Previously to the establishment of the British Colony at Port Jackson, in the year 1787, the shores of this extensive continent had been visited by very few navigators who have recorded any account of the productions of its Animal Kingdom. The first authentic report that we have, is that of Vlaming, who is celebrated as the first discoverer of that rara avis, the black swan: next to him followed Dampier, who has handed down to us in his intelligent, although quaint, style, the account of several of the productions of the North-western and Western Coasts; but the harvest was reserved for Banks and Solander, the companions of Cook, whose names are so well and widely known in the fields of science. These distinguished naturalists were the first collectors upon the Coast of New South Wales; and although their labours were not confined to any particular branch of Natural History, yet Botany appeared to be their chief object, of which the Banksian Herbarium yields ample proof.
Among the collectors of Natural History, in the neighbourhood of the colony, since the year 1787, may be recorded the names of White, Paterson, Collins, Brown, Caley, Lewin, Humphreys, and Jamison; and in this interval the coasts have been visited by two English and two French expeditions of discovery; namely, those commanded by Admiral D’Entrecasteaux, Captains Vancouver and Flinders, and Commodore Baudin. The first merely touched upon the south coast at the Recherche’s Archipelago, and on the south shores of Van Diemen’s Land; and the second only at King George the Third’s Sound, near the South-west Cape; but these opportunities were sufficient to celebrate the names of Labillardiere and Menzies as Australian Botanists, notwithstanding they have been since eclipsed by the more extensive discoveries of Mr. Brown, whose collections of Natural History upon the voyage of Captain Flinders, and his pre-eminent qualifications, have justly raised him to the pinnacle of botanical science upon which he is so firmly and deservedly elevated.
Peron and Lesueur, in Baudin’s voyage, extended their inquiries chiefly among the branches of zoological research; but in that expedition each department of Natural History had its separate collector, and the names of Leschenault de la Tour, Riedle, Depuch, and Bailly, will not be forgotten. Unfortunately, the Natural History of this voyage has never yet been given to the world, the death of M. Peron having put a stop to its publication; a few of the subjects, however, have been taken up by MM. Lacepede and Cuvier, and other French naturalists, in the form of monographs, in their various scientific journals; but the greater part is yet untouched, probably from the want of the valuable information which died with its collector. M. Peron, in his historical account of that expedition, notices a few subjects of zoology that were collected by him, but in so vague a manner, that it is with very great doubt that the specimens which we procured, and suspect to be his discoveries, can be compared with his descriptions.