BONWICK, James (1817-1906)
Notes of a gold digger, and Gold digger’s guide,
by James Bonwick. Melbourne : R. Connebee, 174 Elizabeth Street, and sold by all booksellers, 1852. Duodecimo (170 x 110 mm), finely bound without wrappers in full crushed morocco, spine in compartments with gilt-tooled raised bands and contrasting morocco title label lettered in gilt; gilt dentelles, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers, bookplate to preliminary blank, frontispiece engraving by Calvert titled ‘Diggers’ (small patch of foxing), hand-coloured map by Calvert showing the ‘Routes to the Victoria Diggings’, title page with neat annotation at head ‘No. V’, probably from inclusion in a sammelband, pp. 41; [1 – publisher’s advertisement], bound with blanks to substantiate the binding; a fine copy.
Bonwick’s guidebook, written following his own lack of success on the diggings, is the very first Victorian publication on the goldfields in the colony. It was published in Melbourne by the clergyman-printer Richard Connebee in September 1852, exactly one year after the discovery of gold at Mount Alexander had been announced in The Argus on 8 September 1851.
Bonwick’s attractively produced guide was intended for the benefit of fortune-seekers still arriving in Port Phillip from all around the globe. Pocket-sized and with closely printed text, it is crammed with practical and detailed information about life on the diggings. The first part is devoted to a descriptive itinerary of the journey that diggers had to make from Melbourne to the diggings, which is accompanied by Calvert’s handcoloured map. This is followed by the two most substantial sections, “The Digger at Work”, and “The Digger at Home”, in which Bonwick characterises conditions on the goldfields with lively anecdotes and provides advice for all sorts of contingencies, drawn from his own experience. His sense of social responsibility is apparent in “Health at the Diggings” and “Moral State of the Diggings”; and the work is rounded out by chapters on the history of gold discovery in Australia and on the geology of the Victorian diggings.
Ferguson 7193; Pescott, 13.; Wantrup 363a
Historian, writer and teacher James Bonwick arrived in Hobart from England in 1841. After teaching there and later in Adelaide he moved to Victoria at the height of the gold rush in 1852, initially publishing the Australian Gold Digger’s Monthly Magazine in Melbourne. Although he went on to work in the colonial education system and indeed to open two of his own schools in Melbourne, Bonwick’s chief legacy is the body of research and published works for which he was responsible on the history of Tasmania, Port Phillip and New South Wales.