Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership


Home Our FREE ebooks Search Site Site Map Contact Us Reading, Downloading and Converting files

The Treasure Chest - News and Reviews

by Colin Choat (Contact me)

Lost Treasure—Changes to Australian Copyright Law
A Treasure Trove— Dictionary of Australian Biography
Pioneer Sawbones—John White, Surgeon to the First Fleet
Old Gold—Watkin Tench
Buried Treasure—James Tucker, Convict Novelist
An Impressive Lode—Sleeping Giants—Books to be rediscovered
A Glittering Prize—Australian Explorers
Rich Harvest—Dr Widger's Library—Classic Stories
Looking for Hidden Treasure—Finding Flinders
Pieces of Silver—Most Popular eBooks
Priceless Booty—eBook Reader Software for PCs
A Real Gem—Sue Asscher, Project Gutenberg Volunteer
Relative Fortunes—Thinkers—Einstein and Tagore
Diamonds are Forever—Un-birthday Presents
Alluvial Gold—Kanga Creek
X Marks the SpotThe History of Sumatra
El DoradoThe Sources of History
Finding FlindersFinding Books to put Online
PostscriptsFrom our now defunct newsletter

Changes to Australian Copyright Law

In Australia there is no system of registration for copyright protection. You do not need to publish your work, to put a copyright notice on it, or to do anything else to be covered by copyright—the protection is free and automatic. There are no forms to fill in, and there are no fees to be paid. You do not have to send your work to the Australian Copyright Council or to anyone else. Further, as a result of international treaties, such as the Berne Convention, Australian copyright works are protected in most other countries, and copyright works from most other countries are protected in Australia.

Under Australian copyright law, work published (anywhere in the world) in an author's lifetime are, in Australia, protected for the life of the author plus 70 years from the end of the year of the author's death. After the protection period, they enter the "public domain". However, they may still be subject to copyright in other countries. In countries where copyright protections can extend more than 70 years past an author's death, the author's estate and publishers still retain their legal and moral rights to oversee the work in those countries.

Once copyright has expired it cannot be revived by subsequent publication, or otherwise. New editions cannot extend copyright, however new work (such as an introduction) will be copyright. Translators, editors, and illustrators have similar rights to those of the author of the work.

Until 2005 the period of copyright in Australia was for the life of the author plus 50 years from the end of the year of the author's death. In 2005 amendments to the Australian Copyright Act were made, as a result of a Free Trade Agreement with the United States. Those amendments extended the period of protection (for most material that was still protected by copyright at the time) to 70 years, as outlined in an earlier paragraph. In general, material that was previously protected for the life of the creator plus 50 years is now protected for the creator's life life plus 70 years, and material that was previously protected for 50 years from first publication is protected for 70 years from the end of the year of first publication.

The extended period of protection only applied to material that was still protected by copyright on 1 January 2005, or created on or after that date. There has been no revival of copyright in material which was in the public domain as at 1 January 2005. This means that, with regard to books, all material in the public domain as at midnight on 31 December 2004 remains in the public domain. For example, Miles Franklin died in 1954. Her book My Brilliant Career entered the public domain at midnight on 31 December 2004. It remains in the public domain. Works published by authors who died in or after 1955 will now remain in copyright until midnight on 31 December 2025, at the earliest.


The above information applies to published works. Until 2019, unpublished works remained in copyright until published, at which time the rules above applied. From 1 January 2019 the law changed to allow publication of thousands of unpublished documents. This change in the law sees the liberation of numerous documents, which have languished in the stack areas of public libraries, so that they can be freely accessed and published by anyone.

The following is quoted from 2019 Australia’s Year of the Public Domain published by the Australian Libraries Copyright Committee. It can be downloaded from Australian Libraries Copyright Committee site.

Canberra, Australia — 2019 will be a golden year for culture and learning in Australia. As of 1 January millions of items from our national collections – from Captain Cook’s carrot marmalade recipe and Henry Lawson’s letters to war posters and theses – will fall out of copyright for the first time, finally becoming free for all to use.

This wealth of new material is a result of changes to copyright law introduced by the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Act 2017. As those who Cooked for Copyright in 2015 will remember, an aberration of Australian law has meant that unpublished materials – from letters to diaries to shipping manifests – currently remain in copyright in perpetuity. This means they rapidly become locked, unuseable, behind laws that require you to seek permission from an often impossible to identify copyright owner before you publish, adapt or even copy them.

The new laws starting on 1 January reverse that, giving unpublished materials the same copyright term as their published counterparts. This means most of Australia’s national collection will now have a copyright term of 70 years after the author’s death. The changes also create a new term of 70 years for materials with unknown authors, known as orphan works.

Dictionary of Australian Biography

Percival SerleFirst published in 1949, this prodigious work by Percival Serle includes biographies of approximately one thousand prominent Australians or persons closely connected with Australia, all of whom died before 1950. Politicians, explorers, artists and pioneers in many areas are covered.

The Dictionary took more than twenty years to complete. Serle notes in the Preface that "I have endeavoured to make the book worthy of its subject. It would have been better could I have spent another five years on it, but at seventy-five years of age one realizes there is a time to make an end."

To access the dictionary and a detailed biography of Serle himself, go to the Serle entry.

The digital version of this book includes hyperlinks to othere people referred in the biographies who also have entries, and images of many of the subjects.

The entries generally avoid controversy and do not always mention the personal life of the subjects, particularly unflattering incidents. And, being a creature of his time, Serle rarely mentions the wives of the male subjects who are covered. Still, he generally provides good information regarding the facts of the lives of the subjects.

