National Library puts spotlight on rare treasure

National Library puts spotlight on rare treasure
23 June 2008

Writer David Malouf and actor Amanda Muggleton will bring to life the Canadian Government’s gift to the National Library of the earliest surviving document printed in Australia.

To mark the acquisition of this priceless document, a 1796 theatre playbill, the National Library will hold a special event on Wednesday 25 June, open to the public.

The playbill advertises performances at the Theatre, Sydney, on Saturday 30 July, 1796. It was found in the collection of Library and Archives Canada and returned as a gift to the people of Australia by the Canadian Government in September last year.

Amanda Muggleton will perform a piece from the advertised play, Jane Shore, while David Malouf will talk about the colony of the time when the playbill was printed. Dr Gillian Russell, of the Australian National University, will discuss the history of early colonial theatre.

The playbill was printed in Sydney by convict George Hughes who operated Australia’s first printing press which came out with the First Fleet. It is believed that First Fleet Marine Officer and later third Governor of the NSW colony, Philip Gidley King, took the playbill with him when he visited England in 1796.

The Director-General of the National Library, Jan Fullerton, described the playbill gift as “extraordinarily generous and highly significant to the people of Australia”. “The playbill will have a special place alongside other key documents such as Cook’s Endeavour Journal, William Bligh’s notebook and Eddie Mabo’s papers in our new Treasures Gallery due to open in 2010,” Ms Fullerton said.

The Canadian High Commissioner, Michael Leir, said he was very proud of the role Canada had played in returning an item of such historical significance to the people of Australia. “Its repatriation is a reflection of Canada and Australia’s common heritage and strong historical links,” he said. “The playbill celebration marks another example of our enduring relationship which continues to bring our two countries closer together.”

The event is open to the public. Bookings are essential on 02 6262 1271.

Where: National Library Theatre, lower ground floor
When: Wednesday 25 June, 2.30 – 4.30 pm

High-resolution images of the playbill are available for download at http://www.nla.gov.au/media/

Media contacts: Sally Hopman, 02 6262 1704; shopman@nla.gov.au
Ellen Peterson, 02 6262 1571; epeterson@nla.gov.au