News & Insights

19th Century Brisbane Photograph Album

15th August 2023.

A fascinating album of late 19th century photographs of Brisbane, Queensland and surrounding areas is to be sold in Tennants Auctioneers’ Books, Maps and Manuscripts Sale on 29th September with an estimate of £200-400 (plus buyer’s premium). The album was compiled in the closing decades of the 19th century by an unknown traveller and includes 114 images of Australia alongside further photographs documenting their journey home via Sri Lanka, Aden, the Suez Canal, and Malta.

The images capture landmark buildings in Brisbane, many newly built, such as the iconic Parliament House after its George Street front was completed circa 1878, and Brisbane Girls Grammar School which is still very much in use today. Interestingly, the girls’ school was set up six years before women were allowed to attend university in Australia, and at the time it was viewed as a radical experiment.

Further images offer a glimpse into the commercial districts, such as a picture of Queen Street taken in 1867 showing a drapers owned by Edward Barton Southerden, a prominent local figure and businessman. Also of interest are images of floods, including one taken in the south of the town which captures a skating rink, possibly the South Brisbane Skating Rink which opened in 1888. Venturing out of the town, the traveller has included images of the surrounding bush, with one particularly delightful image of three men posed at the bottom of a huge Morton fig tree.

In these early days of photography, travellers would have purchased photographs such as these from commercial sellers, rather than had access to their own cameras. As such, the photographs would have been taken over a number of years capturing an extraordinary era of development, expansion and prosperity.


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