RGSSA Library Catalogue

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Rare Book Discussion Group for 2017

Meetings are held in the Society's rooms
located in the Mortlock Wing
of the State Library of South Australia

Sessions are from 10:30 am to 12 noon
usually held on the 4th Thursday in the month  
Some sessions are repeated in the afternoon

Sessions are limited and bookings are essential
through the web site 
or telephone (08) 8207 7266  
An entry fee applies to non members

Flinders, Banks & the Library at Soho Square

23rd February, 2017

Matthew Flinders’ principal task on his return from detention on Mauritius in 1810 was to write his Voyage to Terra Australis. The chief source of his background information in London was the library of Sir Joseph Banks where he was a regular visitor.  Robert Brown, who had been the naturalist on Flinders’ Investigator expedition was Banks’ librarian.  The association between the three men endured until Flinders’ death in 1814.
Dr Gillian Dooley, from Flinders University will discuss the importance of Banks and Brown, and the Library at Soho Square.

[The Library's online catalogue can be searched for the names of Australian explorers. See the catalogue record for Voyage to Terra Australis published in 1814. Click on the subjects shown in the record that link to similar works in the catalogue]

Shipwrecks, Lighthouses and Lifeboats

23rd March, 2017

The 'Admella', a passenger steamship on her way from Adelaide to Melbourne and Launceston, was wrecked on the reef off Carpenter Rocks on 6 August 1859. Eighty nine of the 113 on board died.
The lighthouse on Cape Northumberland was without a telegraph so the keeper had to ride to Mount Gambier to get help. Two small boats first reached the wreck a full week after the disaster.
This session will present more general material from the RGSSA collections on shipwrecks, their prevention and rescue.

[The Library's online catalogue can be searched for the names of ships and shipwrecked vessels. Search on 'Admella' for the related works in the catalogue]

The contribution of Germans to 19th century Australia

    27th April, 2017

While Germany was never deemed to be a major player in the age of Colonialism there were German mariners, explorers, discoverers and researchers almost everywhere in the world. Leichhardt is well known but there were other Germans in British service working as Naturalists, Astronomers, Geologists, or Missionaries. Find out what brought Johann Forster, Friedrich Gerstaecker, Christian C. Ruemker and others to these shores and how they contributed to the development of Australia.

[The Library's online catalogue can be searched for letters and books written by and about Ludwig Leichhardt (1813-1848). Also search for Explorers, German and Naturalists, German etc]

The Gills at Glen Osmond

25th May, 2017

The name Gill had a profound effect on the settlement and development of South Australia from the late 1830s up until the present time.
The RGSSA and the independent Public Service are Gill’s legacies.  Thomas Gill was Treasurer of the Society from its inception in 1885 and his extensive library was sold to the Society. 

[The Library's online catalogue can be searched for letters and books written by Thomas Gill (1849-1923). See catalogue record ]

Early Settlement in Aotearoa (New Zealand)

22nd June, 2017

The June meeting will deal with the early history in New Zealand leading up to the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840.  Also featured will be a group of significant people who influenced the settlement of both South Eastern Australia and New Zealand.  These include Tasman, Cook, Light, Wakefield and Grey.
The RGSSA has a significant collection of material relating to our close neighbours.

[The Library's online catalogue can be searched for books about the history of New Zealand and the Treaty of Waitangi]

The 'birth' of the City of Adelaide

27th July, 2017

This session will highlight books and maps in the collection that described the concept of the city of Adelaide.  We will learn about the planning undertaken by Colonel Light to overcome the geographical challenges. The politics of the street names will also be discussed.

[The Library's online catalogue can be searched for books written by and about the explorations of Colonel William Light (1786-1839)]

Ethiopia, the search for Prester John, and exotic Emperors

     24th August 2017

Maps from the 16th to 18th centuries suggest that to Europeans of those times Ethiopia was more of a concept than a country. The few adventurers who penetrated its formidable highlands were not permitted to leave.
Efforts by Portuguese Jesuits to convert the Ethiopians to Catholicism ignored the fact that they had been Christians since 341 AD.  Later British visitors gave accounts of their encounters with some of Ethiopia’s colourful and exotic Emperors.

