National Library acquires rare early Australian photographs

Rare early Australian photographs, not seen in public for more than 100 years, have been acquired by the National Library.

The major private collection of nearly 1,000 photographs came to light recently in Sydney where, among other places, it had been kept under a house – its value unrecognised.

The photographs, dating from 1872 to 1876, were taken by Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss, two of Australia’s greatest 19th century photographers. Highlights of the collection will go on show at the Library next week.

Senior Lecturer at the ANU School of Art Helen Ennis, who has curated an exhibition of Bayliss’ work for the National Library, A Modern Vision, describes the collection as an unsurpassed photographic record of life in Australia at the time. “In my professional life as a photographic historian for 26 years, I have never seen a collection as significant as this. It is unrivalled.”

Read more about how to access the photos.

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