The Northern Tribes of Central Australia
Publisher: MacMillan and Co
Place: London and New York
xxxv+684+[2 ad] pages with over 300 illustrations, map, 2 folding chromatographic plates with captioned pictorial tissue-guards, 2 folding tables, appendices and index. Octavo (9" x 5 3/4") bound in original cloth with gilt lettering to spine and embossed gilt design to cover. First edition.
Baldwin Spencer began his studies at Oxford in 1881, in June 1884 he qualified for his B.A. degree obtaining first-class honors in natural science. In 1885 he became assistant to Professor Moseley and shortly afterwards had valuable experience helping him and Professor Tylor to remove the Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers collection from South Kensington to Oxford. His association with these distinguished men in this task no doubt largely helped to develop his interest in anthropology and museum work. In January 1886 he obtained a fellowship at Lincoln College, Oxford. He had already contributed various papers to scientific journals, one of which, on the Pineal eye in lizards, had aroused much interest, and having applied for the professorship of biology at Melbourne in June 1886 was elected to that chair in January 1887. A few days later he was married to Mary Elizabeth Bowman and left for Australia where he arrived in March. He immediately set about organizing his new school, the chair had just been founded, and succeeded in getting a grant of £8000 to begin building his lecture rooms and laboratories. He showed much capability as a lecturer and organizer, and also took a full part in the general activities of the university. But his interests were not confined to his university duties, he took a leading part in the proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria, and the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, and did valuable work for those bodies. In 1894 a new field was opened up for Spencer when he joined the W.A. Horn scientific expedition which left Adelaide in May 1894 to explore Australia. In July he met Francis James Gillen at Alice Springs with whom he was to be so much associated in the study of the Aborigines. The expedition covered some 2000 miles in about three months and on his return Spencer busied himself with editing the report to which he also largely contributed, it was published in 1896. In November 1896 Spencer was again at Alice Springs beginning the work with Gillen which resulted in the Native Tribes of Central Australia, published in 1899 and partly opposed by Carl Strehlow and Moritz von Leonhardi. Gillen was a remarkable man who had won the confidence of the natives by his kindly understanding of their point of view. He had learned their language, and the blacks had faith in him. Spencer too was gifted with patience, understanding and kindliness, and soon gained their confidence also. He continued this work with Gillen during the vacations of the two following years. An immense amount of material relating to tribal customs was accumulated, and the book, with the names of both Gillen and Spencer on the title page. It created a great sensation in the scientific world, and although it could not be expected that there would be general agreement as to the conclusions to be drawn from it, all could agree that here was a sound and remarkable piece of research work. In 1904 they published The Northern Tribes of Central Australia, which drew on their travels around the Gulf of Carpentaria and conveyed a living picture of semi-nomadic, food-gathering and hunting people engaged in everyday economic and social activities and rituals. Spencer believed that Aboriginal social organization illustrated an early stage in the development of humankind.
Extremities lightly rubbed else a very good copy.
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