The acquisition of the TAL & Dai-ichi (Derby) collection

What is the TAL & Dai-ichi (Derby) collection?

The collection is made up of 745 exquisite and vivid natural history drawings that were created by  Aylmer Bourke Lambert (1761 – 1842) during the early days of the NSW colony. They are drawings and paintings of fish, mammals, plants and botany throughout the colony.  The Europeans were enthralled by the unique nature of Australia's flora and fauna and these drawings are one of the earliest examples of their recordings of what they saw. Lambert's lavish and amazing drawings were of huge interest in England. They inspired a wave of drawing and collecting and also increased the fascination with this new English colony.

The collection was purchased by the 13th Earl of Derby and was kept for many centuries at the family seat of Knowsley Hall, near Liverpool.

The acquisition of the collection

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In September 2011, the State Library moved to acquire the collection. It was only possible with the assistance of the NSW Government and TAL & Dai-ichi Life. The significant contribution by TAL and Dai-ichi meant that this fabulous collection is available for generations of Australians to enjoy.

“TAL & Dai‐ichi Life is proud to have participated in securing the gift of these remarkable works for the people of Australia to enjoy by visiting the exhibition or accessing all 745 works on the Library’s website,” said Jim Minto, Managing Director of TAL.

The collection is not only breathtaking to examine as pure art but it also gives us a deep insight into those early days of the new colony.

According to Alex Byrne, NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive: “New investigations by the Library on the 745 exquisite drawings of Australian birds, plants, animals and fish in the TAL & Dai‐ichi Life collection has uncovered a rich back‐story that questions our understanding of the first 12 years in the colony.”

In preparation for the exhibition and her new book, the Library’s colonial art expert Louise Anemaat spent months trying to unravel the genealogy of drawings in the collection alongside local and international collections. Ms Anemaat discovered that the colony was a far richer cultural community than was previously known.

“We are used to hearing stories of the floggings, hunger, isolation and the brutality of the time, and these are all true,” says Ms Anemaat. “But, out of the harshness and homesickness emerged an ‘artist colony’ where Europeans, in awe of Australia’s natural world, eagerly sought to draw the astonishing variety of new and exotic species they encountered.”

“These bold and striking first impressions of Australia’s fauna and flora were like little ambassadors for Australia but with a strong personal message from the heart, almost like a cry not to be forgotten or abandoned.”

The partnership between the State Library and TAL & Dai-ichi was a remarkable success story that gave Australians a significant piece of their history for all time.