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E M Curr’s Australian Comparative Vocabulary1881

by Edward Curr

The Australian Comparative Vocabulary was compiled during the 1870s and completed in 1881, by squatter, author and public servant Edward Micklethwaite Curr. At 9.45 metres long, this gargantuan accordion-fold document is the longest known manuscript in the Library.

The manuscript contains more than 7,000 Aboriginal words gathered from 160 different places throughout Australia. It was Curr's attempt to document the more than 250 Indigenous Australian languages, including around 800 dialectal varieties, that were spoken when Europeans arrived in 1788.

As a young man, Curr was one of the first white squatters along the Goulburn River. He set up Tongala Station in 1841, near present-day Echuca. He later wrote extensively about the local Bangerang people in his 1886 memoir Recollections of Squatting in Victoria, then called Port Phillip (1841–1851).