Topsy Turvy World

To the first European explorers who came to Australia, everything looked topsy turvy. Christmas was in the summer, convicts could become policemen – and then there was the wildlife. What must they have thought about the large creature that bounded across the land on its hind legs or the bird that laughed like a donkey?

The Europeans had never seen anything like these animals before and gave them names similar to those of the European creatures they already knew. They drew and painted odd pictures of them, showing they did not understand the animals’ habits. In one illustration, a wombat is standing on its back legs and in another a Tasmanian tiger is wrestling with a platypus of the same size.

In her new book Topsy-turvy World: How Australian animals puzzled early explorers, featuring stunning illustrations from the National Library of Australia’s collection, Kirsty Murray looks at the Australia as seen by the early Europeans – where everything they knew about the world had been turned upside down and inside out.   

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