German Australiana from Harbeck Rare Books

Harbeckgerman aust

German Australiana from Harbeck Rare Books


By Michael Stillman

This month we review our first catalogue from Harbeck Rare Books of Brisbane, Australia. It comes with the unusual title German Australiana & Pacifica (1702-1971). I will admit that I don't usually associate Germany with Australia. The most notable early explorations were by the Englishman James Cook, Matthew Flinders did some of the most extensive explorations, and it was Britain that originally colonized the continent-island as a penal colony. French voyager William Dampier was there even earlier, La Perouse visited, and those seeking the missing La Perouse charted part of the Australian coast. And way back, before the land was known as Australia, it was called New Holland. So what is the German connection? There appear to be basically two types of material in this catalogue. The earlier material is mostly German translations of seminal works concerning the area. Then, from the middle of the 19th to the early 20th century we have accounts of visits by numerous German scientists and adventurers, people who are not household names, but those who came to study or explore the land, and wrote about what they saw. The vast majority of the works found in this catalogue are written in the German language, but the catalogue itself is written in English. Here are some examples of what you will find.

Item 1 is an account of William Dampier's circumnavigation, Neue Reise um die Welt. This rare 1701 German edition was translated from the 1698 French edition. Dampier landed on the northwest coast of what was then known as New Holland (this area became known "Dampier Land"). Dampier went on land and visited an island where he encountered 40 aborigines. Priced at AU $4,950 (Australian dollars, or roughly $4,537 in U.S. dollars).

Among the earliest German emigrants to Australia were Prussian Lutherans, seeking to avoid a forced combination with the Reformed Church. Item 15 is an English language, London imprint concerning the German Lutherans: Persecution of the Lutheran Church in Prussia, from the year 1831, to the present time; Compiled from German publications. These articles were compiled by Augustus Kavel and published in 1840. They recount the "seizure" of a Lutheran Church and describe the voyage and reception of the emigrants who came to South Australia. $850. (US $779).

Item 10 is "the earliest separate publication on Australia published for children." The title is Naturforschende Geslellschaft Zurich, by Johann Jakob Romer. It was published in 1804. This was an annual natural history publication for children, published in Zurich. The 1804 edition was devoted entirely to New Holland, and contains information about Cook's voyages, Aborigines, and the native flora and fauna. Romer was a physician and botanist who was Director of the Botanic Gardens at the University of Zurich. AU $7,150 (US $6,553).

Joseph Lauterer was another botanist, though one who wrote about Australia a century later. He served as a lecturer in botany in Brisbane for a few years around the turn of the century, but traveled widely around the land, making observations on the botany and zoology, geology, topography and the Aborigines. His book, published in 1900, is Australien und Tasmanien. Item 65. $225 (US $206).