[The Library's online catalogue can be searched for books about the history of Ethiopia and the legend of Prester John. See catalogue record ]

The Chinese People and Australia

28th September, 2017

Chinese explorers, refugees, labourers, miners, traders and business people have played a part in the development of Australia.  Their presence was at first welcomed, then opposed.  From 1850, laws were passed to limit the number of Chinese in the gold fields and Federation ushered in the 'White Australia Policy'.
The RGS Library has many rare items; books, magazines, pamphlets, almanacs, manuscripts and newspapers with which you can trace the lives of the Chinese who came to Australia.

[The Library's online catalogue can be searched for early works about Chinese people in Australia and the 'White Australia Policy']

Europe Unfolding

26th October, 2017

The great era of European exploration that began in the 15th century arose primarily out of a need to seek out new trade routes.  Maps in some of the early books often showed amazing and sometimes imaginary lands.
Seldom seen atlases from the Rare Book Room will be discussed.  These include Abraham Ortelius 1571 copy of Theatrum orbis terrarum and RGSSA’s oldest book, the 1482 edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia.  

[See the Library's catalogue record for the Theatrum orbis terrarum
Click on the subject, Atlases--Early works to 1800, for other similar works in the catalogue
See the catalogue record for the Geographia

From the Specials Cabinet

23rd November, 2017

The Specials Cabinet – the locked display bookshelves in the RGS Library - holds books that are 'special' due to their age, value and/or rarity.

Early in 2017, six Discussion Group members will be asked to select one item from the Cabinet and demonstrate to the rest of the Group why it was chosen and what it conveys. Library and other research assistance will be provided, if needed.

More information
 about the Rare Book Discussion Group
is available on the web site
and contact details for the RGSSA

Please refer to the entire RGSSA Events Program for 2017  


posted by Sandra Thompson
RGSSA remote cataloguer 

RGSSA Event Program for 2017





Founded in Adelaide
10 July 1885

2017 Program


His Excellency

Hieu Van Le Ao

Governor of South Australia

[image: The Mortlock Wing of the State Library of South Australia houses the RGSSA Collection] 

The object of the Society is to promote the understanding of geography among its members and the community.  Some of its activities include:
Coach tours, day and weekend excursions
Monthly talks on geographical topics
Publication of an annual SA Geographical Journal and bi-monthly newsletter (GeoNews)
Other occasional publications including South Australian regional guides

The Society is always interested in welcoming new members or volunteers
All enquiries to the Office Manager
Teachers: Lecture attendance CPD certificates available
For information about membership refer to the web site

Lectures and talks are held in St Andrews Parish Centre
 43 Church Terrace, Walkerville  
For parking at the Centre, enter and park off Fuller Street car park 
NOTE: All meetings are on a Thursday at 5:30 pm unless stated otherwise
Please always check the listed venues and times with the Society

Thursday 16th February
'Lake Eyre Basin'
Richard Kingsford
St Andrew's Centre

Thursday 16th March, 5:30 pm
'Shorebird Conservation in the Adelaide Region'
Tony Flaherty
St Andrew's Centre

Thursday 20th April, 5:30 pm
RGSSA Annual General Meeting
'Arid Recovery: innovation and conservation'
Katherine Tuft
St Andrew's Centre

Thursday 25th May, 5:30 pm
'Why has our former colony, PNG, disappeared from Australia’s conversation?'
Sean Dorney
St Andrew's Centre

Monday, May TBA, 5:00 pm
RGSSA Awards by invitation
Government House?

Thursday 15th June, 5:30 pm
Brock Lecture
'The many lives of Sir Hubert Wilkins'
Jeff Maynard
St Andrew's Centre

Thursday 20th July, 5:30 pm
Janis Sheldrick
St Andrew's Centre

Thursday 17th August, 5:30 pm
'Conserving whales and dolphins in the 21st century'
Dr Catherine Kemper
St Andrew's Centre Theatre

Thursday 21st September, 5:30 pm
'Human space flight – my personal experiences'
Andrew Thomas NASA
(see below * this popular event must be booked)
St Andrew's Centre

Thursday 19th October, 5:30 pm
‘The Irish in South Australia'
Susan Arthure
St Andrew's Centre

