This report offers a review of recent significant acquisitions by the National Library. It does not describe the large volume of acquisitions of both Australian and overseas materials that are routinely acquired through deposit, purchase or donation.


  • As part of a recent focus on Indigenous acquisitions, the Library has acquired Ngurrara II: the artists, a series of portraits which accompanied an article by Geraldine Brooks for The New Yorker in 2003. These artists collaborated on a large scale work telling the story of the many communities in Western Australia’s Great Sandy Desert presented for a Native Title Tribunal claim in 1997.
  • A 1884 cabinet photograph features a group of Indigenous Australians from North Queensland who were taken by American showman R.A. Cunningham for Barnum and Bailey's circus. The photograph shows the seven surviving members of the original group of nine. The Library had earlier acquired a carte de visite showing the group at Dusseldorf, with four members; by 1885 there were only three, with no further mention of them after 1887.
  • A self-portrait by Tracey Moffatt portrays herself as a tourist photographing the Outback, fashionably attired and remote from the harsh environment that is reflected in her sunglasses and the lens of the camera that she holds. While the artifice departs from documentary tradition, the photograph depicts enduring themes in Moffatt’s exploration of the displacement of Indigenous communities in contemporary Australia.
  • The Library successfully bid for Gordon Bennett’s Australian icon 1989 at Sotheby’s, Melbourne. Conveying an Indigenous response to an important moment in the history of Indigenous activism, the 1988 Bicentenary, the work challenges the European concept of ‘discovery’.
  • Also acquired at the Sotheby’s auction, a rare work relating to the Endeavour voyage of James Cook. Rainbow Lorikeet (1772) by Moses Griffith is considered to be the first artwork depicting a bird from Australia. It is believed that the painting was begun from a live bird belonging to Tupaia of Ra’iatea, who joined the Endeavour in 1769, and was then completed from a specimen held by Griffith’s employer, zoologist Thomas Pennant.
  • The Library was able to acquire another drawing, from a series of twelve, made by George French Angas during John McDouall Stuart’s third expedition into central Australia. South shore of Lake Eyre, c.1860, depicts a meeting between expeditioners and a group of Indigenous people. Later published as a lithograph, the image was significantly altered, transforming the Indigenous group into an attacking party, a change which would have escaped notice, were it not for the existence of the original sketch.
  • The Library has significantly added to its holdings of Sidney Nolan material. Nolan had a close personal and artistic relationship with Patrick White for many years, but his oil diptych Nightmare (1982), acquired from Lady Nolan, controversially depicts his response to White’s criticism of him in Flaws in the glass (1981). Five sketches by Nolan were acquired from a Christie’s, London auction which complement holdings of drought photographs taken by Nolan during his trip to Queensland in 1952. At the same auction 113 notes and sketches by Nolan of costumes and set designs for the 1956 adaptation of Douglas Stewart's play Ned Kelly were also acquired. These sketches were mostly made while Nolan was in Rome in 1956, with the Kelly iconography enriched by Nolan’s daily observations of Roman scenery and statuary.


  • Heather Henderson donated a collection of correspondence mostly written to her by her father, Sir Robert Menzies, 1955-1978. The correspondence provides insight into political issues, family life and personal matters. A notable inclusion is a letter from President John F. Kennedy to Menzies, following his 1962 visit to the United States.
  • A significant addition to the papers of scientist Phillip Law, who was Director of the Australian Antarctic Division from 1949 to 1966, includes material on the Casey, Davis and Mawson stations established during his tenure and several exploratory voyages he led along the coastline of the Australian Antarctic Territory.
  • Expatriate author and journalist Phillip Knightley has donated his papers. Knightley grew up in New South Wales and began his career in journalism in Sydney, before embarking overseas for a diverse life of writing. Knightley’s main focuses have been war reporting, propaganda and espionage.
  • The journals of Sir Basil Thomson, a British colonial administrator who travelled to New Guinea and Tonga in 1888-1889, were purchased in London. Sir Basil’s journals contain a wealth of ethnographic and naturalist observations, as well as a detailed account of his negotiations for Tonga to become a British Protectorate.
  • The Library’s new Western Australian acquisitions liaison officer assisted in the acquisition of further papers of Fred Chaney. The material covers Chaney’s interest in the constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians, remote area governance and engagement with mining companies.
  • Former Chief Justice Sir Anthony Mason has deposited his comprehensive statement, released publicly in August last year, regarding his private conversations with then Governor-General Sir John Kerr in the lead-up to the ‘Dismissal’. The statement reveals that he consistently counselled Kerr against misleading Gough Whitlam, and advised him to warn Whitlam of his intention to dissolve parliament in 1975.


