Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project

School of Oriental and African Studies

Aboriginal Affairs NSW

Aboriginal Affairs NSW

How to use this website

This page contains help with fonts and information about how to use the notebook pages.

This website has two main sections:

  • the notebook screens, with images and transcriptions
  • general information and links about William Dawes, Patyegarang, and the language of Sydney

The general information can be accessed from the menus at the left.

The notebook screens

Access these from the main menu, or from the Quick access link at the top right of this window.

Each notebook screen has an image of a notebook page on the left, and a transcription of that image on the right.

There are two sets of page images; the default one, and a higher resolution one. To see the high resolution image in a pop up window, click on the link under 'Views' at the top right of any of the notebook screens.

There are two sets of transcriptions:

  • an unedited version. This version shows as many as possible of the details in the notebooks. You may not see all of the layout and letters exactly as intended - see the Browsers and fonts section below. The unedited version is the default view.
  • an edited, ‘regularised’ version. This version provides easier readability. For example, it fills out any translation gaps Dawes left to avoid repetition, and abbreviated words are expanded to their full forms. It does not show text that Dawes has crossed out. This view is the same one used in the printed version of the Dawes notebooks (see Links & references).

In the example below (from Book B page 34), there is a dialogue between Dawes and Patyegarang, in which Dawes has used initials to abbreviate their names, and he has also written “b.m” and “w.m.”. The unedited version reproduces the initials and abbreviations as Dawes wrote them, while in the regularised version their names are written out in full, and “b.m” is expanded to “black men” and “w.m.” to “white men”:

Colours: some parts of the transcriptions are coloured to indicate their functions in the text:

  •      (green) additions (by Dawes)
  •      (purple) expansions, supplied text, etc (i.e. editoral text)
  •      (grey) unclear text
  •      (grey) syllable markers (e.g. in “goo_mary”)

Reading the notebooks

Dawes' handwriting can occasionally be difficult to read. There are several conventions at work that make it difficult for the reader:

  • 18th century handwriting, such as florid capital letters and now-outdated abbreviations such as &c (for “et cetera”, which is today written “etc”).
  • some linguistic or attempted linguistic conventions, such as various accents (diacritics) on letters, and the "eng" character (ŋ)
  • other conventions, such as use of colons surrounding words, probably used by Dawes to indicate his level of uncertainty about some expressions.

Dawes also changes his methods over time and through the notebooks.

The precise nature of Dawes' conventions and a full description of them is beyond the scope of this website. however, for good scholarly descriptions, see these links:

Browsers and fonts

This website uses new web technologies and not all browsers and computer systems may display it correctly.

Browsers: we have tested the site and it should work satisfactorily in recent versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome.


Fonts: Dawes used a variety of complex and unusual letters and other markings. We have steered a compromise between the accurate representation of these and the use of commonly present fonts so that users do not have to download special fonts to view the website. However, this means that in some cases you may not be able to see all the characters correctly.

To test your browser, use the table below. If the box in the centre looks similar to box on the left, characters may display correctly. However, you should also check the dynamically generated characters by pressing the button which will generate the characters in a new window. If any of the characters look different from the correct versions, then you may not be able to view the transcriptions correctly.

Do the boxes below show the same characters?
Correct (our graphic) Your static display Click button to check your dynamically generated display
Burúŋ Kalgalıȧŋ. Kólbı Ŋarámata
Hint: Change the Encoding to Unicode

Linguistic notes

To someone browsing the notebooks from the start of Book A, the arrangement may initially appear well organised. Dawes devotes a page to each verb, neatly sets out the a conjugation ‘paradigm’ – one strongly influenced by the expectations of a European classical education – and completes the paradigm as far as he is able to. However, as the notebooks proceed, this neat orderliness is somewhat lost as snatches of recorded conversations and speculative notes start to take over. It is these notes that are especially treasured today, and indeed they reflect today's methods for documenting languages. Additionally, Dawes is not always consistent in his application of his writing system (orthography), and there are certainly many differences between the two notebooks written by Dawes (notebooks A and B) and notebook C, which was probably written by Phillip, Collins and Hunter (see About the notebooks for further information).

Pop-up notes:

To help readers who are interested in browsing the manuscripts to investigate words and phrases and their uses, the transcriptions are interlinked with pop-up notes that group together the linguistic information about each word that occurs across all the notebook pages, rather than just on the current page. The pop-up notes can then be used to navigate in a non-linear fashion.

Pop-up note for the verb ‘naa’

Click panel below to see the actual thing

The example pop-up on the right was called up by clicking on Naa in Notebook A page 3.

The pop-up explains that Naa is a verb form, and lists other instances of the same word on other pages of the manuscripts. It gives the meaning on the current page, and the meanings, if any, that Dawes has provided in those other locations.

Next follows a list of associated words – in this case, inflections, as Naa appears to be a root (an infinitive, as Dawes would have seen it).

Clicking on any word within the pop-up will shift the view to the note for that word. Clicking any of the page numbers will take you to that page. In this way, it is possible to browse the manuscripts by linguistic content.

Note that the associations between words are primarily Dawes' own, and secondarily those of the transcription team. That is, when the note asserts that Naadiaou is an inflection of Naa (“to see”), this is clearly Dawes's opinion from the relevant pages (A2, A3); however, the assertion that, for instance, Gna (C16) is the same as Naa is the transcriber's opinion. These associations are included only where there is good evidence for them. In this pop-up example, if the actual link for Gna is followed to Notebook C page 16, that page shows Gna also glossed as “to see”.

As this website develops, we intend to extend this information with further linguistic information.

How this website was made

Here are a few technical details. The notebook page images were photographed at SOAS direct from the original notebooks using a Canon D2X camera, a copy stand, and a cold lighting array. TIFF images at an archival resolution of about 600 dpi were produced which were then lightly post-processed using Capture One software, and later batch processed using Adobe Photoshop to produce JPEG images of various resolutions for project development and the website.

The text was freshly transcribed from these images, with reference to Troy (1994), and richly tagged as XML to distinguish various text content structures (such as Sydney language vs English, and with the language content tagged for lemmas etc), person and place names, meanings, and commentaries. In addition, layout structures such as columns are represented.

From this XML source, XSLT transformations generate the content of each of the transcription pages (in two versions, edited and unedited). CSS is used to lay out the text visually on the web page. Some of the CSS is advanced, being part of the CSS3 specification, and may not work correctly or consistently on all browsers.