TAL & Dai-ichi Life (Earl of Derby) Collection

The Earl of Derby collection is six volumes of stunning natural history watercolours of Australian flora and fauna.

Duck from Zoology of N. [New] Holland, watercolour on paper

What's in the collection?

The Earl of Derby Collection contains six volumes of exquisite Australian natural history drawings dating from the early days of British settlement in NSW.

The story of the collection

In 2011, the State Library of New South Wales acquired a beautiful and significant new item: the watercolours, now collectively known as the TAL & Dai-ichi Life (Earl of Derby) Collection, were collected and copied by Aylmer Bourke Lambert and later acquired by the 13th Earl of Derby.

Aylmer Bourke Lambert (1761 – 1842) was born into wealth and privilege. Lambert's good fortune allowed him to pursue his boyhood interests in botany and botanical collecting throughout his long life.

Lambert was well connected in the world of natural history and enthusiastically amassed a huge personal collection of botanical specimens and drawings from all over the world. His extensive Australian collections included First Fleet era drawings and specimens received from Surgeon John White (1756 – 1832), Governor Arthur Phillip (1738 – 1814), Colonel William Paterson (1755 – 1810), Major Robert Ross (1740 – 1794), Philip Gidley King (1758 – 1808), and Major Francis Grose (1758 – 1814).

Lambert made or kept copies of many of these drawings of Australian birds, plants, mammals and fishes which were bound into six albums. In 1799, three of the bird volumes were lent to leading ornithologist, Dr John Latham (1740 – 1837), who used them to describe new Australian birds in supplements to his ground-breaking books, General Synopsis of Birds (1801) and Index Ornithologicus (1801).

After Aylmer Bourke Lambert’s death in 1842, the six volumes of Australian drawings were bought by his friend, Edward Stanley, the 13th Earl of Derby, himself keenly interested in natural history. These volumes were kept at the Derby family property, Knowsley Hall, near Liverpool in England, until 2011, when the State Library of New South Wales acquired them from the 19th Earl of Derby, with the assistance of TAL & Dai-ichi Life and the New South Wales Government.

The collection has been fully digitised. You can explore the illustrations and find more information on the Derby collection on our catalogue.