Thursday 16th November, 5:30 pm
'Scenic beauty – can it be measured and mapped?'
Andrew Lothian
St Andrew's Centre            

Online Lectures are available through the members portal on our web site 


Thursday 7th December 2017
Venue: TBA
6:30 for 7:00 pm
Please mark this in your Diary


May to June
'Images of the World – from Roman times to the digital age'


*Meet Australia's first NASA astronaut
Andrew Thomas
21st September 2017 at 5:30 pm
Numbers are limited and restricted to members only 
Please pre-book through our web site or the Society's office


Proposed events to be advised

Meets in the Society's rooms at 10:30 am 
on the 4th Thursday of the month
Experience publishing formats from AD374
For further details contact the Society directly or through our web site

[Please see the blog post for all information on the 2017 program] 

 Search on "Flinders Ranges Walks"
for this  logo in Goolge Store


      Eight weeks during winter 2016 saw us complete most of the allotted tasks. There were minor disruptions on account of rain, but all taken in good spirit. In 2017 we will look at the possibilities of GPS guided walks, and improvements to the RGSSA Flinders Ranges Walks App.
[More information about the new app is on the web site's home page ]
All hands welcome for any of the sessions

Southern Flinders Ranges
1 May – 12 May
Mt Brown and Dutchman's Stern
Accommodation at The Dutchman HS – 300 km north of Adelaide –timing and accommodation – confirmed

Central Flinders Ranges
12 June – 23 June
Wilcolo, Bunyeroo Gorge, Yuluna, Aroona-Youngoona, Trezona, Wilkawillina
Accommodation at Oraparinna Shearer's Quarters, Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park – 500 km North of Adelaide – timing and accommodation confirmed

Northern Flinders Ranges
27 July – 4 August
Italowie, Balcanoona Creek, Monarch Mine, Oppaminda-Nudlamutana, Mawson-Spriggina, Acacia Ridge, Bararranna, Terrapinna Tors
Possible 2-3 nights camp at Terrapinna during the period
All other accommodation at Balcanoona Shearer's Quarters – 600 km north of Adelaide –timing and accommodation confirmed

See the Geonews or contact the RGSSA office
for updates and more information
Further details for all '2017 Program Events' will be advised in GeoNews and www.rgssa.org.au


The Library of the Society is located in the Mortlock Wing of the State Library of South Australia (as pictured above).

Special Features 
Rare Books: including twenty seven books published before 1599. The oldest is a beautifully bound version of Ptolemy's Geographia (1482). 
Over 200 manuscripts: including a number of Australian explorer's diaries, eighteen original George French Angas watercolours and three manuscripts of Sir Joseph banks including his 1766 Newfoundland diary. 
Over 800 maps: including many South Australian maps which provide a record of discovery, exploration and settlement.

Periodicals: including the journals of most Australian geographical, historical and Royal societies, the Linnean Society from 1791 and RGS London from 1831.

Pictorial collection: over 2,000 photographs, paintings and drawings including Francis Younghusband's 'lost' photographs of Tibet. 

Artefacts/ relics: collection includes Colonel Light's brass surveying level.

Most Library items catalogued at: www.rgssa.org.au/Catalogue.htm

Library enquires: library@rgssa.org.au 
Telephone: 08 8207 7265
Staffed Tuesday  from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Thurs (on-line)
Answer machine operates 24 hours
Email: admin@rgssa.org.au
Postal address: 
PO Box 3661, Rundle Mall
Adelaide S.A. 5000


posted by Sandra Thompson
RGSSA remote cataloguer 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Action of Cartagena

"Action off Cartagena", 1708 
Oil by Samuel Scott
“On Friday, June 8 1708, at four o’clock in the afternoon the galleon San José set sail for Cádiz with a cargo of precious metals and stones valued at five hundred million pesos in the currency of the day, it was sunk by an English squadron at the entrance to the port [Cartagena de Indias].”--from Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) by the Colombian Nobel laureate, Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014)

After three hundred years; the shipwreck of the Spanish galleon, San José, has been found. The galleon perished in a battle during the Spanish War of Succession (1701-1714) with perhaps the richest cargo ever lost at sea.