  • A rare edition of the iconic map, Hollandia Nova, detecta 1644 by M. Thévenot, was printed during the reign of Louix XIV to arouse French interest in mounting an expedition to New Holland. The map shows a clear division between New Holland and the remainder of the continent, Terre Australe. When drawing up the territorial boundaries of the colony of New SouthWales, the British government set its western boundary at 135 degrees east of Greenwich, just as it appeared on Thévenot's map.
  • A Dutch United East India Company navigation chart on vellum, 1739-1741, one of the few surviving Dutch Mercator charts of the Indian Ocean, was acquired from a private collector. The chart’s course markings assist in explaining the Company’s trade network, a system of exchange across the Indian Ocean and within Asian centres involving Indian textiles, spices, tea, precious metals and bullion.
  • Three early English pocket globes, in sharkskin covered cases lined with celestial engravings extend the Library’s collection of significant globes. The John Senex (1730) and Nathaniel Hill (1754) globes show Australia drawn according to Dutch discoveries, while Nicholas Lane’s A New Globe of the Earth (1776) is the first published globe to show the track of Cook’s first voyage, 1768-1771, with the Australian and New Zealand discoveries.
  • Mappemonde sur la quelle on a marqué les heures et les minutes du tems vrai de l'entrée et de la sortie du centre de Venus... published in 1760 by the French Académie Royale des Sciences anticipates the transit of Venus. Nouvelle Hollande and Terre de Diemen are shown, and Terre de Vue in the South Atlantic marks land discovered in 1739 by Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier, who was convinced it was part of a great southern continent.
  • The Library acquired a 2011 edition of a single-sheet topographic map for Singapore. Normally restricted from public sale, the Library holds several editions of this map, depicting the extensive reclamations over the last 40 years. Still displaying military bases as swamps, these maps demonstrate the subjective content of otherwise objective-appearing maps, a censorship that seems futile in today’s Google Earth age.
  • A Falkland Islands briefing map was donated by the Australian National University. Compiled during the Falklands War by the Royal Engineers in 1982, this operations map illustrates essential engineering and logistical features of the Falkland archipelago, such as road trafficability and waterway crossing points.

Oral history and folklore


  • The Library acquired a large collection of designs and photographs for Sydney Dance Company productions, featuring the work of Jennifer Irwin, Alan Oldfield and Kristian Fredrickson. Sixteen designs and pictures relating to ballets associated with the artistic director Harry Haythorne were acquired. The artists include Australians Ann Church, Kristian Fredrikson and Robert Dickerson and Britons Peter Cazalet, Philip Prowse and David Collis.
  • Also acquired were three Kenneth Rowell designs for the National Theatre Ballet, Australian Opera and Victorian State Opera ranging from 1949 to 1983; four Thelma Afford designs for the Elizabethan Theatre’s 1957 Cinderella and a 1939 Daryl Lindsay pastel of Harlequin dating from the time of the Australian Ballets Russes tours.
  • The Library has acquired the papers of the late Hilary Crampton, reflecting her research and publications as a dance scholar and advocate, and leadership of postgraduate arts management programs at the University of Melbourne.
  • Choreographer and arts manager Marilyn Miller was interviewed for the Indigenous contemporary dance project. Other interviews were recorded with Asian-born choreographers Tony Yap and Umiumare, designer Michael Pearce, dance psychologist at The Australian Ballet, Lucinda Sharp and from the West Australian Ballet, artistic director Ivan Cavallari and the company’s first home-grown ballerina in the 1960s, Terri Charlesworth.

