Ref NoMS 41645
TitleNotebooks of William Dawes
Date(s) of Creation1790, 1793
Level of DescriptionCollection
Extent2 volumes
Name of CreatorDawes; William (1762-1836); lieutenant
Administrative & Biographical HistoryA British expedition which embarked in 1787 to start a penal colony in Australia settled at Port Jackson (later Sydney). The indigenous people were the Eora. William Dawes (1762-1836) was Lieutenant (Royal Marines) on HMS Sirius, the flagship of the 'First Fleet'. He was a pioneering student of the language of Sydney. His interests also included astronomy and in Australia he directed the building of an observatory under the instructions of the Board of Longitude. For further information see the entry by his friend, Zachary Macaulay, in the Australian Dictionary of National Biography, volume i: 1788-1850 (1983). See also A Currer Jones, William Dawes, RM, 1762 to 1836: a sketch of his life, work, and explorations (1787) in the first expedition to New South Wales (1930), and Arthur Phillip, The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay [with] ... plans and views ... by Lieut Dawes ... (1789).
Held at:SOAS University of London
Custodial HistoryFormerly part of the library of the Orientalist and linguist William Marsden (1754-1836), a portion of which he presented to King's College London in 1835.
Source of AcquisitionMarsden's manuscripts were transferred from King's College London to SOAS shortly after its foundation in 1916.
DescriptionMS 41645 comprises four parts (a-d):

(a) William Dawes, Grammatical Forms of the language in the neighbourhood of Sydney, 1790
(b) William Dawes, Vocabulary of the language of New South Wales, in the neighbourhood of Sydney (Native and English)
(c) Vocabulary of the language of N.S. Wales, in the neighbourhood of Sydney
(d) Short Vocabularies of the language spoken by natives of Van Diemen's land, collected by the Officers of the French frigates, la Recherche and L'Espérance, in 1793

The three notebooks (a) – (c) are in the physical form of two volumes. Parts (a) and (b) have been bound together; part (c) is a separate volume. Part (d) comprises loose sheets, originally inserted into part (c).

Parts (a) and (b) were written by William Dawes and they contain words, translations, snippets of conversations, descriptions and explanations of expressions and situations, and some sketchy maps. Prominently figuring in these manuscripts is a young Dharuk (Darug) woman, Patyegarang (often Dawes calls her 'Patye').

The third notebook (c) was probably not written by Dawes, and is attributed to 'Anonymous'.

Part (d) comprises four vocabularies, collected by four French officers.
Access StatusRestrictions Apply
Conditions Governing AccessManuscript is fragile. Please consult digital copy ( Requests to consult the original manuscript should be emailed to and marked for the attention of the Head of Special Collections and Archives
Conditions Governing ReproductionFor permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance
Language(s) of MaterialEnglish
Physical DescriptionVolume 1 ie MS 41645 a-b is 10cm (W) x 16.5 (L) x 1.3cm (D); and Volume 2 ie MS 41645 c & d is 12.8cm (W) x 18cm (L) x 1.2cm (D)
Other Finding AidsDescribed in Manuscripts in the British Isles relating to Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific, ed Phyllis Mander-Jones (1972), p 362.
Existence & Location of CopiesA digital copy of the Dawes manuscript is available online at the William Dawes website []. This website is the result of a collaboration between the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project, SOAS and SOAS Archives and Special Collections. Funding and resources for the project were provided by the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project, SOAS, and Aboriginal Affairs NSW.
Related MaterialThe Royal Society holds a manuscript on Port Jackson by William Dawes, 1788-1791 (Ref: MA146), among its meteorological archives. The Royal Greenwich Observatory archives, held at Cambridge University Library, includes accounts of the Board of Longitude by William Dawes, 1800 (Ref: 545 ff 202-4), and his correspondence, 1786-1792, during the establishment of an observatory at Port Jackson (Ref: 576 ff 237-308).
Publication NoteThe manuscripts feature in the Museum of Sydney exhibition catalogue, Fleeting Encounters: Pictures and Chronicles of the First Fleet (1995), p 111.
Archivist's NoteCompiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: Manuscripts in the British Isles relating to Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific, ed Phyllis Mander-Jones (1972); Fleeting Encounters: Pictures and Chronicles of the First Fleet (1995); British Library OPAC.
Access Points - SubjectAustronesian and Oceanic languages
Cultural interaction
Indigenous populations
Military personnel
Access Points - Person, Corporate & Family Names
Name CodePerson, Corporate or Family NameType of Entity
GB/SOASNAF/P785Dawes; William (1762-1836); lieutenantPerson
GB/SOASNAF/C264L'Espérance; French frigateCorporate
GB/SOASNAF/C280La Recherche; French frigateCorporate
Access Points - Places
Place CodePlace Name
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