The Colombian Government reported the news of their discovery through world media outlets in December, 2015. From deep dive photographs taken by the Colombian navy, the identity of the wreck was confirmed, showing the galleon's unique dolphin engravings on the bronze cannons of the wreck.

Once again, the San José, is the coveted prize of a battle being waged through a minefield of international law courts to establish the ownership of the wreck; potentially valued in multi-billions of dollars. In 2011, a US court decided that the shipwreck was the property of Colombia. The decision went against a salvage claim made by an American based company, Sea Search Armada, who maintained to have initially located and documented the wreck in 1982.

The Spanish and Colombian Governments both attach historical national importance and cultural heritage rights to the San José. Spain is pursuing an appeal through the international courts of the United Nations by argument of provenance; insisting that the 17th century galleon is the sovereign possession of Spain. As the San José lies within Colombian territorial waters, southwest of the port of Cartagena, the Colombian Government claims legal possession of the wreck. In March this year, officials from both governments, met in Madrid to resolve their differences but to date have not reached an accord.

The search for the treasure-laden San José may be over but it is not the end of her story.

For researchers interested in this topical event, the RGSSA, holds an 18th and 19th century reference library of books and maps regarding the history of the Spanish conquest and colonisation of South America. Historical maps published in these volumes are works of art and must be seen to be fully appreciated. Reference information from these resources in the Library often provides a unique perspective to historical events and the opinions of the day.
Information regarding shipwrecks is a specialty subject of the Collection with many reference volumes and maps detailing the circumstances and location of famous and obscure wrecks. The RGSSA's digital catalogue can be searched for the names of ships and shipwrecked vessels.

Did British guns cause the catastrophic events that sank the San José ...

The San José was sunk in an attack by four British warships led by Admiral Charles Wager (1666–1743) of the British Jamaica Station in a battle known as Wager's Action by the British or the Battle of Barú in Spanish records.

 "Sir Admiral Charles Wager", 1710
Oil by Sir Godfrey Kneller
Royal Museums Greenwich

In March, 1707, Captain Charles Wager was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Jamaica Station in the West Indies by Prince George of Denmark (1653-1708), consort of Queen Anne. Wager replaced Sir John Jennings (1664–1743) who had been promoted to vice admiral and sent to command the British fleet off Lisbon in 1708-1710. Established in 1655, the duty of the Jamaica Station, was to defend the English settlements and disrupt Spanish ports and shipping in the region.
    Along with her sister ship, San Joaquin; the San José and the Santa Cruz formed the Spanish 'Tierra Firme Fleet' of 1708. At Portobelo, in modern Panama, the galleons took aboard a fabulous cargo in Inca gold, silver, pearls and emeralds, destined for the Spanish treasury of King Philip V (1683–1746). The fleet then headed to the port city of Cartagena de Indias (modern Colombia) with two small escorts; Carmen and Nietto, served by twelve supply ships in convoy with a heavily armed French squadron.

Captain general of the Spanish flagship, San José, was
Don José Fernández de Santillán, first Count of Casa Alegre.

The treasure aboard the San José was said to be valued at 10 million Spanish pesos but estimates vary depending on the reference source. Undoubtedly, the fleet's actual cargo inventory would be available from records held at the National Archives of Spain and at Lima. It is known that the Tierra Firme Fleet of 1708 carried great quantities of silver from the mines at Peru and Veracruz, pearls from the Island of Contadora, emeralds from Muzo and Somondoco and tens of millions in gold coins.

Captain Wager had been promoted to admiral when he wrote to the Board of Admiralty in London, 13 April, 1708, with information regarding the Tierra Firme Fleet:
       It is said that the king's money is ready to be shipped off [Portobelo] and that it amounts to eleven millions of pieces of eight.
   Variance in the estimates of the fleet's value may be due to errors in the exchange between the currencies used by Spain and Portugal. Regardless, in 'reis or pesos', it was still a vast fortune and Admiral Wager most certainly intended to capture the fleet for the Crown of England. Moreover, it was 'common knowledge' that Spanish galleons routinely carried civilian passengers in a practice to render them unfit for naval combat.

By all accounts; Admiral Wager did not place greed above honour. He would not have found it honourable to deliberately sink the San José with the knowledge that she carried civilian passengers. Nonetheless, they perished with the captain, officers and most of the crew.

