A first edition a Walter Roth’s important book a cornerstone of Queensland and Aboriginal History. The first book to identify and illustrate an extensive library of aboriginal sign language. Heavily illustrated and comprehensive in content. Roth was such a hard working and disciplined individual and this book is representative of that effort.
Published by the authority of the Government Printer Edmund Gregory, William Street, Brisbane and also available in London at the Queensland Agent General’s Office. In original dark aubergine cloth hardcover bright gilt title to front and spine. Embossed decoration to front and rear boards. Best binding we have seen. Original decorative matching endpapers. The name of W.G. Holt is written to the top of the Title Page. All illustrative plates including the often referred to as “ethno-pornographic” plate sometimes removed. Foxing to plates as is usual but very little amongst the text which is generally clean and bright.
Walter Edmund Roth (1861-1933), physician, anthropologist and protector of Aborigines, was born on 2 April 1861 in London, sixth child of Mathias Roth, physician (a naturalized Hungarian refugee), and his English wife Anna Maria, née Collins. By mid-1892 Roth was serving as a locum for his brother Reuter in Sydney. He then practiced medicine in north-west Queensland from 1894, being appointed government medical officer at Normanton (1896-97) His interest in Aboriginal anthropology was firmly established by 1894. He developed, however, essentially as an ethnographer, recording the cultures he observed rather than theorizing about them. His scientific training is evident in the care and accuracy of his observations.
This distinguished book of work was the first of its kind in Australia and established his international reputation. In 1902 Roth was President of the anthropology section of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1904 he was elected to the Anthropological Societies of Berlin and of Florence and was appointed Queensland correspondent for the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. The Royal Society of New South Wales awarded him the (W. B.) Clarke medal in 1909.
In 1898 Roth was appointed as the first Northern Protector of Aboriginals under W. E. Parry-Okeden. Based at Cooktown, Roth travelled continually throughout the north. Part of his responsibilities was to record Aboriginal cultures. His main brief, however, was to prevent the exploitation of Aborigines, particularly in employment and marriage. Provided with a vessel, the Melbidir, he was also responsible for the regulation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment in the bêche-de-mer industry. Roth was concerned that the protective measures of the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act (1897) had been open to abuse and he was closely associated with amending legislation in 1901. Possessed of a strong personality and administrative drive, Roth was effective as a protector but his initiatives brought him into conflict with politicians, settlers and the press in North Queensland.
Between 1904-06 he was Chief Protector. In 1904 he also headed the Western Australian Royal Commission into the conditions of the Aborigines in the North-West. His report documented ‘wrongs and injustices’, ‘cruelties and abuses’, and made positive recommendations.
Roth’s great work – complete and uncensored