Discoveries in Australia


Two-volume Facsimile of the account by Commander John Lort Stokes, R.N., of H.M.S. Beagle.


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, by command of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. Also a narrative of Captain Owen Stanley’s visits to the islands in the Arafura Sea. By J. Lort Stokes, Commander, R.N. Originally published in London by T. and W. Boone, 29, New Bond Street, 1846. Ferguson 4406.

Facsimile edition, Adelaide: Libraries Board of South Australia, 1969. Australian Facsimile Editions No. 33, in two volumes. Octavo, Vol. I: xii + 521 pages, engraved Frontispiece, List of Charts, List of b&w Illustrations, Errata to Vols. I and II, three foldout maps, one two-colour, at end; Vol. II: viii + 543 pages, engraved Frontispiece, List of Charts, List of b&w Illustrations, Appendix, four foldout maps at end. Hardcover, gold lettered spines, boards bound in blue vinyl. Condition: As New, complete and unblemished.

Of immense historical significance, Discoveries in Australia presents the edited journals of surveys and explorations—at sea and on land—of Commander (later Admiral) John Lort Stokes (1811/12-1885) and crew members of HMS Beagle from 1837-1843. Many places and names associated with northern Australia, including the present-day Northern Territory, have their first recorded publication in this book. During the Timor Sea survey, Stokes closely examined the present-day Northern Territory coast, and discovered and named the Victoria River and Port Darwin. In December 1839 Stokes was speared by Aborigines in the shoulder, but recovered to assume command of the Beagle from John Wickham in 1841. Lort Stokes served on the Beagle for nearly 18 years, previously as Midshipman under Captain Phillip Parker King (1825), Mate and Assistant Surveyor (1831) and Lieutenant (1837). From 1831-1836, Stokes was on the Beagle with Charles Darwin. During 1841 Stokes surveyed part of the Gulf of Carpentaria, naming the Flinders and Albert Rivers. Many hydrographic maps prepared by Wickham and Stokes remained in use during World War II.

In his Australian Rare Books 1788-1900, Jonathon Wantrup writes that Stokes is ‘an engaging, vivacious and entertaining writer. As the official account of the last major expedition of Australian discovery, his book is essential to a collection relating to coastal voyages. It is also of considerable interest to collectors of inland exploration journals, since Stokes and the crew of the Beagle undertook many expeditions inland from the coast which are recorded in his book’.