Perhaps, the Admiral is entitled to the benefit of the doubt?

the Action off Cartagena de Indias 

Aboard the HMS Expedition, Admiral Wager described the action on Friday, 8 June, 1708:
It was just sunset when I engaged the Admiral [San José], and in about an hour and a half, it being then quite dark, the Admiral blew up. I being then along his side, not a half pistol's shot from him, so that the heat of the blast came very hot upon us and several splinters of plank and timber came on board us afire. We soon threw them overboard. I believe the ship's side blew out, for she caused a sea that came in our ports.
She immediately sank with all her riches.
Captain Arauz of the Spanish escort ship, Carmen, recounted:
A great fire seemed to come from within the capitana [San José]. It rose to the topmast and topsails, giving the appearance of a volcano eruption. Accompanying this was a great pall of smoke that lasted for fifteen minutes. When it cleared, the capitana was gone!
     Admiral Wager eventually disabled and captured the Santa Cruz but the San Joaquin escaped him into the safety of the Spanish harbour at Cartagena. The Santa Cruz carried an estimated £60,000 in cargo. The Admiral's share of proceeds from the Santa Cruz together with his flag share of other prizes taken in the West Indies meant that he returned to England a rich man. Wager's Action ended a few days later on the 12th June, 1708, for which he was knighted in the following year by Queen Anne (1665–1714).

Detail from map below
"Plan of the harbour of Carthagena" 
from surveys made by Don Juan de Herrera
Chief Engineer at Carthagena
[Don Juan de Herrera y Sotomayor, 1667-1732]
RGSSA catalogue reference 

British naval justice, or ...

Brigadier General Thomas Handasyd, Governor of Jamaica from 1702-1711, sent an official report of Wager's Action to the Council of Trade and Plantations in London. Regarding the failure to capture the San Joaquin, he wrote:
I understand Mr. Wager intends to bring the two captains that were with him to a trial, as soon as the ships from Great Britain arrive, that they may be able to make up a Court Martial. By the account that I have had from my own officers on board those ships and the lieutenants of them, Mr. Wager has had very foul play, but that will be best known when the Court Martial meets. The traders that have come from Porto Bell [Portobelo], say, that the Spaniards laugh [at us] ... This talk is enough to concern any true Englishman.
    Admiral Wager presided over the court martials of Captain Simon (Timothy) Bridges of HMS Kingston and Captain Edward Windsor of HMS Portland. Both Captains were charged with 'poor performance'; found negligent in their failure to pursue the San Joaquin and dismissed from the navy without pension. Details regarding the exact charges of their 'poor performance' are not made clear.
Both Captains presented 'reasons' not to pursue the galleon which are not stated in the proceedings. It is known that Admiral Wager was disappointed with the small bounty from the Santa Cruz in comparison to the far greater prize that had escaped him on the San Joaquin.

While researching previous post, an opinion piece written about the Royal Navy, vividly illustrates the perspective gained by using the RGSSA for research information not available from an internet search:
With the waning of the seventeenth century, buccaneering became a discredited profession; though, in Good Queen Bess's [Elizabeth I, 1533–1603] time, every navigator was a pirate and every buccaneer was a navigator, and so it continued through the days of the Stuarts.
Our "Merrie Monarch" [Charles II, 1630–1685] made Morgan governor of Jamaica—Morgan, who with four hundred cut-throats, had sacked Panama in the sight of three thousand Spanish soldiers!
Dampier was a pirate too, and so was Sir Francis Drake—the latter the greatest and most cunning of all! For did he not waylay the bearers of government treasure on the Isthmus of Panama, and share the spoil with our Virgin Queen?—thus protecting himself from all unpleasant consequences, and from any unfavourable verdict which might be given by the Commission appointed by his Royal Mistress to enquire into his conduct, with the laudable object of maintaining peace and appeasing the indignation of the Spanish Government.
--From On the track of a treasure by Major H.G.F.E. de Montmorency (1868-1942) of the Royal Artillery, highly decorated veteran of the Boer War and First World War, 1904, p. 13-14.

