AU PMB PHOTO 129
- 1850s - 1870s (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
73 digitised drawings in NEF and JPEG
Name of creator
Handley Bathurst Sterndale was born in India in 1833, where his father worked as an indigo planter. He was educated in Britain, but ran away to sea at the age of 16. He travelled to the Americas, where he undertook a variety of employment, including labour in Panama and as a mercenary in Nicaragua. Sterndale probably first arrived in the Pacific in the 1850s where he worked in the trade of shell and beche-de-mer. He also worked for plantations in the labour trade, also known as blackbirding. He married Helen Matilda Caulton in Melbourne, Australia in 1867.
In 1870, Sterndale spent some months working as a surveyor for the German trading company Goddefroy & Sohn who sought to establish plantations on the island of Upolo, Samoa. During this time, he made the journey across Upolo - likely in his capacity as a surveyor – and made notes and sketches of the expedition. In 1871, on Motu Kotawa on the islet of Pukapuka atoll in the Cook Islands, he wrote the manuscript ‘Upolu; or, A Paradise of the Gods’ and worked his sketches into finished drawings. In that same year, Sterndale published the first of what became regular articles under the title, ‘My Adventures and Researches in the Pacific’ in the ‘Australian Town and Country Journal’. He wrote under the pseudonym ‘A Master Mariner’. Sterndale also wrote for the New Zealand newspaper ‘The Daily Southern Cross’ and ‘The New Zealand Herald’.
In 1872, Sterndale worked as an agent for King Cakobau of Fiji and in 1874 entered a joint venture with Thomas Henderson, of New Zealand company Henderson and Macfarlane, to develop the Cook Islands atoll of Suwarrow. This ended in a dramatic conflict between the two, with the Sterndales forced to return to New Zealand. He later moved to San Francisco, probably to remedy his poor health, but he died there on Christmas Day, 1878 at the age of 45.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
'A Paradise of the Gods. Writings and Drawings of Handley Bathurst Sterndale’ (2020) is an unpublished digital edition edited by J.J. Overell. In 1870, Handley Bathurst Sterndale worked as a surveyor on the island of Upolu, Samoa, for the German trading company Goddefroy & Sohn. In this capacity, he made an expedition across Upolu, making notes and sketches about the journey as he went. In 1871, on Motu Kotawa on the islet of Pukapuka atoll in the Cook Islands, he worked these notes into the manuscript ‘Upolu; or, A Paradise of the Gods’, and worked his sketches into finished drawings. Some accounts are not his first hand observations and others are demonstrably wrong. Sterndale sought to have the manuscript published, but was unsuccessful in finding a publisher before his death in 1878. After his death, it was listed in a catalogue among the publications of Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington of London, but the manuscript never made it to print. It is now available as PMB MS 1442.
The original notebooks have since been lost, but the surviving manuscript and drawings have been passed down to Sterndale’s descendants. This collection brings together 73 of Sterndale's drawings of Samoa, Cook Islands and other islands of the Pacific. The images were digitised by photographer Rod Howe. The images are of scenes witnessed or imagined on his journey, including plants and animals, people, nature and village life.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Drawings arranged in the order they appear in J.J. Overell (Ed.), 2020. 'A Paradise of the Gods. Writings and Drawings of Handley Bathurst Sterndale' (PMB MS 1442)
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Available for reference
Conditions governing reproduction
Sterndale's text and drawings copyright Bridget Davis. Other text quoted from 'A Paradise of the Gods. Writings and Drawings of Handley Bathurst Sterndale' (PMB MS 1442) is copyright J.J. Overell. PMB copyright policy http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/pambu/copyright.php.
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Family: Private Collection
Country: United Kingdom
Existence and location of copies
Access this title at PMB Member Libraries or by purchasing it directly from the Bureau: http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/pambu/accessing.php
Related units of description
Related unit of description: PMB MS 1442 Overell, J. (Ed.), 2020. ‘A Paradise of the Gods. Writings and Drawings of Handley Bathurst Sterndale'.
Subject access points
Name access points
- Sterndale, Handley Bathurst (Subject)
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
Dates of creation revision deletion
Overell, J. (Ed.), 2020. ‘A Paradise of the Gods. Writings and Drawings of Handley Bathurst Sterndale', PMB MS 1442.
Digital object metadata