For the modern reader perhaps there are too many politicians in whom we are not now interested, but the entries provide a good background reference. Not enough women are represented, but again, Serle was a creature of his time. Nellie Melba, Caroline Chisholm, Mary Gaunt and Catherine Spence are among those covered.

Can one imagine Serle sitting out (or writing out) more than one thousand biographies. After scanning and proofing this book myself, I still can't comprehend the Herculean task which he undertook. As he said, "at seventy-five years of age one realizes there is a time to make an end." What an understatement.

John White, surgeon on the First Fleet to sail to Australia, in 1787-88.

Early drawing of kangarooThe first authenticated discovery of Australia was by William Jansz in 1606. Further contact was made by seafarers including Hartog, Houtman, Carstensz, Tasman, Dampier, and Cook but it was not until 1788, when the ships of the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove with their "cargo" of convicts and began the first white settlement on the continent, that the "European" phase of Australian history really began.

The convicts were put on board the ships of the First Fleet in March 1787 and arrived at Sydney Cove on 26 January, 1788—the day now commemorated as "Australia Day". There have been a number of first hand accounts of the voyage by men who were on board the ships, including the very readable "A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay" and "A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson" by Watkin Tench, one of the marines (see review, below).

Another account, "Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales", by John Wright, Surgeon-General to the Settlement, was first published in 1790. This publication included 65 magnificent colour plates of "non descript animals, birds, serpents, curious cones of trees and other natural productions".

Of the colour plates, an "advertisement" at the beginning of the publication has this to say:—

"It becomes the duty of the Editor, as much as it is his inclination, to return his public and grateful acknowledgments to the Gentlemen through whose abilities and liberal communications, in the province of Natural History, he has been enabled to surmount those difficulties that necessarily attended the description of so great a variety of animals, presented for the first time to the observation of the Naturalist, and consequently in the class of Non-descripts.

"Among those Gentlemen he has the honour, particularly, to reckon the names of Dr. Shaw; Dr. Smith, the possessor of the celebrated Linnaean Collection; and John Hunter, Esq., who, to a sublime and inventive genius, happily unites a disinterested and generous zeal for the promotion of natural science. The Public may rely, with the most perfect confidence, on the care and accuracy with which the drawings have been copied from nature, by Miss Stone, Mr. Catton, Mr. Nodder, and other artists; and the Editor flatters himself the Engravings are all executed with equal correctness, by, or under the immediate inspection of Mr. Milton. The Birds, etc. from which the drawings were taken are deposited in the Leverian Museum."

Quite a recommendation!

Here is White's account of the landing at Sydney Cove on Australia Day, 1788:—

"We again descried the French ships standing in for the bay, with a leading wind; upon which Captain Hunter sent his first lieutenant on board the commanding officer's ship, which was distinguished by a broad pendant, to assist them in coming in. Soon after the lieutenants were returned to the Sirius, Captain Clonnard, the French Commodore's captain (who during the late war commanded the Artois, taken by the Bienfaisant, Captain Macbride), waited on Captain Hunter, and informed him that the ships were the Astrolabe and the Boussale, which sailed from France in the year 1786, under the command of Messieurs de la Perouse and De Langle. He further acquainted him that, having touched at Navigator's Isles, they had had the misfortune to lose Captain De Langle, the second in command, with ten other officers and two boats crews, all of whom were cut off by the natives of those islands, who appeared to be numerous and warlike. This accident induced them to put into this port in order to build some boats, which they had in frames. It also had afforded room for the promotion of Monsieur Clonnard, who, on their leaving France, was only the commodore's first lieutenant.

"At ten o'clock the Sirius, with all the ships, weighed, and in the evening anchored in Port Jackson, with a few trifling damages done to some of them, who had run foul of each other in working out of Botany Bay. Port Jackson I believe to be, without exception, the finest and most extensive harbour in the universe, and at the same time the most secure, being safe from all the winds that blow. It is divided into a great number of coves, to which his excellency has given different names. That on which the town is to be built, is called Sydney Cove. It is one of the smallest in the harbour, but the most convenient, as ships of the greatest burden can with ease go into it, and heave out close to the shore. Trincomalé, acknowledged to be one of the best harbours in the world, is by no means to be compared to it. In a word, Port Jackson would afford sufficient and safe anchorage for all the navies of Europe. The Supply had arrived the day before, and the governor, with every person that could be spared from the ship, were on shore, clearing the ground for the encampment. In the evening, when all the ships had anchored, the English colours were displayed; and at the foot of the flag-staff his Majesty's health, and success to the settlement, was drank by the governor, many of the principal officers, and private men who were present upon the occasion."

The publication of his journal with so many colur plates indicates that White took more than a passing interest in the flora and fauna of the new colony. However, it seems that, after the publication of his journal, he became pessimistic about the future of the settlement and, having obtained leave of absence, sailed for England on 17 December, 1794. William Balmain, his assistant, took over White's duties, and was later appointed principal surgeon. History has shown, of course, that White's judgment regarding the future of the colony was incorrect; but his observation about Sydney Harbour, that it was the "finest and most extensive harbour in the universe", has stood the test of time.

The etext of White's journal is now available at the Australiana page. The HTML version of the eBook includes all 66 colour plates, including the original title page.

Watkin Tench

Watkin TenchWatkin Tench—"A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay" and "A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson".

