Published accounts of the First Fleet | State Library of New South Wales

Published Accounts

The general public in England and throughout Europe was fascinated with the First Fleet adventure; to sail around the world and establish a convict settlement at Botany Bay. Enterprising publishers made arrangements with a number of potential First Fleet authors before they left England.

The first published accounts came on to the market in 1789. The transport ships of the First Fleet left Sydney in July 1788, gradually returning to England in 1789. The crews brought with them sketches and letters from friends and colleagues staying in the colony as well as official documents and the first rough manuscripts of these potential best sellers. 

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Among the most important and frequently reprinted accounts published by officers of the First Fleet are Watkin Tench's A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay..., 1789, Governor Phillip’s The voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay : with an account of the establishment of the colonies of Port Jackson & Norfolk Island…published in 1789, the illustrated journal of surgeon John White, published in 1790, John Hunter’s official journal published in 1793 and Judge Advocate David Collins detailed account published in 1798,  An account of the English colony in New South Wales...

The Library holds an unrivalled collection of early published accounts. Many of these editions are extremely rare. The earliest printed account of the new settlement is a one page broadside held by the Mitchell Library. Extract of a journal from England to Botany Bay was written by Richard Williams, a common seaman on the Borrowdale. This unique document is undated but was probably published in London around March or April 1789.

An authentic and interesting an Officer

A narrative of the Watkin Tench

View other published accounts of the First Fleet and the settlement at Port Jackson:

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