The Catch

I couldn’t have been further away from the water: sitting at a desk in the National Library of Australia Reading Room, my lap-top was humming and I was madly taking photos and writing notes. It was hardly a Saturday evening casting squid jigs off the rocks. And yet this desk job had a decidedly fishy feel.

An NLA love story - chapter and verses

The National Library of Australia’s greatest treasure is its staff – although a slightly waterlogged journal written in the hand of one J. Cook, would have to come a very close second.  

So when you ask National Library staff about what particular gem they have uncovered in the 10 million-item strong collection, you know they’ll come up with something special - and unexpected.

Sarah Stone's birds


One morning late last year, five extraordinary watercolour paintings of Australian birds were hung in the Library's Treasures Gallery. They were completed in London in around 1790, by 30-year-old Englishwoman Sarah Stone (c.1760-1844). 

A Life in Ten Acquisitions


Rex Nan Kivell's need for a grand narrative to describe his life and obessive collecting was unquenchable. His collecting stories and engaging, though, when examined, often untrue - either exaggerated or invented entirely. Without question, however, is the signifiance of the items he collected and sometimes 'boosted' with imaginative tall tales.

The 'Gentlemen' Convicts

One of the pleasures of working as a guide in the Treasures Gallery at the National Library is becoming familiar with items which recall Australia’s ‘gentlemen convicts'. This was a small but distinct group from the 162,000 convicts transported to Australia in the early days of colonial settlement.

A new season of treasures

Along with falling leaves and the first hints of cold weather, this autumn also brings a change in the Treasures Gallery. We like to change items in our permanent display space a couple of times a year. This helps keeps objects in their best condition—being on display can often be tiring for delicate material, like paper. While we are a little sad to see some things go back to the stacks, it’s also a good opportunity to show you some exciting objects that haven’t been displayed before.

What’s in a title?

Recently, a book with its title printed simply on a brown dust jacket went on display in the Treasures Gallery. Like many items in the Gallery, what makes it a treasured collection item may not be immediately obvious (I am reminded to not judge a book by its cover). It is a first edition of Henry Handel Richardson’s (1870–1946) novel The fortunes of Richard Mahony: Australia felix (1917), which was among the author’s personal papers, now preserved in the Library’s Manuscripts Collection.

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