State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 8 October 1971

91

Thomas Bankes's A New Royal Authentic and Complete System of Universal Geography

Geographers of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries recognized two great divisions of their discipline. These were ‘General’ or ‘Universal’ geography, which dealt with ‘the whole Earth in general, and explain[ed] its properties without regard to particular countries’; and ‘Special’ or ‘Particular’ geography, which dealt with ‘the Constitution and Situation of each single Country by itself.1 As the second great age of modern geographical exploration developed in the second half of the eighteenth century, ‘Particular’ geography, as here defined, became the dominant emphasis of English geographers, who now had a fifth great geographical region, the Pacific Ocean, to describe.2 The geography books which appeared in the closing decades of the eighteenth century, by Salmon, Guthrie, Middleton, Millar, Bankes, Adams, and others, retain some signs of an earlier mathematical emphasis in their organization. Their titles customarily announce a ‘New System of Universal Geography’, and they contain a ‘Complete Guide to Geography, Astronomy, the Use of the Globes, Maps, &c’. These authors’ primary concern is with ‘Particular’ geography, however, and, as a consequence, these books are of considerable significance to students of the history of ideas, for the light they shed on English interest in geography and geographical exploration at the end of the eighteenth century.
One of the most imposing of these usually quite imposing books is Thomas Bankes, Edward Warren Blake, and Alexander Cook's A New Royal Authentic and Complete System of Universal Geography (hereafter Thomas Bankes's). A massive folio volume of 990 double-columned pages, this was a popular work, running to six editions in the ten years from 1787 to 1797. These editions have never been accurately described, however, and, since none of the titlepages is dated, much doubt persists about their dating and sequence. Bibliographers and bock-collectors have an abiding concern with dates and editions, of course; but there is another reason, too, for wanting to establish the dates of these editions. Bankes revised the text of his New Holland section at intervals in the 1790s, in the light of the latest accounts to hand of the English colony at Port Jackson. Even though quite brief summaries of substantial narratives, these successive accounts reflect English interest in the colony and the progress of English ideas about the colony. To give one example of the importance of having a date for a particular account. In one edition, and presumably with approval, Bankes repeats Watkin Tench's view that if taken in a commercial view, [the colony's] importance will not appear striking, as the New Zealand hemp, of which sanguine expectations were formed, is not a native of the soil; and an adjacent island, where an assurance was entertained of finding it, is without it’.3 When we know that this edition was published in 1789 (or, at the latest, in early 1790), Bankes's citing this remark indicates what were some of the contemporary expectations of the colony.
Hitherto, libraries have used four main criteria in determining the approximate dates of their copies. These are the issuance of a Royal Licence for publication
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in 1787;4 Charles Cooke's succeeding his father John Cooke as publisher in 1810;’ the British Museum's dating its copy of the first edition as [1790?];5 and the occurrence in the Address to the Reader of later editions of the phrases: ‘Since the publication of a New System of Geography upwards of eight years have elapsed …’6 and, ‘… upwards of ten years …7 For reasons which will appear, none of these four criteria is reliable as a guide to dating. Through a comparison of title-pages and texts, and by taking account of other miscellaneous features, I have been able to determine the sequence of editions, and to date the various editions to within approximately six months.8
I have inspected two copies of the first edition, one in my possession, and one held by the La Trobe Library, State Library of Victoria (hereafter VSL(1)). I have also examined xeroxes of sections of a third copy, that held by the British Museum. VSL(1) seems the earliest impression of the three. Its papersize is 38 by 24 cms., and it is bound in two volumes. Page 27 is misnumbered 17, and page 663 is misnumbered 635. The collation of the opening sections is: (Vol. I) Frontispiece, Titlepage, verso (blank), (1)-(2) His Majesty's Royal Licence and Authority (for publication), (3)-(4) Preface, (5)-106 Book I (New Discoveries).1 The general title is ‘A New Royal Authentic and Complete System of Universal Geography Antient and Modern’, and the running title ‘A New, Royal and Authentic System of Universal Geography’.9
The earliest possible date of publication is 4 January 1787, when the Royal Licence was issued; and there is evidence that Bankes had formulated the plan of the work by the end of 1786, and that some sections of the work were written and published by early or mid-1787. Bankes makes no reference, for example, either in the titlepage or the text, to English plans to establish a colony at Botany Bay. These plans were well advanced in early 1787, the First Fleet sailed in May, and there was considerable interest in the colony by 1789. Since Bankes caters so carefully to this interest in all subsequent editions, it is most unlikely that he should not have done so in the first edition if the interest had been present. If Book I (New Discoveries), which opens with the New Holland section, was published towards the beginning of 1787, it would have been prepared in 1786, or at the latest, very early in 1787, before the growth of that interest. Such a preparation would also explain why the abstract of George Keate's An Account of the Pelew Islands, which Nicol published in 1788, appears, not here, where it properly belongs, but in the Supplement.