The first fleet of ships which arrived in Botany Bay (Sydney) from England, in January 1788, heralded the beginning of white settlement in Australia. Watkin Tench (1759-1833), Captain of the Marines, was one of the four captains who made the voyage. In his autobiographical "A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay" Tench states that "our number was . . . twelve sail: His Majesty's ships Sirius, Hyena, and Supply, three Victuallers with two years stores and provisions on board for the Settlement, and six Transports, with troops and convicts. In the transports were embarked four captains, twelve subalterns, twenty-four serjeants and corporals, eight drummers, and one hundred and sixty private marines, making the whole of the military force, including the Major Commandant and Staff on board the Sirius, to consist of two hundred and twelve persons, of whom two hundred and ten were volunteers. The number of convicts was five hundred and sixty-five men, one hundred and ninety-two women, and eighteen children; the major part of the prisoners were mechanics and husbandmen, selected on purpose by order of Government."

In "A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay" and his subsequent work "A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson", Tench provides a first hand account of the voyage and then goes on to describe the subsequent settlement in Sydney, New South Wales. He details the natural environment of Port Jackson and its environs; the efforts to establish food production; the exploratory trips into the hinterland; and, most interestingly, the first interaction between Europeans and the Australian Aborigines. This is a remarkable eye-witness account by a thoughtful, humane man who was also a talented writer. Tench was interested in everyone and everything around him. These two works may be considered the first works of Australian literature.

James Tucker, convict novelist

North Head Sydney HarbourJames Tucker (1803-1866) and the story behing the publication of "Ralph Rashleigh".

Geoffrey Dutton, in The Australian Collection—Australia's Greatest Books, remarks that "The definition of "classic" should be relevant to both time and place. There are many books in each country's literature that are cherished as classics in their homeland but little known elsewhere." Hence the inclusion of Ralph Rashleighin Dutton's list of Australia's Greatest Books. The book is a "classic" for a number of reasons: its literary merit; its depiction of the life of a convict; the circumstances of its composition; and the occasion of the discovery of the manuscript and subsequent publication.

The novel relates the story of a well-educated Londoner who drifts into petty crimes, for one of which he is tried, imprisoned, and sentenced to death. He escapes from prison, only to be recaptured. However his sentence is commuted and he is transported to New South Wales. (The image shows the entrance to Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) in 2005. It has not changed much in over 200 years.)

During his life in the colony he is flogged, placed in solitary confinement and forced to endure both heat and cold without the benefit of shoes. Still, this is not a story of hopelessness and the convicts manage to get up a theatre and Rashleigh is later assigned as a labourer to a settler. The adventures continue unabated, to such an extent that Dutton remarks, "Interest in the breathless series of adventures that make up Ralph Rashleigh might flag if most of them were not so clearly authentic." As it was, the author of this work was himself a convict.

Colin Roderick, academic and writer on Australian literature, noted in a foreword to the 1952 edition of the book, that "Ralph Rashleigh is the "only novel of abiding stature to have been written by a man who during all his Australian life was never anything but a convict." Like Rashleigh, Tucker himself was sentenced to be transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life, for the crime of sending a letter threatening to (falsely) accuse his cousin, James Stanyford Tucker, with indecently assaulting him, James Rosenberg Tucker (our author). Tucker spent much of his time in the colony as a messenger and clerk. On several occasions he was granted a ticket of leave only to have it revoked each time, save the last. He died in Liverpool (N.S.W.) asylum in 1866.

In fact, we are not absolutely certain that James Tucker is the author of Ralph Rashleigh, as the following story will admit. In 1920, at an exhibition of rare books and manuscripts held by the Royal Australian Historical Society, an elderly man "turned up" with a manuscript titled Ralph Rashleigh or The Life of an Exile, by Giacomo di Rosenberg and handed it to the president of the Society, Mr C. H. Bertie. The elderly man, Robert Baxter, could only say that some 50 years earlier it had been left to his wife by her father, who had it of the author 30 years before that. Three other manuscripts were also presented at the same time. The date written by the author, on the verso of the first page of Ralph Rashleigh, was 31st December, 1845. The paper on which the manuscript was written was watermarked 1840. Other paper in the bundle was ascertained to have come from the register of assignment of convicts at Port Macquarie (N.S.W.), the latest dates on those sheets being 1838.

These facts, together with other evidence, suggested that the manuscripts were genuine work from the 1840s. On the assumption that Ralph Rashleigh was a disguised book of memoirs, in 1929 a re-written version of the manuscript was published in London. The reasons for the re-writing were outlined in the publishers' note at the beginning of the publication: "We recognized its value and interest, but the archaic literary style of the writer made us doubt whether the book would be acceptable to modern readers. So the manuscript was rewritten, but with absolute fidelity to the original story."

The identity of the author of Ralph Rashleigh remained a mystery. Then, in 1949, Mr Bertie "put me in possession", as Colin Roderick put it in the foreword to the 1952 edition of Ralph Rashleigh, "of all he knew about the manuscript. Intrigued by its obvious authenticity and moved by the obscure fate of its author, I was persuaded not to let the pursuit of that worthy (sic) stop until I had established his identity." Unfortunately, for copyright reasons, we cannot include in the ebook of Ralph Rashleigh the complete foreword, by Colin Roderick, to the 1952 edition. However, Roderick goes on to detail how he was able to ascertain that James Tucker was almost certainly the author. After two years, building upon the knowledge that the paper upon which the manuscript was written came from the penal settlement at Port Macquarie, Roderick recounts: "On the evening of 26 July 1951 I was looking through the 1846 inward correspondence of William Nairn Gray to the Colonial Secretary. A file of letters dealt with several complaints against Gray, one of which was that he had misappropriated convict labour to build a race-course and to enlarge his own garden for profit. To refute the charges he enclosed a plan of the trifling alterations to his garden, and another of the mighty public works he had performed. "These plans really gave the solution to the problem. Not only were they in the same calligraphy as the title pages of the Rashleigh manuscripts, but they were signed with the amateur architect's name, James Tucker. Several pages attached to them were in the same handwriting as the manuscript of Ralph Rashleigh."