RGSSA references and maps

A description of the Spanish islands and settlements on the coast of the West Indies: compiled from authentic memoirs, revised by gentlemen who have resided many years in the Spanish settlements; and illustrated with thirty-two maps and plans, chiefly from original drawings taken from the Spaniards in the last war, and engraved by Thomas Jefferys.
London : printed for T. Jefferys, 1762.
RGSSA catalogue reference

"List of Plates"
[32 maps with source references]

This volume contains a 'History of Carthagena' (archaic English spelling) to the date of its publication in 1762 (p.12-22). Cartagena was then located in the Spanish Province of Tierra Firma (modern Colombia) that gave its name to the Spanish treasure fleets. Decades of fleets transported silver from the mines in the Viceroyalty of New Granada (1717–1819) to the treasury of the Spanish kings and were also known as the 'Silver Fleets'. A history of the Province of Tierra Firma (p. [1]-23) provides a description of its boundaries in the first paragraph:
"It is a very large territory, bounded by the sea on the north; by Caribana, and Guiana on the east; by Peru and the river of the Amazons on the south; and by the Pacific Ocean on the west."--p. [1]

"Plan of the City and Suburbs of Carthagena"
"From French authors"
[Survey prior to 1761 earthquake that destroyed the city]

detail from above map
"Plan of the City and Suburbs of Carthagena" 

"It was reported in the beginning of the present year, that great part of Carthagena was destroyed in an earthquake 1761, but as the particulars of that dreadful account are not yet come to hand, we shall decline saying any more about it, only that we hope it is not true."--p. 22.

In 1761, a catastrophic earthquake devastated Cartagena and destroyed all the adobe buildings. This is possibly the last published map of the city to show the location of landmark buildings prior to the earthquake.     

A voyage to the islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, St. Christophers and Jamaica : with the natural history of the herbs and trees, four-footed beasts, fishes, birds, insects, reptiles, &c. of the last of those islands; to which is prefix'd an introduction, wherein is an account of the inhabitants, air, waters, diseases, trade &c of that place, with some relations concerning the neighbouring continent, and islands of America ... by Hans Sloane. 
London : printed by B.M. [R. Bentley and M. Magnes] for the author, 1707-1725. [Cited in Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation]

Published in two volumes, this work is an important botanical reference by Irish naturalist, Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), Royal College of Physicians of London and Secretary of the Royal Society. Also titled, Sloane's Natural History of Jamaica, the work is extensively illustrated with 274 folded plates featuring botanical sketches by Michael van der Gucht (1660-1725). The second volume published in 1725 is a revised and extended edition of the first volume and includes an extensive index.    

Detail from complete folded map below
"A New Chart of the  Western Ocean"

Off subject, it would be remiss not to include examples of the beautifully detailed botanical sketches in this work which is referenced in the prestigious botanical library of the

Examples of botanical sketches
from Sloane's Natural History of Jamaica

Illustrations [tabs] 135 & 146

In news from America, that perhaps, eclipses the find of the San José, is the possible discovery of Captain James Cook's Endeavour. In a report issued by the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project; HMS Endeavour, may lie in waters off the state of Rhode Island in Newport Harbour.

    Aboard the Endeavour, Captain James Cook (1728-1779), claimed Australia as British territory in 1770 for King George III. The ship was last seen in 1778 by which time it was being used as a transport ship during the American Revolution.The Endeavour is the 'most important' ship in the history of Australia and a specialty subject of collection for the Library

Captain Cook's journal during his first voyage round the world made in H.M. Bark "Endeavour", 1768-71 : a literal transcription of the original mss. : with notes and introduction. London : Elliot Stock, 1893 

 Frontispiece Captain Cook's Journal
Portrait of Cook by Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland, c.1775
 National Maritime MuseumGreenwich
RGSSA catalogue record

In  Australia, the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, protects historic wrecks and associated relics that are more than 75 years old and in Commonwealth waters. Essentially, historic wreck sites within Australian territorial waters cannot be salvaged for commercial purposes and are protected and preserved in situ. 

Also refer :

'Battle begins over world's richest shipwreck'. National Geographic.
Retrieved 15 May 2016 from

'Captain James Cook's ship Endeavour believed found in US'. Retrieved 3 April, 2016 from

by Sandra Thompson
Distance Cataloguer/ Sydney, Australia