Rather than produce a dry history of the city, in “The Birth of Sydney,” editor Tim Flannery assembles a fascinating collection of firsthand descriptions dating from its founding in 1788 to New Year’s Eve in 1895, when Sydney was apparently already celebrating the holiday with gusto. In between, personal letters, newspaper articles and journal entries shed light on the changing character of the city from a variety of perspectives, including white colonial leaders, female farmers and Aboriginals. Before each passage, Flannery includes a helpful introduction adding context and key biographical information. As early as 1871, Anthony Trollope was moved to write, “Sydney is one of those places which, when a man leaves it knowing that he will never return, he cannot leave without a pang and a tear. Such is its loveliness.” In that respect, Sydney is entirely unchanged.