On the other hand, sections of the work were clearly published later. The ‘New & Accurate Chart of the Western or Atlantic Ocean’ is signed ‘Thos. Bowen 1788’. There is, as just mentioned, the inclusion of the abstract of Keate's Pelew Islands in the Supplement. Again, Bankes concludes the Supplement with some paragraphs, the details of which indicate that they were written about August 1788.10 And Cut. No. 90, the last listed in the Directions to the Binder, bears the legend ‘Published as the Act directs by C. Cooke No. 17 Paternoster Row, Oct. 31. 1788’. From this, then, it would seem that this edition was published in sections in the period between early 1787 and October 1788, with the plates being the last section issued; and the wording of the Directions to the Binder and of the note at the conclusion of the List of Subscribers supports this view.11
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The La Trobe Library holds a copy of the second edition (hereafter VSL(2)). The paper size is 38 by 24 cms., and it is bound in two volumes. Page 662 is misnumbered 661, and page 663 is misnumbered 635. The wording and setting of the titlepage to Vol. I differ significantly from those of the Vol. I titlepage in the first edition. The general title has been changed to ‘A New, Royal, and Authentic System of Universal Geography, Antient and Modern’, with the running title running ‘A New, Royal, and Authentic System of Universal Geography’. The wording also reflects both the inclusion of the summary of Keate's narrative, and, what is especially noteworthy, the inclusion of an account of the colony at Port Jackson. As well, Thomas Lloyd is now added to the list of authors.
Just as the titlepage differs significantly from its predecessor, so too does the early text. The Royal Licence is now printed on one page, with an Address to the Reader, which replaces the Preface of the first edition, appearing on the verso. This Address begins:
‘Since the publication of a New System of Geography upwards of eight years have elapsed, so that the important events which have occurred during that period, are wholly omitted in the old works; a circumstance which must render them very imperfect, as Captain Cook's last voyage, which contains such important information, was published after the expiration of that time.’
For reasons given shortly, this statement can be of little use in dating the work. Bankes then continues:
‘Besides, since the death of Capt. Cook, Capt. Wilson has produced a narrative of the discovery of the Pelew Islands, which abounds with entertaining and novel matter. Travels into the interior parts of America have also been published; and lastly, a narrative by an officer employed in the last expedition to Botany Bay, which affords an account of the behaviour of the convicts, the operations at Port Jackson, and the rise and progress of the New Colony established there.’
These references point to a publication date of 1789, or later. As before mentioned, Keate's Pelew Islands was published in 1788, seemingly just in time for Bankes to include a summary of it in the first edition. Thomas Anburey's Travels through the Interior Parts of America; in a Series of Letters was published in 1789, as was Captain Watkin Tench's A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay.
The changes in the setting of the first sections have arisen through the need to accommodate an expanded account of New Holland, in which Bankes has also altered the sequence of the various sections. He now prefaces the account with:
‘The Expedition planned by Government for the Transportation of Convicts, and the planting of a Colony in a Part of that immense Track in the Southern Clime called New Holland, having excited the Curiosity of the Public, and given rise to many Speculations respecting its Consequences, has induced us to begin our Work with a Description of Port Jackson, where the Operations for forming the Colony commenced.’
He then proceeds to a summary of Tench's Narrative, which was published by April 1789.12 However, he does not mention or borrow from The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay, which was the semi-official account of the expedition, and which was published early in 1790, though its titlepage is dated 1789.13 Since he both mentions and draws on this latter account
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in the third edition, the second edition must have been prepared (and published?) before the end of 1789.
The Seattle Public Library holds a copy of the third edition. Its paper size is 38 by 24 cms., and, despite the information given in the Address to the Reader, that the work is ‘completed in Two Volumes only’, it is bound in one volume. The numbering of page 662 has been corrected, but page 663 is still incorrectly numbered. The collation is initially as that of the second edition, except that the 2-page List of Subscribers is bound in after the Address to the Reader.
