Botany Bay Harbour, in New South Wales: with a View of the Heads; A Native Camp in Cockle Bay, New South Wales, with a View of Parramatta River; View of a Part of the Town of Parramatta in New South Wales Taken from the North Side of the River.
Botany Bay Harbour, in New South Wales: with a View of the Heads; A Native Camp in Cockle Bay, New South Wales, with a View of Parramatta River; View of a Part of the Town of Parramatta in New South Wales Taken from the North Side of the River.

Botany Bay Harbour, in New South Wales: with a View of the Heads; A Native Camp in Cockle Bay, New South Wales, with a View of Parramatta River; View of a Part of the Town of Parramatta in New South Wales Taken from the North Side of the River.

Sydney: Absalom West, 30 November 1812.

Three engravings, each 275 x 405 mm.; good impressions, each complete with all caption details, each mounted.

The first views published in Australia

Three fine and exceedingly rare views from the series published by Absalom West, one of the most fascinating and enigmatic projects of the Macquarie era. The present group comprises three West Views, all based on originals by the artist John Eyre, and including the very first view of the series, depicting the Heads at Botany Bay, as well as a dramatic scene in Cockle Bay (at what would now be the furthest reach of Darling Harbour), and an intriguing scene of Parramatta under heavy development. All are taken from the First Series of Views dated 30 November 1812, although known not to have been actually offered for sale until January 1813.

Three fine and exceedingly rare views from the series published by Absalom West, one of the most fascinating and enigmatic projects of the Macquarie era. The present group comprises three West Views, all based on originals by the artist John Eyre, and including the very first view of the series, depicting the Heads at Botany Bay, as well as a dramatic scene in Cockle Bay (at what would now be the furthest reach of Darling Harbour), and an intriguing scene of Parramatta under heavy development. All are taken from the First Series of Views dated 30 November 1812, although known not to have been actually offered for sale until January 1813.

West was a successful emancipist businessman and very well-connected, associating with everyone from William Bligh to John Lewin, and particularly friendly with the artists John Eyre and Richard Browne. West clearly had great vision as a promoter and organiser, able to imagine a vast project which relied equally on the artistic skills of some of his close friends and on the technical ability of the two newly arrived convict artisans who prepared all of the plates, Walter Preston and Philip Slaeger.

Although West's Views are much studied, and despite their acknowledged significance in terms of the development of home-grown artistic publishing, they remain something of a mystery. Indeed, on paper, it is difficult to think of a more unlikely project: West, who had only been given his ticket-of leave in 1810 after a 14-year stint as a convict brewer, suddenly announces, without notice or much fanfare, that he will be publishing a series of large-format views of New South Wales, to be sold at his pub at the end of the road to Dawe's Point, the "Blue Lion Inn".

Whatever the genesis of the project, it is not overstating the case to say that West revolutionised the visual history of the Colony. In terms of separately issued landscape views, the only real precursors to his work are those of William Standen Blake (1802) and Francis Jukes (1804). Of course, West's work also relates to several of the important illustrated books of the era, notably those of Governor Phillip (1789), John Hunter (1793), David Collins (1798 &1802) and, most significantly, David Dickenson Mann's work The Present Picture of New South Wales (1811), which published views after John Eyre; all of these of course were published in London.

Such a list of precursors might tend to obscure the true importance of West's work: the views of Blake and Jukes, and all of the early books, were published in London, at the heart of the English-speaking world and one of the great global publishing hubs. In Sydney, West and his confrères had none of the advantages of working in London: to the contrary, one of the few contemporary notices of the project stressed that their press had been constructed by a workman "who had never before seen such a machine" (quoted in Butler, Printed, p. 26). The fact that West was successful is an indication that very few of the English-published prints made it to Australia. More significant still, no English project of the era had anywhere near the audacious scale of West's work.

The views are therefore the earliest locally-printed views of Australia and are now recognised as emblematic of a new artistic spirit in the Colony: in Roger Butler's historical survey of early Australian printing, for example, West's work takes pride of place alongside the equally rare Lewin's Birds of New South Wales (1813). Not only are the engravings of remarkable beauty and historical importance, any examples of West's work are only very rarely offered for sale.

[A fuller description is available on request]

Provenance: Two prints (<em>Cockle Bay </em>and <em>Town of Parramatta</em>) from the private collection of Mr Owen Esmond Friend, exhibited at the Royal Australian Historical Society, 1943 no. 36, and then by descent.

ADB; Roger Butler, Printed, pp. 24-44; Colonial Secretary Papers; DAAO; Richard Neville, John Lewin, pp. 180-187; Trove.

Price (AUD): $135,000.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504662