WA's First Book

Image: WA's first book published in 1835

A report of the late trial for libel !!! : Clarke versus Macfaul, September 4th, 1835 was compiled by William Nairne Clark, solicitor. Twenty-three pages in length, it was printed at Fremantle by W T Graham using the Ruthven printing press which had arrived in the colony in 1831 from Hobart, Tasmania. The printing is crudely executed and the spelling of both surnames is incorrect.

The case concerns continued attacks in the Perth Gazette edited by Charles Macfaull, criticising the character and navigational skills of Captain Clark, the master of the brig Skerne. A letter of apology from Macfaull to Clark was written but not accepted by Clark who pursued and won his libel case. The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded him damages of £21. Macfaull emerged from the dispute with his prestige undiminished but it took a toll on his finances.

The book was purchased for the Battye Library at auction at Sotheby's in London in 1979 for £950 sterling.