Macquarie collector's chest
One of the Library's rarest and most beautiful pieces of early 19th century Australiana is the Macquarie Collector's Chest.
The chest was created in New South Wales around 1818. It was intended for Governor Macquarie. It returned to Scotland with Macquarie in 1822 where it remained in Strathallan Castle before being sold to a private collector. The chest is one of the Library's most important acquisitions of recent years.
The reasons for creating the chest, as well as the identities of the artists and craftsmen responsible, remain elusive. Like many beautiful and enigmatic objects, its mystery is part of its charm. Even the description 'collector's chest' is misleading, because it was not made to house classified scientific arrangements of specimens in the manner of a true collector's chest. The chest was almost certainly intended as a special presentation piece to celebrate the colony of New South Wales.
The chest is constructed of a combination of Australian rosewood found from the Hunter River to the Port Macquarie region of NSW, and red cedar found in NSW coastal regions from the Illawarra to the north. It opens to present a wonderful array of artefacts, specimens, painted panels, and compartments. The artwork on the chest depicts colonial Newcastle and the surrounding areas. It is thought to be the work of Joseph Lycett - a noted convict artist of the period. Lycett was patronised by both Macquarie and Captain James Wallis, Commandant of the secondary penal settlement at Newcastle, north of Sydney.