The general title and the running title remain as in the second edition, so that the most significant difference between the titlepage of this edition, and that of the previous edition, is the mention of the convict settlement at Norfolk Island. With one quite unimportant exception, the Address to the Reader is the same as in the second edition. The value of the phrase ‘upwards of eight years’ as an aid in dating the second and third editions is quite called in question, then. The second, 1789? edition was clearly not published eight years after the first, 1787–8, edition, as neither was the third, 1791?, edition. In fact, the sentence in which this phrase appears makes little sense. A mutilation of a sentence from the earlier Preface, its ostensible meaning is that a New System of Geography was published before Cook and King's A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (1784). This should not then be a reference to the first edition of Bankes's Geography, which contains copious details from the official account of Cook's third voyage, and which other evidence shows to have been published in 1787–8. If it is such a reference, then it is quite inaccurate. From the phrasing of the sentence in the earlier Preface, however, it is possible that the reference is to an earlier work with the general title, A New System of Geography. If so, then the work in question might be George Henry Millar's New, Complete, … and Universal System of Geography (1782), which was published before Cook and King's work, and approximately eight years before the second edition of Bankes's Geography.
In this third edition, Bankes prefaces the New Holland section with a note rather altered from that of the second edition. Now, he refers to The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay, and to the Letters of Governor Phillip to Lord Sydney, which Sydney ‘laid before the House of Commons, March 2, 1791’. In his text, Bankes draws on these accounts, and on King's Description of Norfolk Island, to tell of Phillip's establishing a satellite colony on Norfolk Island in February 1788, and of the shortage of food at Port Jackson, which became acute in the middle of 1790. As well, he has again altered the sequence of the various New Holland sections. The earliest possible date for this edition, then, is April 1791. The latest date, late 1792, is determined by the earliest possible date of the fourth edition. A date 1791? would seem appropriate.
The Mitchell Library holds a copy of the fourth edition. Its paper size is 39 by 24 cms., and it is bound in one volume. All pages are now correctly numbered, and the initial collation is as in the second edition. The significant difference between the titlepage of this edition and that of the third edition is that the word ‘Royal’ has now been dropped from the general title, which becomes ‘A New and Authentic System of Universal Geography, Antient and Modern’. The title which runs above the text throughout, though, remains ‘A
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New, Royal, and Authentic System of Universal Geography’. The Address to the Reader now begins: ‘Since the publication of a New System of Geography upwards of ten years have elapsed …’ The text of the New Holland section remains unaltered from that of the previous edition. However, the Supplement now concludes with a brief account of ‘Earl, now Marquis’ Cornwallis's campaign against Tipu Sultan in 1791 and early 1792. This account must have been written, then, after Cornwallis's elevation to Marquis on 15 August 1792, but, in view of the new information given in the New Holland section in the fifth edition, seemingly before the end of the year. A 1792 publication date seems appropriate.
The University of Rochester Library holds a copy of the fifth edition. The paper size is 38 ½ by 24 cms. approximately, and it is bound in two volumes. The titlepage to Vol. I differs from that of the previous edition. The general title is now ‘A Modern, Authentic and Complete System of Universal Geography’. The running title, however, remains ‘A New, Royal and Authentic System of Universal Geography’. The ‘Captain Cook's Voyages Round the World’ of the previous edition has been altered to ‘Cook's Voyages’, and now no mention is made of ‘Byron, Wallis, etc.’, the Pelew Islands, and Botany Bay. The ‘Including a particular Account of the Excursions and Discoveries made in the interior Parts of New Holland’ has been added, and Bankes appears as the only author.
Presumably in keeping with the change in the general title, the Royal Licence is now omitted, the Address to the Reader occupying the recto of the first leaf following the titlepage, with the verso of that leaf blank. The Address again begins, ‘Since the publication of a New System of Geography upwards of ten years have elapsed …’, thus providing further evidence that this phrase can not be used to date the edition.
Bankes now concludes the Introductory paragraph to the New Discoveries section with:
‘Our Account in the former Edition of this Work was taken from the celebrated Captain Cook; as also from that of Governor Philip, as contained in his Voyage, published in the Year 1790; and likewise from a Representation of the State of the Colony, and its Resources, as communicated by the Governor, March 2, 1791. But as many very important Improvements have been made, both in the Population and Cultivation of the Settlements at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island, since that Period; we have, in this Edition, annexed to the Accounts of the Formation, &c. of those Settlements, an authentic Narrative of their Progress, Transactions, and very improved State in 1792, according to the most recent Information received in 1793.’
