A Cabinet of Portraits consisting of Distinguished Characters, British and Foreign: accompanied with a Brief Memoir of each Person
London, William Darton, [circa 1825].
Octavo, xii, 64 pages plus 64 engraved portraits with tissue-guards.
Early gilt-decorated half calf and marbled papered boards a little rubbed and bumped at the extremities; corners and the rear leading edge a little worn; 'Vol III' label missing from the spine; occasional scattered foxing and offsetting; a very good copy.
From the collection of James Hurtle Fisher, with his armorial bookplate on the pastedown and his signature in ink at the head of the engraved title page. Sir James Hurtle Fisher (1790-1875) 'was one of the most important pioneers of South Australia' (Australian Dictionary of Biography). He commenced practice as a solicitor in London in 1816 and 'was drawn into the colonizing movement in 1835.... [He] was selected as resident commissioner, one of the most important offices under the South Australian Act ... second only to the governor'. Fisher 'left England in July 1836 with the governor's party in the 'Buffalo', arriving on 28 December 1836 at Holdfast Bay, where the official oaths were administered, a proclamation was read and a ceremony marked the beginning of settlement. In January 1837 Fisher erected his reed hut and Land Office near the survey camp of Colonel William Light at the north-western corner of the new capital site; the destruction of these temporary buildings by fire on 23 January 1839 caused both men serious loss. Fisher had been allowed to draft his own instructions, which were not shown to Governor [Sir] John Hindmarsh. Disputes between the two men over their respective powers had begun on the voyage and were soon revived in the new Council of Government, and more violently outside, and led in February 1837 to the Resident Magistrate's Court binding the participants over to keep the peace towards each other.... The new governor, George Gawler, was appointed both governor and resident commissioner, a radical departure from the principles on which the colony had been founded'. Fisher returned to his profession, and became a leader of the South Australian Bar. In October 1840 he was elected first mayor of Adelaide; in 1860 he became the first resident South Australian to be knighted. The destructive fire referred to above is described in detail in the biography of Light (Dutton and Elder, 1991). Light was living 'in the wood and reed surveyor's hut alongside Fisher's equally combustible house in the parklands on North Terrace. In his own account, '... we discovered Fisher's house to be on fire. At the same time, the breeze freshening up, the destruction to both houses became inevitable. In less than ten minutes both houses were burnt to the ground, mine catching fire at the roof by a lighted piece from Fisher's. We saved nothing of value''. Accordingly, personal mementoes such as this, presumably brought by Fisher to South Australia on the 'Buffalo', must be of the utmost rarity.