Of Swiss descent, Leopold Fane De Salis (1816–1898) was born in Florence, Italy, and educated at Eton College in England. He emigrated to New South Wales in 1840. He acquired a property, Darbalara, near Gundagai and later Junee station. In 1855 he sold these properties and purchased Cuppacumbalong, at the meeting of the Murrumbidgee and Gudgenby rivers. De Salis represented Queanbeyan in the Legislative Assembly in 1868–69 and was a Member of the Legislative Council from 1874 until his death. He acquired further properties in the Upper Murrumbidgee and also Queensland, but after 1889 the fall of wool prices and the collapse of banks led to the loss of his properties.

Nina De Salis (d. 1929), the daughter of Leopold, married William Farrer in 1882. They continued to live at Cuppacumbalong until Lambrigg was built in 1894. Her brother George Fane De Salis (1852–1931) was a pastoralist and briefly a member of the Legislative Assembly. In 1878 he married Mary, the daughter of the Reverend Pierce Galliard Smith (1826–1908), the long-serving rector of St John’s Church, Canberra. After the loss of Cuppacumbalong, they lived at Lambrigg until 1900, when they purchased Soglio, a property at Michelago. It was named after their ancestral home in the valley of Bregaglia, Switzerland. Their four daughters lived at Soglio until the 1960s and the property was later acquired by John De Salis, the grandson of George.

The library at Cuppacumbalong was mainly assembled by Leopold De Salis and his daughter Nina. After it was transferred to Soglio in 1900, books were added by George De Salis and later by his daughter Charlotte. Other books had belonged to Pierce Galliard Smith. Some of the books contain bookplates, particularly those of Charlotte De Salis.


The De Salis Collection of books and personal papers were purchased by the Library from John De Salis of Michelago in 1984–87. The diaries of George De Salis were lent for microfilming in 1976 by William De Salis of Canberra.


Printed Materials

The De Salis Collection contains about 1600 books, mostly published in Britain in the period 1850–1920. It is a family collection assembled over a long period and the subject matter is quite broad: Greek and Latin classics, religion, moral philosophy, history, biography, politics, English and American literature, language, travel, agriculture, gardening, popular science, art and children’s books. Authors who are well represented in the collection include Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Coleridge, Charles Dickens, J.A. Froude, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Charles Kingsley, John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin, Frederick Schiller, Samuel Smiles, Alfred Tennyson and W.M. Thackeray. There is a relatively small number of Australian imprints. Among the Australian authors are David Buchanan, Alec Chisholm, T.A. Coghlan, Louise Mack, Henry Parkes, J.E. Tenison-Woods and William Woolls.

The oldest book in the collection is an edition of the works of Cicero published in 1606.

The collection includes issues of several magazines, notably All the year round (1859–67), Cornhill Magazine (1861–63), Girls Own Paper (1891–92), Harpers Monthly Magazine (1893–96), Home Circle (1849–52) and Illustrated London News (1863–68). Other magazines are held with the De Salis papers, such as Ladies Treasury (1865–86).

All the year round (1859–67)

Cornhill magazine (1861–63)

Girls own paper (1891–92)

Harpers monthly magazine (1893–96)

Home circle (1849–52)

Illustrated London news (1863–68)

Ladies treasury (1865–86).

Personal Papers

Dating from about 1840 to 1930, the De Salis Collection contains family, personal and business correspondence of several members of the De Salis family, especially Leopold, Nina, George, Charlotte, Mary and Emily. There are also poems, dance programs, menus, greeting cards, newspaper cuttings, scrapbooks, photographs, books and magazines. Among the pastoral records in the collection are conveyance documents (1858–90), agreements, accounts, receipts, bank books, ledgers (1851–60), a Cuppacumbalong day book (1852–61) and rainfall observations (1885–99).

For most of his life George De Salis kept a detailed diary, which is an important source of the early history of the Canberra–Queanbeyan district. Microfilm copies are held of the 1869–1900 diaries.

The papers of Pierce Galliard Smith contain a long but broken run of diaries (1853–1905) and also correspondence, theological papers and sermons, financial papers, photographs and publications.


The books in the De Salis Collection are kept together as a formed collection. They have been catalogued individually; the call numbers have the prefix DESAL. Ciceronis opera omnia (1616) and L.M. Stretch, The beauties of History (1793) are held in the Rare Books Collection at RB MISC 3185 and RB MISC 3026. Whitehead's new map of Victoria (1877) and The enlarged pictorial plan of London: London in 1911 (both digitised) are held in the Maps Collection at DESAL 1056 and DESAL 1340 (Rare stacks).

Ciceronis opera omnia (1606)

Stretch, L.M. The beauties of history (1793)

The papers of the De Salis family are kept together in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 7989. The collection, which is partly restricted, occupies 55 boxes. A finding aid is available online at https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-328049980/findingaid. A family tree of the De Salis family is held at MS 2623. The papers of Pierce Galliard Smith, which occupy 19 boxes, are held at MS 2656. A finding aid is available online at https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-326370570/findingaid.

The microfilm of the diaries of George De Salis is located at mfm G 20727–20733.


Cope, John, Pioneer parson of early Canberra: Rev. Pierce Galliard Smith, Minister of St John the Baptist Church, Reid, 1855–1905, Ginninderra Press, Canberra, 2006.

De Salis, W.A.F., Some family history, Canberra and District Historical Society, Canberra, 1960.

De Salis, Leopold Fabius Dietegan Fane (1816–1898), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 4, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1972, pp. 60–1.

First posted 2008 (revised 2019)