Australian Publications

  • As with previous reports, Australian printed acquisitions were largely focussed on filling collection gaps, with an emphasis on natural history, adventure, exploration, rogues, scandal and frontier life. There were a number of publications of strong interest and highlights include:
    • Franz Sartori’s Naturgemählde der neu entdeckten Polar-und Tropenländer : oder, Merkwürdigkeiten der neuen Welt (Nature paintings of the newly discovered polar and tropical countries : or, oddities of the new world), published in Brno (Czech Republic) in 1819. This work contains essays on New South Wales, the platypus (the strange beaked animal from New Holland), and one on convicts and the costs of running the colony.
    • Perennial favourite, Captain Cook has re-appeared in French, Swedish, Italian (Milan and Casale Monferrato) editions published between 1829 and 1902.
    • First book edition of Violet; or, The danseuse (London : Henry Colburn, 1836), issued anonymously, but attributed by bibliographer Victor Crittenden to John Lang (1816-1864), the first Australian born novelist. According to Crittenden, Lang was reluctant to identify himself for fear of libel. Violet, his heroine, was based on the Sydney actress Eliza Winstanley (with whom Lang had an affair) while for his male lead, D’Arcy, Lang rather unwisely drew “on a combination of D’Arcy Wentworth and his numerous mistresses and W.C. Wentworth who seduced a young lady and persuaded her to live with him as his mistress.” The book was a bestseller, republished in English in Paris, Brussels, Philadelphia, Boston, and Frankfurt. Lang later provided some clues to his identity (he reveals his age, hair colour, Scottish heritage, and profession as a barrister) in the preface to the 1858 free French translation of his novel, titled Violette, chronique d’opéra. The Library also acquired an 1873 Hachette edition of this translation.
    • Neu-Holland in Europa, transcript of a lecture delivered by the Austrian botanist Franz Unger (Wien: Wilhelm Braumüller, 1861) with 41 wood-cut illustrations and 19 Australian botanical specimens rendered through ‘nature printing’, a process which was developed by the Austrian printer and botanical illustrator Alois Auer in 1853, in which actual plant material is carefully impressed onto paint-coated paper. Unger’s essay, which discusses the similarity between Australian plants and fossilized Eocene era plants in Europe, was translated into English and published (without the nature prints) as ‘New Holland in Europe,’ Journal of Botany (February, 1865).
    • Resumption of the Tichborne case! ([London : Blackey's, ca. 1874]) ‑ an ingeniously designed advertisement for Blackey's, a gentlemen's outfitter, which satirises the famous, second Tichborne trial while extolling the virtues of its products.
    • Danish (1892) and Icelandic (1943) editions telling the story of adventurer Jorgen Jorgenson, who first visited Australia in 1801-1805 ‑ arriving at Port Jackson as a sailor aboard the Harbinger. Jorgenson was then transferred to the HMS Lady Nelson and probably sailed with Flinders in 1802, visiting Port Phillip and Van Diemen's Land and was subsequently transported from England to Van Diemen’s Land in 1825.
    • Travels and adventures of Ben Bridge throughout Western Australia and Northern Territory  Ben Bridge (Tamworth: Hammills Printery, [1915?]) was locally famous in the East Kimberley and Tamworth as a bushranger, cattle and horse thief who broke out of several bush gaols in the late 19th century.