Roderick provides other evidence to corroborate his contention that Tucker was the author of Ralph Rashleigh. For example Tucker, in a postscript to his threatening letter to his cousin, mentioned earlier, directed the cousin to "address to me Mr Rosenberg, the Bell, Exeter Street, Strand." Further, Tucker's criminal charge was directed to "James Rosenberg Tucker", and at Port Jackson, Tucker's name was entered as "James Tucker, or Rosenberg." Rosenberg was, as mentioned earlier, the name entered on the Ralph Rashleigh manuscript.Some commentators, however, have argued that Tucker merely copied the manuscript.

In an exchange in the Bulletin December 1952 to February 1953, M. H. Ellis argued that Tucker was a copyist whose known writing, for example a letter written in 1826, does not reveal the qualities required of the author of Ralph Rashleigh. Roderick, though, seems to have the weight of evidence. In the foreword to the 1952 edition of Ralph Rashleigh, Colin Roderick goes on further to note the "unfortunate introduction [to the 1929 edition] by the late Earl of Birkenhead. Like the editor of that text, Birkenhead was misled into believing the book was a memoir entirely and the text was mangled and falsified to fit this preconceived theory." Birkenhead set forth a diatribe in favour of maintaining the death penalty, using as evidence to support his claim, the "memoir" of Rashleigh, a person who "had the advantage of a decent upbringing, but, out of weakness of character, adopted what seemed the easier life of crime at an early age." It was fortunate for Birkenhead that, by 1952 when the verbatim edition of what turned out to be a novel was published, he was "late" as it may have saved him from acute embarrassment.

At Project Gutenberg Australia will be found both the "first authentic popular edition" created from the original manuscript, first published in 1952, together with the heavily edited 1929 edition (including the publishers' note and introduction by Birkenhead). The 1929 edition is now, of course, just a curiosity. I trust that you will agree that this is a "classic" story about a classic work of Australian literature—Ralph Rashleigh, The Life of an Exile by James Tucker.

Sleeping Giants

A television series was shown recently on Australian television about Ernest Shackleton's "Expedition to the South Pole" in the early years of the twentieth century. Shackleton wrote the account soon after the expedition ended and the book, whilst popular at the time, has remained in relative obscurity for over half a century. It, no doubt, became popular reading again following the television series when viewers, intrigued by the story, went back to the original source.

As with Shackleton's book, much of the early literature of Australia has remained in relative obscurity. It might seem to be as "dry as old bones" and there are certainly few people singing its praises in order to convince people otherwise. There is, after all, no profit in promoting books which are out of copyright, and there is such a mountain of modern work which is promoted by publishers and reviewed in newspapers and literary journals. What is more, with such a bewildering number of books to choose from we, as consumers, are often more than willing to be guided by a trusted reviewer towards the novels which we read. Or we might choose the latest novel of a favourite author in the firm knowledge that we won't be disappointed with it. Such an author already has "runs on the board."

Fortunately, not everybody relies on the "recommendation" method of choosing books. Recently a newspaper carried a story of a reader who maintained that she simply walked down the aisles of her local library once a week and chose four books at random, from the shelves. She walked through a different section each week—fiction, biography, history, it mattered not to her. She reported that she could only read one book each week, but chose four so that she could discard the "fizzers" and move on to the next one. What courage! Oh, but what buried treasure she must unearth.

Many years ago I purchased a "psycho-analytical" book titled Dibs, in Search of Self by Virginia Axline. It was then, or has become, a classic in the field of "play therapy". However, I didn't know that at the time. I don't know what attracted me to it and enticed me to pluck it from the shelf in the bookstore, but it has remained one of my all-time favourite non-fiction books. Over the years, I have given away three or four copies to friends but have always managed to buy another. I won't be giving anything away here, in stating that the book its about a small child who seems to be intellectually retarded. Ms Axline interacts with him and it soon emerges that he is a genius with an IQ of 168. That is not so important. More important is the sympathy displayed by the therapist and the incredible courage shown by the little boy in overcoming all of the problems unwittingly heaped upon him by his parents. It has always haunted me that I may never have known this beautiful book if I hadn't stumbled upon it. (This book is still in copyright, and is not held at Project Gutenberg Australia)

Only a small number of "modern" works survive the test of time to become part of the treasure-trove of literature; and those that do survive may not have been best-sellers in their time. Geoffrey Dutton, in Australia's Greatest Books, set out to review approximately one hundred books, only one per author, which form part of Australia's literary heritage. Not all were written by great stylists, but they were all instrumental in helping form Australia's literary heritage and all are worthwhile in one way or another.

One of Dutton's selections is "Jonah". This is a novel set in Sydney in the early 1900s. Many of the places described—Chinatown and Paddy's markets, Botany Road, Sydney Harbour and its foreshores—are icons of Sydney. The characters—members of the 'Push', rags-to-riches businessmen like Jonah, and battlers like Chook and Pinky—are just as recognisable today. This novel has been described as the first great novel about Sydney. It has been the subject of a television series and has been adapted for the stage. Yet it is certainly not well-known by the reading public in Australia.

