Australia: William Blandowski's Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Life

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William Blandowski was a German explorer, natural scientist and artist who led a Victorian government expedition to the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers from 1856 to 1857.

Australia is the first publication in English of his nineteenth-century illustrated encyclopaedia of Aboriginal life, Australien in 142 photographischen Abbildungen nach zehnjärigen Erfahrungen (German title) which has never been published in English before. Only one German copy survived.

In Australia, Blandowski explores the potential of images to portray the lives of people engaged in everyday activities, as well as dramatic conflicts and rituals. They include Blandowski's own photographs, and photographs of sketches or illustrations created by others, including the only nineteenth-century portrait image of the Nyeri Nyeri people.

Blandowski emphasises the sociality of Aboriginal life, rather than its strangeness, by showing Aboriginal people going about their domestic lives, in both camps and ceremonies.

By reading Australia, we become on-the-spot participants in moments of 'first contact'.

Had it come out in English in 1860, it would have been the most important illustrated work on the lives of Australian Aborigines.

— Harry Allen, editor

About the editor

Associate Professor Harry Allen teaches in the Department of Anthropology at Auckland University, New Zealand. He is a research Associate at La Trobe University, Victoria.

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View article sources (1)

[1] 'An Australian chronicle revisited', SMH 3/9/2010

Cite this page

Korff, J 2018, Australia: William Blandowski's Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Life, <>, retrieved 30 May 2024

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