The Royal Society of Victoria Books

The Royal Society of Victoria has in recent years published a number of books, variously available for sale directly or through our publisher, CSIRO Publishing.

Burke and Wills:

A suite of publications were commissioned by the RSV to celebrate the sesquicentenary of the Victorian Exploring (Burke and Wills) Expedition from 2010 to 2012. These are accessed, according to availability, through CSIRO Publishing using the links provided.

The Aboriginal Story of Burke and Wills: Forgotten Narratives

(2013) by Ian D Clark & Fred Cahir (Eds)

A study of Aboriginal cross-cultural exchanges with the Burke and Wills expedition of 1860-61.

The Aboriginal Story of Burke and Wills is the first major study of Aboriginal associations with the Burke and Wills expedition of 1860–61. A main theme of the book is the contrast between the skills, perceptions and knowledge of the Indigenous people and those of the new arrivals, and the extent to which this affected the outcome of the expedition.

The book offers a reinterpretation of the literature surrounding Burke and Wills, using official correspondence, expedition journals and diaries, visual art, and archaeological and linguistic research – and then complements this with references to Aboriginal oral histories and social memory. It highlights the interaction of expedition members with Aboriginal people and their subsequent contribution to Aboriginal studies. The book also considers contemporary and multi-disciplinary critiques that the expedition members were, on the whole, deficient in bush craft, especially in light of the expedition’s failure to use Aboriginal guides in any systematic way.

Generously illustrated with historical photographs and line drawings, The Aboriginal Story of Burke and Wills is an important resource for Indigenous people, Burke and Wills history enthusiasts and the wider community.

Burke & Wills: The Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition 

(2011) by E B Joyce & D A McCann (Eds)

Reveals for the first time the true extent and limits of the scientific achievements of the Burke and Wills Expedition.

This book challenges the common assumption that little or nothing of scientific value was achieved during the Burke and Wills expedition.

The Royal Society of Victoria initiated the Victorian Exploring Expedition as a serious scientific exploration of hitherto unexplored regions of inland and northern Australia. Members of the expedition were issued with detailed instructions on scientific measurements and observations to be carried out, covering about a dozen areas of science. The tragic ending of the expedition meant that most of the results of the scientific investigations were not reported or published. Burke and Wills: The Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition rectifies this historic omission.

It includes the original instructions as well as numerous paintings and drawings, documents the actual science undertaken as recorded in notebooks and diaries, and analyses the outcomes. It reveals for the first time the true extent and limits of the scientific achievements of both the Burke and Wills expedition and the various relief expeditions which followed.

Importantly, this new book has led to a re-appraisal of the shortcomings and the successes of the journey. It will be a compelling read for all those interested in the history of exploration, science and natural history, as well as Australian history and heritage.

Following Burke and Wills Across Australia: A Touring Guide

(2015) by Dave Phoenix

Learn about the experiences of Burke and Wills as you follow the track of their 1860-61 journey.

Every Australian has heard of Burke and Wills but few have travelled in their footsteps. In 2008, historian Dave Phoenix decided to walk across Australia from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria, following the track taken by the ill-fated Burke and Wills Expedition. Now you can follow them too.

Following Burke and Wills Across Australia guides you on a road trip that follows one of history’s great transcontinental journeys, sharing the explorers’ experiences on the way. Maps lay out a route that takes you as close as possible to the Expedition’s track. As you travel the outback roads, you can learn all the details of the day to day journey of the Expedition from the explorers’ own words, and compare what you see with their descriptions of the country in 1860–61. Each chapter provides information about what to see now: the location and descriptions of the markers and memorials placed along the route over the 150 years since the Expedition, and places where you can stand where the explorers stood and look out over prospects they drew and described.

The book is a perfect companion for those wanting to see outback Australia, and at the same time understand a journey that has attained mythic status in the history of Australian exploration. Even if you want to follow only part of the track, this is the book for you.

Special RSV Publications

The following can be ordered directly from the RSV – please email [email protected] to enquire about availability and pricing.

Volcanoes in Victoria (2009) (Revised) by W D Birch.

Spiders and Scorpions Commonly Found in Victoria (2003) by K L Walker, A L Yen & G A Milledge

The Yarra – A Natural Treasure (1999) by D Beardsell & C Beardsell

The Royal Society of Victoria acknowledges the generous bequest from the estate of Lynette Young used to support the special publications of the Royal Society of Victoria, including the 2009 revision of the “Volcanoes in Victoria” book by Dr W D Birch.