The earliest surviving document printed in Australia and one of the National Library’s treasures, a 1796 theatre playbill, has been added to the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register.

The Register is a selective list of Australia’s significant documentary heritage. Other National Library treasures, including James Cook’s Endeavour Journal and the papers of Edward Mabo, are already on the Register.

The Australian Register is one of the 60 Memory of the World programs established globally to ensure that valuable archive holdings and library collections are kept safe for future generations.

Director-General of the National Library of Australia, Ms Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, said she was delighted that the playbill had been added to the Register.

‘As the oldest known document printed in this country, it is important that the playbill be recognised in this way,’ Ms Schwirtlich said.

‘It is also a special document because it was given to the National Library in 2007 by the Canadian Government after being found in a box of Canadian ephemera by a rare books bibliographer from Library and Archives Canada. ‘

The playbill advertises a theatrical performance held at the Theatre, Sydney, on Saturday 30 July 1796. It was printed in Sydney by George Hughes, operator of Australia’s first printing press. It is believed that Philip Gidley King, who was to become the third governor of NSW, took the playbill with him to London in 1796 as a First Fleet Marine Officer. King’s handwriting and signature appear on the back.

The playbill will go on permanent show when the National Library’s new Treasures Gallery opens in October this year.

Images of the playbill are available to the media.

Media Contact:
Sally Hopman, Media Liaison Manager, National Library of Australia
02 6262 1704 or 0401 226 697;