Ned Kelly
Updated May 19, 2004

Ned Kelly books

In the forth-coming months a number of Kelly books are set to be released or re-released. We will be doing reviews and keeping you updated as to when the books hit the stands. For a extensive list of reviews, we recommend ironoutlaw.

Ned Kelly home
Ned Kelly Quick History
Ned Kelly history
Ned Kelly News
Ned Kelly Editorial
Ned Kelly Books Movies
Ned Kelly Links
Ned Kelly feedback

Blood in the Dust by A.N.Baron
"…when Wild Wright and my mother came they could trace us across the street by the blood in the dust…" Ned Kelly's voice as written by Joe Byrne in the Jerilderie letter 1879

"…He [Joe] writes 'I' many times, giving us an exquisitely detailed look at his self-image…" Angeline Baron

Graphology (i.e. handwriting analysis*) may not be a discipline familiar to the average person interested in Kelly history, but this by no means presents a problem for a reader of this book. Angeline doesn't assume in her readers any prior knowledge of graphology and presents her findings in an easy to read format. She provides a broad explanation of the process of graphology, a brief history of the field, and defines the main aim of the graphologist, namely: to gather information about a person that is not otherwise available. Included in the book are some samples of Angeline's subject's handwriting, transcripts of the 'Kelly letters', and a noteworthy forward by Kelly descendant Ellen Hollow.

Also included in the book is an overview of the relevant history written by amateur Kelly historian Dave White, and edited by Angeline. This clearly presented, knowledgeable, and readable, albeit pro-Kelly, section should be very useful for those less familiar with the personal backgrounds and chronology of the Kelly gang, or for those Kelly enthusiasts wishing to reference historical details as they read the book.

Overall Assessment
Obviously it is not within the expertise of this reviewer to assess the graphological accuracy of the analyses, however these fascinating examinations are certainly consistent with the historically recorded behaviors of both Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne.

Blood in the Dust is a very comprehensive and well-presented work. Each sample of handwriting has been studied individually and is presented as separate analyses, (i.e. Ned as an adolescent, an adult, and Joe as an adult), enabling them to be considered individually or as a whole. The analysis reveal the subject's inner emotional worlds, both their conscious and, perhaps more fascinating, their unconscious, as well as important aspects of their characters, such as their intellects, physical attributes, specific relationships with others, and sexuality. The detail and depth of the analysis is remarkable. It is a thoroughly engaging examination, surprisingly moving, and at times even amusing. One can't read it without feeling one is getting an intimate glimpse into the private lives and minds of two young men who are ordinarily no more than 'familiar strangers' to the Kelly scholar. It adds a welcome third dimension to the historian's more customary two. (Conclusions)

Who are Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne?
This work demonstrates that history and graphology can sit comfortably side-by-side, with each field of study opening a door to the other. Angeline offers graphological evidence of numerous aspects of Ned's personality and temperament, which are aspects that are frequently demonstrated in his historically recorded behaviors, and which certainly help explain some of his more surprising and unusual actions. The information given about Ned is simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, and unexpectedly enables one to easily picture the living, breathing adolescent, and man.
Joe Byrne was highly significant in Kelly history, but to date he has been a less recognised and certainly a less understood historical figure than Ned. The analysis of Joe's handwriting is therefore perhaps more unexpected and illuminating than that of his friend. Interestingly many of the historically recorded quotes from people who knew Joe have been supported and expanded by this analysis of his handwriting. The Joe who we have previously heard described as "nice, quiet, not flash", "clean and tidy", "cool and firm as steel", and "a little old-fashioned and grave in his ways" is born out in the meticulous, restrained, dedicated and contemplative Joe as represented in his script. His role as a background historical figure is explained by his apparently modest and tolerant nature, as well as his active desire to dwell in the shadow of his infamous and dominant best mate. The inner world of Joe Byrne, as explained by Angeline, is a complex and fascinating one. His relationships with others, particularly Ned and Aaron Sherritt, are apparently also visible in his script and are described and elucidated in intriguing detail in Blood in the Dust.

For the historian
Perhaps one of the most beneficial aspects of this book for the Kelly historian may not be immediately apparent. Angeline is an experienced handwriting expert (i.e. the technical 'hard' science of studying handwriting) and has managed to authenticate two important historical documents: Ned's letter to Sir Henry Parkes, and Joe Byrne's letter to Aaron Sherritt. The authenticity of both these letters had previously been cast in some doubt**, but Angeline has now confirmed them both as genuine. These disclosures are exciting as the significance of the both letters can now be recognised and consequently considered more confidently by historians. Thus this book offers additional value from the point of view of historical research, as it has revealed that we are richer in Kelly artefacts than we had previously supposed.

**Note: Some historians have suspected the Parkes letter to be a fake, but such supposition has typically been based predominantly on the content of the letter, (i.e. the theory being that Ned couldn't have written it because he wasn't racist etc.). Angeline has confirmed however that it was certainly written by Ned Kelly and expounds her conclusions. Similarly, the authenticity of Joe's letter to Aaron had been rejected by, at least one, historian (who curiously theorized that it was merely a duplicate of a letter written by Joe. This was based on the level of literacy shown and an inexpert opinion of the handwriting.) However this document has also been authenticated through Angeline's study, including by making comparisons with the Jerilderie letter under high magnification.


*Note on Graphology - The credibility of the professional study of handwriting and letter formation, for the identification of the writer of a particular script, is widely accepted. However, there will be some sceptics who can't help but find the concept that we subconsciously display details of our inner-selves in our handwriting, and that graphologist can reveal such details, to be difficult to accept. Yet others, while accepting the concept that some things can be discovered, will be dubious about the level of detail acquirable. Such scepticism is understandable, even healthy, particularly if one is not familiar with the field. (Incidentally, this reviewer was once just such a sceptic.) For sceptics, or those simply interested in learning more, there is a list of Angeline's reference books on the topic of Graphology at the back of the book, and the Internet and local libraries can also provide information.

With Blood in the Dust Angeline has presented a rare and welcome contribution to the Kelly world. That is to say - a fresh approach to the Kelly story! This work may not sit comfortably with those who already have a preconceived idea about the kinds of men Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne were. However, it's worth acknowledging that such impressions are personal opinions based on historical accounts of their actions and, as such, open to a wide variety of interpretations. In considering the graphological evidence, Angeline's analyses offer us a chance to evolve our ideas. Here is an invitation to better know and understand the real people behind the historic figures we identify as Ned and Joe, to further comprehend their actions and, hopefully, the capacity to stereotype and judge them less.
I highly recommended Blood in the Dust to both history and psychology scholars alike.

(Book cover photo courtesy of NCS Publishing)

Blood in the Dust can be purchased at the following places:
Austin Hospital, Level 4 shop, Heidelberg, VIC
Kate's Cottage, Glenrowan, VIC
Ned Kelly's World, Glenrowan, VIC
Online via

Email Angeline at

First published April 23, 2004

Return to Books page>>
Contact Us>>

Conditions of Use