part of his life, and inspiration for his success. However, there eventually comes a time when collectors must deal with what comes next for their books, Mr. Edwards noting, “life is not a series of easy choices.” As he explains, “...finally I realized that I would ultimately have to come to terms with parting with this library gathered over a lifetime with care and enjoyment. It was a decision made with great reluctance.” The result is the offering of this library, and with it an opportunity for the next generation of collectors to trace Mr. Edwards' steps, but in their own unique ways.

While most of the material is closely related to Australia, its explorations, first by sea, then overland to the interior, its settlement, its natives, transportation and its life as a penal colony, there are also works with a wider perspective. Material is available pertaining to Cook's voyages, which reached Australia, but many other places as well. There is a first edition set of George Vancouver's explorations, which were a major source of information about western Australia, but are better remembered for their discoveries along the Pacific coast of North America. We even find accounts of William Bligh's voyage as Captain of the Bounty, and the notorious mutiny that occurred on board. Bligh would later be appointed Governor of New South Wales, the founding colony in Australia. Here are a few other works offered from this collection.

We will start with the “foundation book” for Australia: The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay, with the Account of the Establishment of the Colonies of Port Jackson & Norfolk Island... Arthur Phillip, an experienced sea captain, was put in charge of the voyage and settlement of the first colony in Australia. As such, he was named as the first Governor of New South Wales. Phillip put together a fleet of ships to make the journey from England. Their primary cargo was convicts. Running out of places to put criminals at home, the British decided to ship them off to the far off end of the earth, where they could be a bother no more. Of course, this meant that Governor Phillip would have to build a colony and farm the land primarily with convict labor, few of whom were skilled artisans or farmers. After landing at Botany Bay, where Captain Cook had spent time, Phillip concluded the area was not suitable for agriculture, which led to his move to Port Jackson (now Sydney Harbour). Still, it was a difficult time for the first few years, food shortages and other problems making the colony less than a happy place. Phillip finally managed to take his leave in 1792 after almost five years, by which time many more convicts, along with people of more reputable backgrounds, had arrived (around 4,000 total, three-quarters of whom were criminals). By then, food shortages had been resolved, and the colony was on more solid footing. Offered is a copy of the rare hand-colored deluxe first edition, published in 1789. Item 99. Priced at $48,000 (Australian dollars, which at this time are worth almost the same – slightly more – than U.S. dollars).

Item 1 is a broadside account of a horrible tragedy on one of the notorious transportation voyages, headed Frightful Wrecks! On August 25, 1833, the ship Amphitrite sailed from England toward Australia, carrying 106 women prisoners, 12 of their children, and a crew of 16. It was under the captaincy of John Hunter, with Surgeon James Forrester responsible for the convicts. The ship never came anywhere close to its destination. She ran aground half a mile off the port at Boulogne, France. A French pilot boat offered assistance, but Hunter refused all help. Offers were made to bring the women ashore for the night, but Forrester refused to let them out of his control. Hunter figured that the rising tide would free the ship, but as the tide rose, a terrible storm came up. Still, the officers refused assistance, and quickly, the seas now battering the ship, it broke apart. All of the women perished, only three crewmen who were able to swim to shore surviving. Hunter and Forrester were among those who paid dearly for their obstinacy. This unrecorded broadside is undated but has a handwritten notation of “Sept 1833.” $18,500.

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