Native Legends. David UNAIPON.
Native Legends
Native Legends

Native Legends

Adelaide, Hunkin, Ellis & King, Printers and Publishers, Pirie Street, [1929 (first edition, later impression)].

Octavo, [i], 15 pages with 2 illustrations (from photographs, on pages 5 and 11); the colophon at the foot of the last page states 'Hunkin, Ellis & King, Ltd., Printers, Pirie Street'; the rear cover is plain inside and out.

Mauve wrappers with a portrait of the author (from a photograph) on the front panel; covers lightly marked, unevenly sunned, and lightly creased; minimal conservation to the spine; overall an excellent copy.

This is claimed - incorrectly - to be the first book by an Aboriginal Australian (see Michael Richards: 'People, Print and Paper. A Catalogue of a Travelling Exhibition celebrating the Books of Australia, 1788-1988', National Library of Australia, 1988 - item 48, with 1929? as the date of publication. Both the Australian National Bibliography and Greenway are unclear, confused and confusing on this point, but a review copy with this date in Sir Will Sowden's hand, has been sighted, and that should settle it).

Several variant issues of this seminal work exist, but this copy is one of what we have identified as the second issue. It contains two rather than three illustrations to the text; the printer's street number (113) and the name of the city are lacking from the colophon; and there is no advertisement on the rear cover.

It is worth enumerating the other variants we have identified, and our suggested order of issue. There are two different cover illustrations: the portrait of the author (as with this copy), and a portrait of a young Indigenous woman (Clara), and each appears on at least two variant colour wrappers. In the first printing, the outside rear cover carries a small advertisement within a thin border: 'The Narrinyeri | Their Customs and Traditions | By David Unaipon | Is in Course of Preparation'. This advertisement appears to have been removed from all subsequent issues, most likely because the proposed publication did not appear under the advertised title, and not even under Unaipon's name, if it is the book we think it is. In early 1927, after an unfortunate breakdown in communications between David Unaipon and Angus and Robertson, the publishers sold the copyright of Unaipon's manuscript, 'Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines', to Dr William Ramsay Smith. In 1930, in a slightly edited form (not least with Smith now claiming full authorship), the manuscript was published in London as 'Myths and Legends of the Australian Aboriginals'. The full account of this unhappy story was published in 'Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines', edited by Stephen Muecke and Adam Shoemaker (Miegunyah Press, 2001). What we believe to be the third printing is similar to the second, but can be distinguished by corrected pagination (the page count commences with the first page and not the second); another variant colophon (with 'and' instead of an ampersand, and Adelaide reintroduced); captions set in different type; and the addition of text to the inside rear cover ('An Aboriginal Pleads for His Race').

Item #120896

Price (AUD): $750.00