    • Foreign language translations of Australian authors acquired included Frank Hurley in Swedish and Spanish; and Michael Robotham in Swedish, Polish, Latvian, Russian, Turkish, Japanese, Czech, Hungarian, Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian and German.
  • Our collection of Australian artists’ books was also bolstered with new editions, most significantly:
    • A collaboration between poet Robert Adamson and artist Peter Kingston entitled The Shark-net seahorses of Balmoral: a harbour memoir,which was billed as “a tale of two shores”. Both born in 1943, Adamson and Kingston grew up on opposing shores of Sydney Harbour. NLA copy “B” is one of 26 – copy “A” being held by the State Library of New South Wales, where the work was launched on 8 November.
    • ‘Afghanistan diaries: 1993-2012’, a boxed set of five worksAfghanistan diaries : 1993-2012, Generation AK : the Afghanistan wars, 1993-2009, Axe me biggie, Why am I a Marine? and Stoned in Kabul  ̶ by award-winning Australian photojournalist, Stephen Dupont. Our copies are all numbered 3/100 and are in a custom-made slipcase covered in US Marine Corps Desert camouflage fabric.
    • Three works on the theme of democracy from an exhibition entitled ‘Lessons in History Vol. II – Democracy’: The Amazing Box o’Ballots by the 1995 winner of the Sulman Prize, Juli Haas; Suburban Democracy by Anne-Maree Hunter, and Democracy counts by Jan Davis.
    • Five works: Quaranta Australis; Somebody, someone run; Shore of certain happiness: 1788-2012; Dancing over dark waters and Dancing over dark waters chapbook by Gwen Harrison and Sue Anderson in response to two of Sydney’s historical colonial sites, the Quarantine Station and Cockatoo Island – “where the unwanted and marginalized were incarcerated”. Themes include colonisation, refugee policy and human rights and the works reference individuals ranging from 19th century convict bushranger “Bold Bill Day” (William Derrincourt) to Mazhar Ali, the young man who jumped from the perimeter fence of the Woomera detention camp into razor wire on Australia Day 2002.
    • Visitors, a limited edition book of short fables by Gregory Day with drypoint etchings by Jiri Tibor Novak, consisting of 12 visual and written portraits of animal species introduced to the Australian continent after European colonisation.
    • Seven Stories, a collection of seven concertina-fold artist books, each featuring a new short story by an Australian author and an etching by Jim Pavilides. The authors are: Tony Birch, Anson Cameron, Stephen Cummings, Jacinta Halloran, Susan Johnson, Chrissie Keighery, and Tom Petsinis.
  • Ephemera acquisitions have been diverse and highlights since July include menus from official luncheons hosted by Prime Minister Gillard at Parliament House; the order of service from the National Memorial Service for the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Bali bombings; printed materials in support of activist, Julian Assange; Australian coal miner helmet stickers from the 1980s and early 1990s; material from the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and the People’s Republic of China; a leather bound copy of the 1967 memorial service for Harold Holt; as well as orders of service for the memorial services for the late Rosemary Dobson and Bryce Courtenay. The Library acquired a collection of four souvenir ceremonial invitations, issued by the Commonwealth Government and the Parliament of Victoria to the Celebrations for the Inauguration of the Commonwealth in 1901. The invitations are made out to Mr W.A. Barton, who is almost certainly Sir Edmund's Barton’s second son Wilfred Alexander Barton.

