While much has been published regarding Captain Arthur Phillip (1738‐1814), the first governor of New South Wales, some gaps remain in our knowledge. Using a wide variety of materials, embracing both manuscript and printed sources, ranging from correspondence to journals and from newspaper materials to book subscription lists, this article sets out to answer four questions. Firstly, to what extent was Arthur Phillip mentally and intellectually prepared for his manifold tasks in New South Wales? Secondly, what form did his close encounters with new lands and a new and unfamiliar culture take? Thirdly, how and to what extent were people in England kept informed of his achievements? Finally, what impact did those encounters have on Phillip himself? As a result, fresh light is cast, not only on Phillip the man, but also on his not inconsiderable achievements.