In 2007, the National Library of Australia acquired a playbill dated 30 July 1796, the earliest surviving document printed in Australia.
The playbill, advertising a performance at the Theatre, Sydney, was printed in Sydney by convict George Hughes, operator of Australia’s first printing press, which came out on the First Fleet. It was probable that First Fleet Marine Officer, and later third Governor of the colony of NSW, Philip Gidley King took the playbill with him when he visited England in October 1796.
The theatre playbill was discovered by the staff of Library and Archives Canada and was returned to Australia as a gift to the nation from the Canadian Government. It was added to the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register in 2011.
The playbill is held in the Manuscripts Collection at the National Library of Australia. It has been digitised and can be viewed in full online. For preservation reasons, the original playbill is not available for viewing by the public.
For more information see Our Earliest Australian Printed Document in the Library’s online journal Gateways.