The Hakluyt Society has just published its annotated edition of Matthew Flinders’s fair journal of his circumnavigation of Australia in the Investigator, which by now will have reached most if not all Society members. Published as Australia Circumnavigated: The Voyage of Matthew Flinders in HMS Investigator, 1801-1803, this two-volume work has been hotly anticipated. Yet, one might wonder, what is the excitement all about? A short sequence of blog posts in the weeks to come will provide some keys to this question. To kick this series off, let us take a brief look at the edition and its protagonist.
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Matthew Flinders (1774-1814) was the first navigator to sail all the way around the Australian coastline, proving it to be a separate continent. He also compiled detailed charts of substantial parts of its shores and islands, at a level of accuracy which meant that they remained useful well into the nineteenth century. The Hakluyt Society’s edition in two volumes includes some photographic extracts from these charts, together with specially-drawn maps detailing the route of the voyage.
The voyage had more than its fair share of both triumphs and tragedies, recounted in Flinders’s own words and carefully edited by Professor Kenneth Morgan of Brunel University, who explains unfamiliar nautical terms and identifies people and places. Naturalists and artists accompanied Flinders on this voyage, one of whose sponsors was the President of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks. Some of the resulting paintings of Australian flora and fauna have been reproduced in the Hakluyt Society edition.
In addition to the account of the voyage, the second volume also includes the ‘Memoir‘ which Flinders wrote to accompany his journal and charts and to explain his methods of surveying. Although Flinders published his own account of the voyage as A Voyage to Terra Australis (1814), the original journal included considerably more detail. This is the first time that a fully annotated edition of Flinders’s fair journal has been produced and the memoir has previously been available only as a manuscript.
The journals edited here comprise a daily log with full nautical information and ‘remarks’ on the coastal landscape, the achievements of previous navigators in Australian waters, encounters with Aborigines and Macassan trepangers, naval routines, scientific findings, and Flinders’s surveying and charting. The journals also include instructions for the voyage and some additional correspondence.This edition has a substantial introduction complemented with photographic excerpts from Flinders’s survey sheets, maps of the voyage and illustrations of the botanical and artistic work undertaken.