A comprehensive collection of Parliamentary Papers pertaining to the explorations in South Australia of Benjamin Herschel Babbage (1815-1878), 'engineer, scientist and explorer ... son of Charles Babbage, Cambridge professor of mathematics [and the first computer pioneer], and his wife Georgina, sister of W.W. Whitmore, a founder of South Australia.... In 1856 Babbage was sent north to search for gold as far as the Flinders Ranges. He found none, but discovered the MacDonnell River, Blanchewater and Mount Hopeful
He was the first to dispel the current idea of the impassability of the Lake Torrens 'horseshoe'... [In late 1857 he was] appointed leader of a northern expedition. Babbage left in February 1858 to explore the country between Lakes Torrens and Gairdner, and further to the north and west. His concept of exploration was based on thorough survey, mapping and examination of the country, ideals with which Francis Dutton, commissioner of crown lands, agreed in his instructions and early correspondence. With cumbrous and ingenious equipment Babbage carried out the first part, hampered by bad terrain and lack of water. But he had no sense of urgency and was thus completely out of tune with the current concept of opening up new country for quick exploitation. His slowness led to public and parliamentary clamour, to which Dutton later succumbed and sent Peter Egerton Warburton to supersede him. Meanwhile Babbage had moved north from the Elizabeth River, discovered Hermit Hill and delineated the western shores of Lake Eyre South. There Warburton relieved him on 5 November. Based on his experiences of 1856, Babbage also believed in a gap in the 'horseshoe' and at Hermit Hill confirmed his belief. He had actually crossed the gap, but Warburton was the first to traverse it completely. On grounds of unfair treatment Babbage successfully petitioned for a parliamentary inquiry. In 1858-59 voluminous evidence was taken but no report issued.... [He then withdrew from public life until 1866.] In 1870-72 Charles Todd employed Babbage as an assistant in planning and plotting the Overland Telegraph line, and as a supervisor of contractors.... His achievements as an explorer were notable but the accompanying controversy tended unduly to overshadow them and his attainments in other fields' (Australian Dictionary of Biography). Indeed, 'the reports from the expedition were ... a significant prelude to Stuart's successful crossing of the continent from south to north' in 1861-62 (The Davidson Collection, Third Sale, July 2007, lot 565). This lengthy preamble should help explain the connection between the following eleven foolscap folio Parliamentary Papers relating to Benjamin Babbage, published in Adelaide by the Government Printer in 1858 and 1859. (1) Northern Exploration.... Reports, &c, of Explorations into the Interior, by Messrs. Babbage, Warburton, Geharty, and Parry. SAPP25/1858; 51 pages plus 2 large folding maps. (2) Northern Exploration.... Further Correspondence respecting the Exploring Party under Command of Mr. Babbage. SAPP25*/1858; 6 pages. (3) Cost of Northern Exploration. SAPP36/1858; 1 page. (4) Northern Exploration.... Correspondence between the Hon. the Commissioner of Crown Lands and the Commissioner of Police [Major Peter Egerton Warburton], relative to the Progress of the Northern Exploring Parties. SAPP127/1858; 4 pages. (5) Northern Explorations.... Reports from Messrs Babbage and Warburton, and Police-Trooper Burtt, on Exploration into the North and North-Western Interior of South Australia. SAPP151/1858; 19 pages plus 3 maps (2 folding). (6) Petition of B.H. Babbage. SAPP154/1858; 1 page. (7) Northern Exploration.... Letter, with Enclosure, from Major Warburton, relative to Exploration in the Neighborhood of Lake Torrens. SAPP159/1858; 3 pages. (8) Northern Exploration.... Correspondence between the Honourable the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Major Warburton, relative to the Northern Exploration. SAPP166/1858; 6 pages. (9) Cost of Northern Explorations. SAPP20/1859; 1 page. (10) Minutes of Evidence taken by the Select Committee appointed to enquire into and report on the Petition of B.H. Babbage. SAPP21/1859; 63 pages. (11) Northern Exploration.... Correspondence between the Government and Messrs. Babbage and Warburton, relative to Northern Explorations. SAPP37/1859; 2 pages. As often with these Parliamentary Papers relating to expeditions, the maps are a constant source of pleasure. The best one in this group is one of the large folding maps in SAPP25/1858: 'Sketch of the Country North of the Gawler Ranges' (324 x 485 mm). It is a lithographed map printed in two colours, in an unusual manner (blue on the left, red on the right): 'The portion in Blue is taken from a Plan supplied by Major Warburton. The portion in Red is taken from a Drawing supplied by Mr Babbage'. Recently bound in two matching volumes (according to year of publication) in cloth lettered in gilt on the front cover; all Parliamentary Papers (printed on blue stock) are in uniformly fine condition. South Australian Parliamentary Papers Numbers 25, 25*, 36, 127, 151, 154, 159 and 166 of 1858 [and] 20, 21 and 37 of 1859 (McLaren 4981-4983, 16481, 4984-4986, 16485, 16486, 4987, and 4988 respectively). Items 16481, 16485 and 16486 are listed under Warburton only, and not Babbage as well. We suggest they should be there; we have called them 4983A, 4986A and 4986B in our annotated copy of the bibliography. Offered together with a related item, Victorian Parliamentary Paper Number 1 of 1859, 'Report on the Plants collected during Mr Babbage's Expedition into the North-Western Interior of South Australia in 1858' by Ferdinand Mueller (foolscap folio, 21 pages, stab-sewn and uncut as issued; a fine copy, albeit with minor infill to the bottom corner of the first two leaves). McLaren 13749. The complete suite of Parliamentary Papers relating to Babbage's 1858 Northern Exploring Expedition and its aftermath is very rare; for example, the exceptional collection of Rodney Davidson contained only six of the above twelve items (which sold in four lots to the one buyer for $5360 in 2007).