Another Dutton selection is "A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson" (see article above). This was republished as 1788 to coincide with Australia's bi-centenary. Watkin Tench, who served as a marine on one of the vessels of the First Fleet to arrive in Australia in 1788, provides a first hand account of the voyage and then goes on to describe the subsequent settlement in Sydney. He details the natural environment of Port Jackson and its environs; the efforts to establish food production; the exploratory trips into the hinterland; and, most interestingly, the first interaction between Europeans and the Australian Aborigines. This is a remarkable eye-witness account by a thoughtful, humane man who was also a talented writer. Tench was interested in everyone and everything around him. This work may be considered the first work of Australian literature.

There is a large body of early Australian writing which covers the journals written by early explorers including Sturt, Giles, Leichhardt and Carnegie. Dutton includes a number of these in his list, including Sturt, who had this to say as he and his crew were swept down the Murray River in a whaleboat: "I still retained a strong impression on my mind that some change was at hand, and on this occasion, I was not disappointed; but the view was one for which I was not altogether prepared. We had, at length, arrived at the termination of the Murray. Immediately below me was a beautiful lake, which appeared to be a fitting reservoir for the noble stream that had led us to it; and which was now ruffled by the breeze that swept over it."

One of my favourite books about Australia by an early writer is "The Adventures of Louis de Rougemont". To quote a short passage: "Just picture the scene for yourself. The weird, unexplored land stretches away on every side, though one could not see much of it on account of the grassy hillocks. I, a white man, was alone among the blacks in the terrible land of "Never Never,"—as the Australians call their terra incognita; and I was wrestling with a gigantic cannibal chief for the possession of two delicately-reared English girls, who were in his power."

It never happened. Louis de Rougemont was the assumed name of Swiss-born Louis Grin. The Oxford Companion to English Literature describes him as "an adventurer who decided at the age of sixteen to see the world. He began as a footman to Fanny Kemble, touring through Europe and America, and eventually became butler to the governor of Australia. After spending many years there he contributed to Wilde World Magazine in 1898 sensational articles relating to his extraordinary, mostly bogus, voyages and adventures in search of pearls and gold, where he encountered an octopus with tentacles 75 feet long and rode turtles in the water." It seems that, after great public excitement in the UK over the stories, he was eventually rumbled when, in a passage of poetic beauty, he described the wonderful "flight of the wombat." This is a very entertaining book of shipwreck, isolation and adventures with the Australian aborigines, which I found, for the most part, quite unputdownable. You just have to admire an author who can achieve that!

My dictionary defines treasure-trove as "treasure found hidden without evidence of ownership." There really is a treasure-trove of early Australian literature in libraries throughout Australia, and at Project Gutenberg Australia, for that matter. Why not skip down the "virtual" aisles and grab a few titles. Taste them and discard the ones that don't appeal. Who knows what treasures you might unearth. Most of the books mentioned in this article are available as eBooks from this site. Go to the Australiana page. It won't cost you a cent.

Australian Explorers

Map of Sturt's expeditions The First Fleet of ships from England arrived in Sydney in 1788. This represented the first European settlement of the continent, although aborigines had already been living in Australia for tens of thousand of years. For the first twenty-five years the new inhabitants were confined to the coastal strip around Sydney as no way could be found across the Blue Mountains, part of the Great Dividing Range which runs parallel to the east coast of Australia for almost the coast's entire length. When, in 1813, a way across the Blue Mountains was found, a wave of inland exploration was unleashed which continued for the next fifty years. New areas were opened up for settlement and several expeditions were commissioned by the government and by private backers to ascertain whether an inland sea existed. This remarkable period in Australian history was documented by many of the explorers themselves, who kept journals of their expeditions. These journals were usually published soon after the conclusion of each expedition, and particularly appealed to people in England who took quite an interest in the "opening up" of the "new" continent. Moreover, many of those journals have been reprinted in facsimile editions, which mean that they are accessible to the modern reader, though they are by no means readily available at all public libraries. A number of Project Gutenberg volunteers in Australia have been transcribing these journals and most are now available at Project Gutenberg, including a a number of HTML versions, with illustrations and maps from the original publications. Others works are in progress at the present time, as part of an ongoing project. These eBooks provide a wonderful resource for students, researchers anfd general readers. Links to these eBooks, together with reproductions of maps showing the extent of the journeys undertaken, and other information relating to Australian land and sea exploration, are provided at the Explorers page.

Dr Widger's Library

The Confessions of Harry LorrequerHave you read the work of Jean de La Fontaine or Harry Lorrequer (Charles James Lever)? I hadn't until recently. However, in a wonderful example of bringing Project Gutenberg literature to life, David Widger, a long-time PG volunteer, has established Dr. Widger's Library, a literary web site par excellence. David has produced for Project Gutenberg eBooks covering more than 30 authors, including de La Fontaine and Lorrequer, and his site—still under development—boasts some beautiful images, and beautiful words. Take this example...

"We talked of pipe-clay—regulation caps—
Long twenty-fours—short culverins and mortars—
Condemn'd the 'Horse Guards' for a set of raps,
And cursed our fate at being in such quarters.
Some smoked, some sighed, and some were heard to snore;
Some wished themselves five fathoms 'neat the Solway;
And some did pray—who never prayed before—
That they might get the 'route' for Cork or Galway."
(From "The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer")

So don't wait, take a visit to Dr. Widger's Library. Browse the virtual shelves, sample the literary gems and download from Project Gutenberg some of the treasure which Dr. David Widger has unearthed for us. And, as an extra treat, David has prepared several volumes of his favourite quotations, from the books he has transcribed. Ah, reading! one of the most "delectable modes of getting over the ground through life", as Lorrequer declaims.