The account usually known as being by John Hunter, An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island, bears the date January 1, 1793, on its titlepage. Bankes has made extensive use of this work in updating his account of the settlement, and this fifth edition, then, must have been published after January 1793. As Bankes had not drawn on Tench's A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, in New South Wales, which was published in the second half of 1793,14 this edition can be dated, presumably, to the middle of the year.
The William L. Clements Library holds a copy of the sixth edition. The paper size is 38 by 24 cms., and it is bound in one volume.15 The titlepage differs only slightly
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from that of the fifth edition, and, as in the fifth edition, the Royal Licence for Publication is omitted. The Address to the Reader again begins: ‘Since the publication of a New System of Geography upwards of ten years have elapsed …’, and by now, of course, about ten years have elapsed since the first edition of Bankes's Geography.
For this sixth edition, Bankes has again revised the New Holland section, using ‘the latest accounts, dated December 21, 1795, and received the beginning of January 1797’ (p. 10). This would seem a reference, at least in part, to Governor Hunter's despatches to the Duke of Portland, dated 21st December 1795, which Portland acknowledged receipt of on 31st January 1797. These despatches (printed as Nos. 6 and 7 of Hunter's despatches in Historical Records of Australia, I) mention, among other things, the harvest, the difficulty the colonists have encountered for want of the proper equipment, and the finding of the cattle which had strayed in 1788. Since Bankes gives details of the harvest not found in Hunter's despatches, he must have drawn on other accounts as well, though. From the dates given, this edition did not appear before the beginning of 1797. Since Bankes makes no mention or use of David Collins’ An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, which was published in mid-1798, this edition presumably was published before that date. A date 1797? would seem appropriate.
There would seem to have been no further editions of Bankes's Geography;16 and the details of the six editions which I have found follow. In each case, the collation given neglects endpages, and is that which I think it would be for a complete copy. I have determined it from comparison of various copies of each edition, and from statements in the Directions to the Binder. I have listed libraries which hold copies of the various editions, with the work's catalogue number, where known, in parentheses following. An * above the Library indicates that the copy is presently dated incorrectly according to my chronology.
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First Edition
Date 1787–8
Collation Frontispiece (Neptune raising Captn. Cook up to Immortality)
Titlepage
Verso (blank)
(1)-(2) His Majesty's Royal Licence and Authority (for publication)
(3)-(4) Preface
(5)-106 Book I, New Discoveries
(107)-314 Book II, Asia
(315)-460 Book III, Africa
TitlepageIf bound in two
Verso (blank) volumes17
(461)-576 Book IV, America
(577)-944 Book V, Europe
944-947 Supplement
947-948 Origin and Progress of the Art of Navigation
(949)-953 A General Table of Coins
(954)-959 A New Geographical Table
(960) The Superficial Contents of the Globe
(961)-980 A Guide to Geography
(981)-990 Index
+ 2 pp. Directions to the Binder
+ 4 pp. A List of Subscribers
Plates, etc. 90 plates (including the frontispiece)
10 half-sheet maps and charts
12 full-sheet maps and charts
* VSL (Ltf 910)* BM (1853.c.7)
B22n
Second Edition
Date 1789?
CollationFrontispiece
Titlepage
Verso (blank)
(i) Royal Licence
(ii) Address to the Reader
(1)-990 Texts, etc. (For details, see above)
+ 2 pp. Directions to the Binder
+ 2 pp. A List of Subscribers
Plates, etc. (As for the first edition)
* VSL (Ltf910)* Mitchell Library (X9 10/11A; F910/11B)
B22n
Third Edition
Date1791?
CollationFrontispiece
Titlepage
Verso (blank)
(i) Royal Licence
(ii) Address to the Reader
(1)-990 Texts, etc.
+ 2 pp. Directions to the Binder
+ 2 pp. A List of Subscribers
Plates, etc.(As for the first edition)
* Seattle Public Library
Fourth Edition
Date1792?
CollationFrontispiece
Titlepage
Verso (blank)
(i) Royal Licence
(ii) Address to the Reader
(1)-990 Texts, etc.
(?) + 2 pp. Directions to the Binder
(?) + (?) pp. A List of Subscribers18
Plates, etc.The list of plates changed somewhat with either the fourth or the fifth edition. In the first three editions, for example, Cut. No. 1, facing p. 11, consisted of two half-page plates, ‘A Man of Van Diemen's Land’ and ‘A Woman and Child of Van Diemen's Land’. In the fifth and sixth editions, the plate facing p. 11 is a full-sized one of ‘A Man of Van-Dieman's Land’. Since I have been unable to see either a complete copy of the fourth, fifth, or sixth editions, or copies of the Directions to the Binder issued for each, I cannot give details of the changes.
* Mitchell Library (X910)
11
Fifth Edition
Date1793?
CollationFrontispiece
Titlepage
Verso (blank)
(i) Address to the Reader
(ii) Verso (blank)
(1)-990 Texts, etc.
+ 2 pp. Directions to the Binder
(?) + (?) pp. A List of Subscribers18
Plates, etc.(See above, fourth edition)
* General Reference, Library of New South Wales (09:F909.9A)/2
* University of Rochester Library (G114 fB21m)
Sixth Edition
Date1797?
CollationFrontispiece
Titlepage
Verso (blank)
(i) Address to the Reader
(ii) Verso (blank)
(1)-990 Texts, etc.
+ 2 pp. Directions to the Binder
(?) + (?) pp. A List of Subscribers18
Plates, etc.(See above, fourth edition)
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
Alan Frost
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1

