State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 10 October 1972


Thomas Bankes's A New Royal Authentic and Complete System of Universal Geography

As a consequence of two responses to my article on Bankes's Geography in issue number 8 of this Journal, I am now (ruefully) able to add another edition to the sequence, and to confirm a speculation.
First, Miss K. Williams, Chief Cataloguer at the Alexander Turnbull Library, has kindly given me details of that library's copy, which proves to be a distinctive one. Page 27 is correctly numbered, but page 662 is misnumbered 661 and page 663 misnumbered 635. (In this, it is the same as my copy, and the British Museum copy, which for various reasons I have considered as later impressions of the first edition.) Its initial collation is as that of the first edition, with the Royal Licence on two pages, a Preface on two pages, and the text beginning on page [5]. Its titiepage generically resembles that of the first edition, and differs only slightly from that of the British Museum copy. (Both contain additional lines which emphasize the work's aspect as a collection of Voyages and Travels, and which are not present in VSL (1).)
On the other hand, the texts of the New Holland sections in VSL(1) and the Turnbull copy differ significantly. Whereas the text in the first edition is prefaced by an Introduction (‘As an enterprizing spirit still prevails amongst us with unabating ardour …’ p. [5]), this Introduction is omitted in the Turnbull copy, which begins immediately with the description of New Holland, and which has the following footnote:
‘Botany Bay being the spot appointed for the transportation of our convicts, and the planting of a new colony, and thereby rendered an object of national importance as well as curiosity, has induced us to give a particular description of it at the commencement of our work.’ (p. [5].)
There is no mention of the Botany Bay scheme in the first edition, and, as well, the account of New Holland in the Turnbull edition, though similar in general aspect to that in the first edition, differs from the latter in detail, wording, and the order of presentation.
The New Holland section of the Turnbull copy also differs from that of what I previously designated the second edition. As discussed, this edition has an altered titlepage and general title, the Royal Licence is printed on one page, and an Address to the Reader has replaced the Preface. The text now commences on page 1, with a head-note beginning ‘The Expedition planned by Government for the Transportation of Convicts, and the Planting a Colony …,’ and Bankes has expanded the New Holland section with details from Tench's A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay. (See my article, p. 94.) The New Holland section in the Turnbull copy is in many paragraphs identical in wording to the VSL(2) copy, but it contains no details of the settlement, and is of course several pages shorter. The Turnbull copy, then, would seem to have been published after September 1786, when the decision to establish the New South Wales colony became known, and before early 1789, when the first of the First Fleet ships returned. Presumably, it should be dated 1787–8, and it comes between what I previously designated the first and second editions.
Second, Mr. Philip Brown, of Geelong, has kindly shown me his copy of Bankes, which is an example of what I previously designated the fourth edition. This contains a revised list of plates, together with the note that ‘In the present Edition, it was thought necessary to cancel many of the Plates, to introduce new ones, of a more interesting Nature,’ and thus establishes that the plates did change in the 1792? edition.
The revised list of editions (with locations) of Bankes's Geography (which should still, of course, be regarded as tentative) is as follows:
1st ed. 1787?-8 VSL BM (the earlier date should perhaps be advanced to late 1786).
2nd ed. 1787–8 Alexander Turnbull Library.
3rd ed. 1789? VSL Mitchell Library (previously 2nd ed.).
4th ed. 1791? Seattle Public Library (previously 3rd ed.).
5th ed. 1792? Mitchell Library (previously 4th ed.: plates altered).
6th ed. 1793? General Reference, Library of New South Wales (previously 5th ed.).
7th ed. 1797? William L. Clements Library (previously 6th ed.).
Alan Frost