The most Popular Downloads

Lady Chatterley's Lover by D H Lawrence, is one of the most-downloaded eBook at Project Gutenberg Australia. Other top favourites are Nineteen eighty-four and Animal Farm, by George Orwell. The two Orwell novels were the first to be posted at the Australian site and have obviously proved to be popular choices for readers of eBooks. Other favourites are Anne of Windy Poplars by L M Montgomery, Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T E Lawrence and A Short History of Australia by Sir Ernest Scott, testament to the fact that the reading tastes of online book lovers is very diverse. These ebooks are available from the Works provided by Project Gutenberg Australia page.

ebook Reader Software for Personal Computers

(Refer also to the information about ebook readers on our home page)

Tom's etext Reader

I've been waxing lyrical about this software for some time now. The fact that it is FREEWARE protects me from charges that I may have a pecuniary interest. In Thomas Fellner's words "this program lets you read plain text files (e.g. eTexts as provided by the Project Gutenberg) in a book-like manner, on your computer screen. Window size, font style and font size are selectable; page breaks are inserted automatically. You can set bookmarks and search for character strings. A simple text editor is also included." The latest version also features a new book style display with colored pages and supports automatic creation of a table of contents. The program now works significantly faster. With the host of features provided, the download is surprisingly small (under 500kb), and the software is provided either as an archive containing all required files, which can simply be unzipped to a folder or, if preferred, as a standard Windows setup routine which will install the eTextReader files together with an uninstall program, and associate the *.etr file extension with eTextReader. Zipped eTexts may be read directly without prior unzipping. Many of the features are configurable. Online help is provided. Tom invites suggestions and feedback.

Spacejock Software

Yes, another FREE eBook reader.

The yBook Reader from Spacejock Software. However this is a reader with a few differences. Firstly it has been developed by an Aussie, so it must be good. Secondly, it has all the features (and then some) that we have come to expect from Windows eBook Readers: Runs on Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP and Linux (using Wine). Displays text and html files on side-by-side pages. Resize the pages, adjust the margins, set text and paper colour. Search for words or phrases. Automatic bookmarks. Text sizes from tiny to HUGE. No zooming, panning or scrolling. Español, Deutsch, Português, Nederlands, more to come. Completely Free: No registration, no adware, nothing. (But donations are accepted!) Last, but certainly not least, this reader downloads (and opens into the browser) files from the Project Gutenberg and Project Gutenberg Australia web sites. Simply select the eBook of your choice and wait for it to load. As an added bonus to yBook, Spacejock also boasts yRead—FREE text to SPEECH software. Load up your eBooks, sit back, and have yRead tell you a story. With free software from Microsoft you can even choose to listen to a male or female reader sporting a British accent. Check out the Spacejock site and download yBook, yRead and other free software.

Sue Asscher, Project Gutenberg volunteer

In her deliciously understated style, Sue Asscher, Past Production Director for Project Gutenberg in Australia, sent me this email: "Up and running: the Darwin page. Many thanks for all your interest and support. Back to Insectivorous Plants." Up and running, indeed! Sue had been involved in one of her favourite pastimes, that of transcribing the work of Charles Darwin, and has contributed in no small part to the establishment of the authoritative Darwin site created by John van Wyhe. Sue, David Price and Derek Thompson (other PG volunteers) are prominently acknowledged on the site. Sue has produced numerous eBooks for Project Gutenberg and Project Gutenberg Australia. Her current project at the time of sending me the email was obviously Darwin's "Insectivorous Plants." She is now working on explorers journals and other exciting works.



When Rabindranath Tagore and Albert Einstein met for the first time, in Germany in 1930, both had won the Nobel Prize, Tagore for literature in 1913, Einstein for physics in 1921. At the time of that meeting, Dimitri Marianoff, a relative of Einstein, described Tagore as "the poet with the head of a thinker" and Einstein as "the thinker with the head of a poet." The conversation, he added, was "as though two planets were engaged in a chat." They met in July at Einstein's home on a hilltop outside Berlin. Einstein, 42, came down to the road to meet his 70-year-old Bengali guest, who later recalled about his host, "His shock of white hair, his burning eyes, his warm manner again impressed me with the human character of this man who dealt so abstractly with the laws of geometry and mathematics." He wrote that he was deeply impressed by Einstein's great simplicity: "There was nothing stiff about him - there was no intellectual aloofness. He seemed to me a man who valued human relationship and he showed toward me a real interest and understanding."

Marianoff published an abbreviated report of the meeting in The New York Times Magazine in 1930 under the headline "Einstein and Tagore Plumb the Truth."

Now, a longer version of that conversation and a second dialogue, based on notes taken by Marianoff and another guest, has been printed in a special issue of The Kenyon Review (Spring 2001 edition) which was jointly published with the British literary periodical Stand. The journal, titled Cultures of Creativity, was published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prizes. (See Nobel Laureates at Project Gutenberg for winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature represented at Project Gutenberg)

Un-Birthday Presents

From Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

It's a cravat, child, and a beautiful one, as you say. It's a present from the White King and Queen. There now!'

'Is it really?' said Alice, quite pleased to find that she HAD chosen a good subject, after all.

'They gave it me,' Humpty Dumpty continued thoughtfully, as he crossed one knee over the other and clasped his hands round it, 'they gave it me—for an un-birthday present.'

'I beg your pardon?' Alice said with a puzzled air.

'I'm not offended,' said Humpty Dumpty.

'I mean, what IS an un-birthday present?'

'A present given when it isn't your birthday, of course.'

Alice considered a little. 'I like birthday presents best,' she said at last.

'You don't know what you're talking about!' cried Humpty Dumpty. 'How many days are there in a year?'

'Three hundred and sixty-five,' said Alice.