Online Publications

  • To provide on-going access to Australian documentary material in digital form the Library collects significant Australian websites and other online documents and makes them available for use through the PANDORA archive.
    • Forty-eight websites relating to the October 2012 Australian Capital Territory election campaign were archived as a collection. The collection includes websites for candidates, interest and lobby groups, media, comment and electoral research.
    • Twenty websites relating to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London were archived. Websites collected included the official Australian Olympic team website, the Australian Paralympic Committee website, together with websites of various athletes and sporting bodies and media coverage including that of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Sydney Morning Herald.
    • The website of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers established by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship and which released its report in August 2012.
  • In addition to collecting Australian websites the Library purchases access to a range of high quality, historically significant online resources and continued to expand this with subscriptions to the following collections:

Three modules of the Nineteenth Century Collections Online database were purchased for perpetual access from Cengage Gale. All are available for remote access to registered users and document delivery:

    • British politics & society includes primary sources related to the political climate in Great Britain. Topics include British domestic and foreign policy, trade unions, Chartism, utopian socialism, public protest, radical movements, the cartographic record, political reform, education, family relationships, religion, and leisure.
    • Asia and the West : diplomacy and cultural exchange comprises primary source collections related to international relations between Asian countries and the West during the 19th century. These include government reports, diplomatic correspondence, periodicals, newspapers, treaties, trade agreements, papers from non-government organisations, and more, offering a detailed look at the inner workings of international relations
    • British theatre, music and literature : high and popular culture features primary sources related to the arts in the Victorian era, from playbills and scripts to operas and complete scores.
  • JSTOR Arts and Sciences collection XI adds to our existing subscription for the Arts and Sciences collections I-X and provides access to journals in classical studies, architecture and architectural history, music, religion, philosophy, archaeology, performing arts, film studies, and linguistics.

Overseas Publications

  • The Pacific remains a focus of overseas collection development activities. In October 2012, a staff member visited New Zealand and Vanuatu to acquire material for the Library. The trip resulted in the acquisition of over 80 books, 140 serial issues, three posters and a map for the collection. Many of the books and serials were government publications, but other interesting acquisitions included a series of children’s folktales from the Vanuatu National Cultural Council and several social justice titles (?) published by the Wan Smolbag Theatre.
  • The Library also acquired over 160 items of election ephemera relating to the Papua New Guinea 2012 national election as a result of a very successful collaboration between the Library and AusAID’s Australian Civilian Corps which was deployed to Papua New Guinea to monitor the parliamentary elections. Many interesting items were acquired including a plastic ballot box with lid and seals; a cardboard voting booth, t-shirts, caps, voter education brochures in English and Tok Pisin; candidate campaign posters and several complete sets of Australian Defence Force air planning maps and aviation schedules for flights to the provinces.
  • The Library continued to selectively acquire significant rare items and microfilm research material for the collection, both through purchase and donation. Titles acquired in this period include:
    • Ethnographische ergebnisse aus Melanesien by Georg Thilenius published in Halle in 1902-03 is a rare and careful recording of 19th century artifacts and larger constructions in the Bismark Archipelago group of islands off the northeastern coast of New Guinea.
    • Code of signals for the use of vessels employed in the merchant service by Captain Marryat. London: J.M. Richardson, 1851. Captain Frederick Marryat was an English Royal Navy officer, novelist, and a contemporary and acquaintance of Charles Dickens. He is known particularly for the semi-autobiographical novel Mr Midshipman Easy and his children's novel The Children of the New Forest, and for a widely used system of maritime flag signalling, known as Marryat's Code.  Marryat’s system soon became the standard with his book becoming a mandatory reference for merchant naval officers and it was published in numerous editions, the 11th issued after Marryat’s death in 1848. All editions of this work are now quite scarce. This mariner’s handbook has a collection of early hand-coloured signal charts and related manuscript notes relating to an 1860s voyage. The representations of 18th and 19th century British sailing technology are an important addition to the collection.
    • Five rare 17th and early 18th century works were acquired from Peter Vyner of Armidale, NSW. The books were originally owned by the Vyner family of Eathorpe in Warwickshire. Mr Thomas Vyner (1653-1708), head of the family in the late 17th- 18th century, placed great value in his book collection and stipulated in his will that his library was not be sold, but pass to his descendants with the estate. A portion of the family library eventually passed to Robert Thomas Vyner (1858-1930), who came to Australia in about 1890 and settled in the Armidale district of NSW. The five titles acquired are typical examples of books one might find in a gentleman’s library of the period and contain family bookplates or inscriptions.