Paper Nation: The story of the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia 1886–1888 by Tony Hughes-d’Aeth

by
December 2001–January 2002, no. 237
Ian Morrison reviews 'Paper Nation: The story of the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia 1886–1888' by Tony Hughes-d’Aeth

Paper Nation: The story of the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia 1886–1888

by Tony Hughes-d’Aeth

MUP, $59.95 hb, 276 pp

Paper Nation: The story of the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia 1886–1888 by Tony Hughes-d’Aeth

by
December 2001–January 2002, no. 237

I first encountered the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia long before I heard its name. Readers who  were at primary school in the late 1960s or early 1970s will know what I’m talking about — those illustrated booklets (a treasure trove for school projects) on Australian history, put out by the Bank of New South Wales, with pompous, triumphalist titles such as ‘Endeavour and Achievement’.

One image, in particular, haunted me: the explorer Edmund Kennedy, arms splayed like Jesus, torso stuck full of spears, while a demonic savage leers from the shadows of the surrounding jungle. Kennedy led a party of thirteen to explore Cape York in 1848. Ten died, including Kennedy himself; his ‘native assistant’ Jacky Jacky took the expedition’s papers and continued on until he reached the relief ship. The story was illustrated with Frank Mahony’s drawing of ‘The Death of Kennedy’ from the Picturesque Atlas. It is an overtly religious image — seventy years before Voss, the Explorer as Martyr. As Tony Hughes-d’Aeth describes it:

The dichotomy between civilised and ‘wild blacks’ is represented iconographically, with the noble Jacky Jacky on one side … and the sinister face of a ‘wild black’ sketched in the darkness of the forest on the other … The cruciform pose of the ‘spear-pierced’ Edmund Kennedy signifies the self-sacrificial actions of the ‘lionhearted explorer’.

Ian Morrison reviews 'Paper Nation: The story of the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia 1886–1888' by Tony Hughes-d’Aeth

Paper Nation: The story of the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia 1886–1888

by Tony Hughes-d’Aeth

MUP, $59.95 hb, 276 pp

From the New Issue

You May Also Like

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.