'And how many birthdays have you?'


'And if you take one from three hundred and sixty-five, what remains?'

'Three hundred and sixty-four, of course.'

Humpty Dumpty looked doubtful. 'I'd rather see that done on paper,' he said.

Alice couldn't help smiling as she took out her memorandumbook, and worked the sum for him:


Humpty Dumpty took the book, and looked at it carefully. 'That seems to be done right—' he began.

'You're holding it upside down!' Alice interrupted.

'To be sure I was!' Humpty Dumpty said gaily, as she turned it round for him. 'I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that SEEMS to be done right—though I haven't time to look it over thoroughly just now—and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents—'

'Certainly,' said Alice.

'And only ONE for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'

Kanga Creek

Australian creekKanga Creek by Havelock Ellis is one of those hidden treasures that we at Project Gutenberg Australia are so good at unearthing. "Wasn't Ellis a sexologist?" you might ask. Well, yes, he was. However, he spent a year in Australia when only 20 years old, where he penned this charming "bush idyll". Percival Serle in his biography of Ellis in The Dictionary of Australian Biography states that Kanga Creek belongs to Australian literature, and has been called "the most delightful of bush idylls".

The storyline is simple enough: a young man spends a year in a bush school in New South Wales, Australia. The descriptions of the bush, the sense of isolation but not loneliness, the feeling of the joy of life, the gentle romance with an acquaintance, are all quite magic. And, at the beginning of the book, Ellis provides some background to the book's creation and publishing history.

The book arrived at Project Gutenberg Australia thanks to a volunteer, but I did not read it immediately. Then, when working on Serle's Dictionary of Australian Biography I recalled that we had the book and decided to take a look. I had just bought an ebook reader and Kanga Creek seemed the perfect candidate for a trial of the reader. However, one doesn't need an ebook reader. Just open the file and discover for yourself the delightfulKanga Creek: An Australian Idyll.

The History of Sumatra

The History of Sumatra, by William Marsden, was recently placed on line at Project Gutenberg by Sue Asscher, a volunteer who has produced many ebooks for Project Gutenberg and Project Gutenberg Australia. This book has the long title of The History of Sumatra, Containing an Account of the Government, Laws, Customs, and Manners of the Native Inhabitants, with a Description of the Natural Productions, and a Relation of the Ancient Political State of that Island. The Third Edition was published in 1811.

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, in its article on Sumatra states that "Sumatra (also spelled Sumatara and Sumatera) is the sixth largest island of the world (approximately 470,000 sq. km) and is the largest part of Indonesia." The article goes on to state that "most of Sumatra used to be covered by tropical rainforest, home to species such as orangutans, tapirs, and Sumatran tigers, and some unique plants like the Rafflesia. Unfortunately, economic development coupled with corruption and illegal logging has severely threatened its existence. Conservation areas have not been spared from destruction, either."

Chapter 6 of The History of Sumatra covers "beasts, reptiles, fish, birds, and insects." Sue Asscher would not have been aware of the above statement in Wikipedia, but she knows that things aren't what they used to be in Sumatra or, for that matter, the world. When submitting the completed book for online posting she commented "I loved the animals and plants. I wonder how many still survive. Are you mindful of all this being the chronicle of the end of the world? So sad."

The publication of a book published in 1811 begs the question "is it still relevant?" Well, old books often give us an insight into the views held at the time; they provide a record of events which occurred long ago; and in many cases they are a record of a natural world which has vanished or is now under severe threat. If The History of Sumatra is not actually a "chronicle of the end of the world" it is certainly a chronicle of the many species of beasts, reptiles, fish, birds, and insects which now no longer inhabit our planet.

The History of Sumatra is available online at Project Gutenberg

The Sources of History

In the Introduction to A Source Book of Australian History Gwendolen H. Swinburne notes that:—

"The number of events described in a Source Book must necessarily be smaller than that in histories of another type; but the aim is to place the student in contact with the evidence of history in order that he may become his own historian by drawing his own deductions from the contemporary records. The greatest historian can find no materials ulterior to such as are here presented, for there is nothing ulterior to them but the deeds themselves. They are the records written by the men who gave their life and health to lay the foundation of Australia's greatness—by Phillip, weakening under the racking cares of the infant state; by Sturt in the scorching desert, as the last duty of an exhausting day. They are aglow with the heat of action; they are inspiring in their quiet modesty and strength."

Many of the sources quoted by Swinburne are available, in full, from Project Gutenberg and Project Gutenberg Australia via The Project Gutenberg Library of Australiana. The Library includes works by Dampier, Cook, Flinders, Sturt, Stuart and Forest and a number of other land and sea explorers. Also included are works by Arthur Phillip, first Governor of New South Wales, and Watkin Tench, David Collins and John White, who arrived with the first fleet. These, together with other first hand accounts of the early days in New South Wales and Victoria, are the sources of Australian history. As Swinburne asserts, "there is nothing ulterior to them but the deeds themselves."

Finding Flinders

One of the best things about putting ebooks online at Project Gutenberg Australia is the process of identifying and finding the source material in the first place. There is a lot of work involved in producing an ebook, so I like to choose books which, to me, seem really worthwhile having online. Of course, the first consideration must be that the book is out of copyright in Australia.

A book may be "worthwhile" for many reasons. If a book is an Australian "classic" it is a prime candidate. Geoffrey Dutton, in The Australian Collection—Australia's Greatest Books, remarks that "The definition of "classic" should be relevant to both time and place. There are many books in each country's literature that are cherished as classics in their homeland but little known elsewhere." Some Australian classics, such as My Brilliant Career, can be found in any public library. Landtakers and Inheritors, both by Brian Penton, and both Australian classics, are harder to find.