This is Varenius's distinction. Quoted in William Warntz, Geography Now and Then (New York: American Geographical Society, 1964), p. 109.

2

The others being, of course, Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.

3

See Watkin Tench, A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay, in Sydney's First Four Years, ed. L. F. Fitzhardinge (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, in association with the Royal Australian Historical Society, 1961), p. [74].

4

See Library of Congress, Catalog of Printed Cards (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1967), IX, 282.

5

See ibid.

6

See Mitchell Library, Dictionary Catalog of Printed Books (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1968), IV, 328.

7

Stated in letters from the Mitchell Library and the University of Rochester Library.

8

I am grateful to Mrs. J. Marshall, and Miss M. Hyslop, of the La Trobe University Library, for help in obtaining these.

9

Full details are given towards the end of this article.

10

For example, ‘Sweden has commenced hostilities against Russia, to retaliate former wrongs, and, for the short time it has waged war, given proof of that hardiness and intrepidity for which it has been heretofore famous. Denmark has armed; but, as yet, made no decisive declaration.’
Bankes here refers to Sweden's commencement of war against Russia in July 1788, the ‘former wrongs’ being the loss to Russia of the Baltic provinces, at Nystad in 1721, and of Finnish territory, at Abo in 1743. Since Denmark declared war on Sweden in September 1788. Bankes must have written this paragraph in August or September, before news of Denmark's declaration reached England.

11

There are some variations between VSL(I) and my copy and the British Museum copy; but a comparison of texts shows that they are three impressions of the first edition. There are often significant differences between the titlepages of Vol. I and II, if the work is bound in two volumes. For example, the VSL(I), Vol. II titlepage emphasizes that the work contains ‘every important, interesting, valuable and entertaining Discovery throughout the Whole of Captain Cook's Voyages Round the World’. This statement does not appear in the Vol. I titlepage, but it does appear in the Vol. I title-page of the next edition. Again, the Vol. II titlepage in the University of Rochester Library copy is the same as the Vol. I titlepage of the preceding edition, with the addition of ‘Vol. II’. However, as the work is so often found in one volume, I have not given details of the Vol. II titlepages which I have seen.

12

See Sydney's First Four Years, p. [337].

13

See ibid., p. 342; and Bankes, 3rd ed. (1791?), p. [1].

14

A review appeared in the September 1793 issue of The British Critic.

15

I have a copy of Book I of this edition, however, the paper size of which is 40 by 24 cms.

16

The National Union Catalog lists a [1818?] edition, held by the University of California, Berkeley. From details supplied to me by the University Library, however, this would seem to be a copy of the second edition.

17

The ‘Columbus presenting an Account of his Discovery of America to the King and Queen of Spain’ plate (No. 68 in the Directions to the Binder) may have been intended as the second frontispiece if the work was bound in two volumes. It is bound after the Vol. II titlepage, and facing p. 461, in VSL(1), but before the Vol. II titlepage in VSL(2); and it does parallel the Cook frontispiece in a number of its aspects.

18

Since I have not found a copy in which it occurs, it may be that no List of Subscribers was issued for the fourth, fifth, or sixth editions.