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At least thirty-seven per cent of male convicts and fifteen per cent of female convicts were tattooed by the time they arrived in the penal colonies, making Australians quite possibly the world’s most heavily tattooed English-speaking people of the nineteenth century.
Each convict’s details, including their tattoos, were recorded when they disembarked, providing an extensive physical account of Australia’s convict men and women.
Simon Barnard has meticulously combed through those records to reveal a rich pictorial history. Convict Tattoos explores various aspects of tattooing—from the symbolism of tattoo motifs to inking methods, from their use as means of identification and control to expressions of individualism and defiance—providing a fascinating glimpse of the lives of the people behind the records.
Simon Barnard was born and grew up in Launceston. He spent a lot of time in the bush as a boy, which led to an interest in Tasmanian history. He is a writer, illustrator and collector of colonial artifacts. He now lives in Melbourne. He won the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books in the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year awards for his first book, A-Z of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land. Convict Tattoos is his second book.
‘The early years of penal settlement have been recounted many times, yet Convict Tattoos genuinely breaks new ground by examining a common if neglected feature of convict culture found among both male and female prisoners.’ Australian
‘This niche subject has proved fertile ground for Barnard—who is ink-free—by providing a glimpse into the lives of the people behind the historical records, revealing something of their thoughts, feelings and experiences.’ Mercury
'The best thing to happen in Australian tattoo history since Cook landed. A must-have for any tattoo historian.’ Brett Stewart, Australian Tattoo Museum