Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales

'Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales: with sixty-five plates of non descript animals, birds, lizards, serpents, curious cones of trees and other natural productions' by John White Esquire, Surgeon General to the Settlement, published in 1790 by J. Debrett Piccadilly, London.

John White was a British naval surgeon, joining the navy in 1778. He received his diploma of the Company of Surgeons in 1781, and over the next 5 years his naval service would take him to the West Indies and India. In 1786 he became surgeon of the H.M.S Irresistible, and four months later he was appointed chief surgeon of the expedition to establish a convict settlement at Botany Bay.

Of over 1400 people in the ships of the First Fleet, 778 were convicts and many were in poor health from long imprisonment. It is to the credit of White and his assistants that on the voyage of more than eight months there were only 34 deaths. Outbreaks of illnesses and a lack of accommodation for the sick were his first problems in the new colony. Within a year the incidence of sickness was greatly reduced and a hospital was built.

On joining the First Fleet White had begun to keep a journal, in which he described the flora and fauna observed in the new colony. In 1788 he sent this to London and it was published in 1790. Accompanying the text were engravings illustrating the journal, drawn in England from specimens sent by White, with descriptions by English specialists. White's book was very successful and went on to be translated into German, French and Swedish.

View selected plates here.