The journals of the Australian land and sea explorers are also worthwhile, as they can then be used as a very convenient source of reference. Fortunately for us, during 1960s the Libraries Board of South Australia published facsimile editions of many of the published journals of the early explorers and these are available in many public libraries, though sometimes they cannot be borrowed and can only be used as reference books within the library.

Once one identifies a worthwhile book, a copy must be found which can be used to prepare the ebook. I use the internet to browse the catalogues of public libraries in the city in which I live to try to locate a copy of the book. If I find a copy, it is usually in the "stack" area of the library. There are many great books gathering dust in the stack areas of local libraries throughout Australia and over the years I have had occasion to become familiar with many of them as I have sought to find a copy of a book which I have wanted to place online as an ebook at Project Gutenberg Australia.

I have had some surprising finds in searching the online catalogues of public libraries. Sometimes I don't expect to find the book, but feel compelled to look "just in case." Catherine Helen Spence wrote A Week in the Future, which was serialised in The Centennial Magazine from December 1888 to July 1889. It is an important book as it provides an example of early Australian "speculative fiction", but I had never seen a copy. In it Spence imagines a week 100 years in the future. I could hardly believe it when I found a "facsimile" copy of the story, in book form, in a suburban library.

An even more remarkable find was The Part Borne by the Dutch in the Discovery of Australia, by J E Heeres, published in 1899. This is a rare and valuable book, the more so as we celebrated in 2006 the four-hundredth anniversary of the first authenticated landing on Australian soil by an "outsider", the Dutchman Willem Janszoon. I felt compelled to advise the library of the value of the book and suggested that they restrict it to in-library use, but not until I had borrowed it and produced the ebook.

Another book by J E Heeres, equally important to Australia, is Abel Janszoon Tasman's Journal of his Discovery of Van Diemen's Land and New Zealand in 1642, with Documents Relating to his Exploration of Australia in which are added his Life and Labours. I never expected to find an accessible copy of this book and was delighted when a collector, who had a facsimile edition of the book (also rare) offered to photocopy the pages and forward them to me.

Matthew Flinders' Voyage to Terra Australis is an important book in Australian history as it relates the story of the circumnavigation of Australia by Flinders and his subsequent imprisonment on the island of Mauritius by the French governor. There were copies in a number of local libraries, however all were marked "for reference only" and could not be borrowed. It is futile in such cases to appeal to the librarian for special dispensation to borrow such books so that they can be scanned into a computer. Fortunately, I was finally able to gain access to the two volumes.

For entirely different reasons I wanted to make an ebook of An American Angler in Australia by Zane Grey. Grey's fishing books have a cult following. In the book Grey chases Marlin off Batemans Bay, on the New south Wales South Coast. However, there is more to this book which includes interesting descriptions of Australian flora and fauna by a person well-known for his interest in nature. The only copy I could find was in a major library, where viewing could only be done in a restricted area of the library. Fortunately it is a short book, so i was able to photocopy all the pages for later use.

People often ask why I make ebooks. There are many reasons, but an important reason is that I can make available worthwhile books which might otherwise not be accessible because it it not viable, for one reason or another, to publish them again. The books may otherwise never see the light of day as they are hidden away in stack areas, or held reference sections or in restricted areas in public libraries. Another reason, of course, is that I have such fun tracking them down.



Our Bestsellers page contains the titles of the top ten bestselling books in both fiction and non-fiction categories for the years 1923 through 1953 (from Publisher's Weekly) with links to those that are available at Project Gutenberg Australia. All works by authors who died after 31 December, 1954 are still under copyright in Australia.

In the fiction category, there are some some surprising authors on the list. Zane Grey, Booth Tarkington and Lloyd C Douglas are now out of favour, even though their books are still very readable. On the other hand, the works of Virginia Woolf and D H Lawrence are still widely read.

The non-fiction category has some fascinating titles which would readily find a publisher even today, including 'Self-Mastery Through Conscious Auto-Suggestion', 'Diet and Health', and 'You Must Relax.' No doubt the actual content would, in many cases, be quite different.

It is difficult to find many of the non-fiction titles in libraries today, much more difficult than finding many of the fiction titles. One supposes that the transitory nature of many of the non-fiction works has meant that the books date more easily.

Why not click on the Bestsellers link and browse the list. At the very least it provides an interesting insight into the reading taste of people more than 50 years ago.

Arthur Conan Doyle

We all know Doyle as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, but some of his other work, such as this collection of stories, is less well known. A bibliography of his work is available from our Doyle page. Most of his titles can be directly accessed from that page.

Perhaps the most famous quotation attributed to Doyle's character, Sherlock Holmes, is "Elementary, my Dear Watson." The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Fourth Edition, 1992, p. 256, states that the quotation "is not found in any book by Conan Doyle, although a review of the film The Return of Sherlock Holmes in New York Times 19 October 1929. p. 22, states: 'In the final scene Dr Watson is there with his "Amazing, Holmes," and Holmes comes forth with his "Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary."'

Here are a few other quotations which ARE in Doyle's books:

'Excellent,' I cried. 'Elementary,' said he.
(The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894), 'The Crooked Man.')

You see, but you do not observe.
(The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) 'The Red-Headed League.')

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?
(The Sign of Four (1890) ch. 6)

It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.
(A Study in Scarlet (1888) ch. 3)

Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.
(A Study in Scarlet (1888) ch. 5)

Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognises genius.
(The Valley of Fear (1915) ch.1)

Updated 1 June 2020