Upside Down World:

Early European Impressions of Australia’s Curious Animals

By Penny Olsen

In the Australia of the early 19th century, flora and fauna were not what they seemed.  The trees and animals of the new colony of  New South Wales, according to Eurocentric perceptions, were  deficient, even evil. By the 1820s, Australia became known as “the land of contrarieties” – apparently a marketing ploy to keep Antipodean riff-raff in its place.

Not only were the swans black and the eagles white, but parrots walked on the ground,  mammals carried their young in a pouch and furry animals had the nerve to lay eggs.

This new book by research scientist and natural history writer Penny Olsen, uses the remarkable images from the National Library of Australia’s vast collection to tell the story of early European impressions of Australia’s curious animals. Dr Olsen is also the author of Glimpses of Paradise: The Quest for the Beautiful Parrakeet (2007) and Brush with Birds: Bird Art in the National Library of Australia (2008).

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