Extracts of Letters from Arthur Phillip Esq. Governor of New South Wales, to Lord Sydney; to which is annexed a Description of Norfolk Island, by Philip Gidley King, Esq., and an Account of Expences incurred in transporting Convicts to New South Wales. FIRST FLEET, Governor Arthur PHILLIP.

Extracts of Letters from Arthur Phillip Esq. Governor of New South Wales, to Lord Sydney…
Extracts of Letters from Arthur Phillip Esq. Governor of New South Wales, to Lord Sydney; to which is annexed a Description of Norfolk Island, by Philip Gidley King, Esq., and an Account of Expences incurred in transporting Convicts to New South Wales.

London: J. Debrett, 1791.

Quarto, [ii],, 26 pp.; an excellent copy in half morocco over marbled boards by Bayntun of Bath, spine banded and lettered in gilt.

The rare supplement to Governor Phillip's account

One of the rarest of First Fleet books: 'there is keen competition among collectors when a copy turns up' (Wantrup). This was the first public printing of Governor Phillip's letters to the government: reporting on the state and prospects of the new colony in New South Wales, these letters and despatches continued the story of settlement after the events described in Phillip's Voyage… to Botany Bay of 1789.

One of the rarest of First Fleet books: 'there is keen competition among collectors when a copy turns up' (Wantrup). This was the first public printing of Governor Phillip's letters to the government: reporting on the state and prospects of the new colony in New South Wales, these letters and despatches continued the story of settlement after the events described in Phillip's Voyage… to Botany Bay of 1789.

As with many eighteenth-century books, Phillip's Voyage had actually been prepared by an anonymous editor who had access to Phillip's despatches, along with the journals of other commanding officers, Lieutenant Shortland, Lieutenant Watts and Captain Marshall. The published account was so successful that London publishers realised that there was healthy demand for material on the new colony, and when some additional letters were published in a House of Commons paper, the London publisher John Debrett reprinted them in this form. Debrett had published White's Journal in 1790, and was the competitor of John Stockdale, who had published Phillip's Voyage; perhaps Debrett was able to take advantage of his position as the official publisher of the Parliamentary Register to get the jump on his competitor.

Although the parliamentary paper appeared a little earlier, most collectors in fact prefer the Debrett edition because the text is printed in much the same grand style as the books of Phillip and White. The following year Debrett continued the series of publications based on the parliamentary papers by issuing Copies and Extracts of Letters.

The book uses three despatches from Phillip to Lord Sydney as well as an important description of Norfolk Island by Philip Gidley King to continue the story of settlement after the events described in Phillip's official account. It provides an insight into the early stages of the colony, with some attention being paid to the founding of Rose Hill where a 'very industrious man' (i.e. James Ruse) and one hundred convicts were cultivating the land. Phillip's assessment of New South Wales is robust and positive, and he asserts that 'a finer or more healthy climate is not to be found in any part of the world'. Indeed, he seems particularly pleased to report that while there have been seventy-seven deaths (including seven executions) since their arrival, that this has been balanced by eighty-seven newly-born children.

Appended to the letters of Phillip is King's despatch from Norfolk Island, which gives a positive assessment of the successful cultivation of crops such as wheat, barley, corn and sugar cane; although he does note in some exasperation that repeated attempts to work the flax plant have failed, and that 'until a native of New Zealand can be carried' thence, they may never succeed.

Provenance: H. Mackenzie-Begg, with bookplate; private collection (Sydney).

Crittenden, 'A Bibliography of the First Fleet', 195; Ferguson, 116; Wantrup, 9.

Price (AUD): $34,000.00  other currencies Ref: #4504401

Condition Report