Level 3 Mortlock Wing State Library of South Australia North Terrace Adelaide SA 5000


The Society has a fascinating collection of treasures some of which are highlighted here.  Call back every weeks to see newly uncovered treasures!

Note:  The information presented has been prepared by volunteers of the RGSSA and is subject to revision as more research on the treasures is undertaken.

The Society is grateful to Robert Dettman for providing the images.


Goulds Mammals 02

Mammals of Australia by John Gould, 1845 -1863

John Gould is usually thought of as the "bird man", but following his trip to Australia between May 1838 and August 1839, he published Mammals of Australia in three volumes with 182 beautifully hand coloured lithographic plates.

Read more

Roberts Holy Land 09

David Roberts' hand coloured lithographs of the Holy Land - Royal Subscription Edition

123 Royal Subscription Edition RSE folio lithographic hand coloured prints of The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, and Arabia, From Drawings "made on the Spot" by David Roberts R A 1796-1864

Read more

Whisky Flasks

McKinlay’s Whisky Flask

Known as the "knight-errant of explorers", and standing 193cm (6 feet, 4 inches) tall, Scotsman John McKinlay (1819-72) was an adventurer and pastoralist. He led the South Australian Burke Relief Expedition and was the second European man to cross the continent from south to north.

Read more

Shaws Catalogue of Cloths From Cooks Voyages 2

Catalogue of specimens of cloth collected during the voyages of Captain Cook, 1768-1779

This small book produced by Alexander Shaw in 1787 contains 38 samples of tapa cloth collected on the three voyages of Captain Cook to the South Pacific 1768-1779.

It is a rare example of items known to have certainly been on Cook's ships. It also contains anecdotes of early encounters with Indigenous peoples.

Read more

Goulds Synopsis 2

A Synopsis of the Birds of Australia and Adjacent Islands by John Gould 1837-1838

This is an original edition of John Gould's first venture into the study of Australian birds featuring artwork and lithography by Elizabeth Gould. It contains seventy three hand-coloured lithographic plates showing mainly the heads of more than 160 Australian birds.

Read more

Butlers Bees 1

Charles Butler's The Feminine Monarchie, or the Historie of Bees, 1634

This is the first work on the science of beekeeping in the English language. Written by Charles Butler, who is known as the Father of English beekeeping, the text brought into the public consciousness the idea that a bee colony is presided over by a queen.

Read more

Fanny de Mole Wild Flowers of SA 1

Wildflowers of South Australia by Fanny de Mole, 1861

Wildflowers of South Australia was written and illustrated by Fanny Elizabeth de Mole (1835 - 1866). Published in 1861, it was the first book published on the botany of the province of South Australia.

Read more

Mariners Magazine 08

The Mariners' Magazine - By Captain Samuel Sturmy (1633-1669)

This 1679 publication is a comprehensive text covering all aspects of navigation. Included are logarithmic tables, instructions in astronomy, geometry, trigonometry, latitude and longitude as well as "fireworks" and fortifications.

It also includes a number of unusual rotating circular paper calculators - forerunners of the circular slide rule.

It is one of the oldest books in the Treasures collection.

Read more

Peutingers Strip Map 1

Peutinger Table - a 19th century copy of a strip map printed in 1598

Originally drawn in 1265 this strip map - depicting territory from England to China - is a 19th century copy comprising 11 panels and measuring approximately 34cm high and 6.74m long. The 16th century original of Tabula Peutingeriana is now conserved in the Austrian National Library Vienna.

Read more

Goulds Icones Avium 1

John Gould's Icones Avium 1837-1838

An original edition with 18 lithographs by John's talented artist wife Elizabeth. Features “figures and descriptions of new and interesting species of birds from various parts of the globe."

Read more

Coultards Water Canteen With Engraving

Coulthard’s Water Canteen

This water Canteen is emblematic of the unforgiving nature of the interior of Australia and the risks people took to reconnoitre the country. Pioneer William Coulthard died of thirst in 1858 while searching for pastoral country north of Port Augusta. He scratched his tragic last words on this canteen.

Read more

Goulds Transactions 1

John Gould, Three papers on new species of birds, Transactions of Zoological Society, London

These papers, published in 1833 and 1847, are examples of the over 300 scientific papers by John Gould. They were published in the Transactions of the Zoological Society, London, and each has a hand-coloured lithographic plate of the subject bird, one of which was produced is by his artist wife Elizabeth Gould. These papers show that in 1833, early in his career, John Gould was well established in scientific circles as an ornithologist.

Read more

Light portrait

Colonel William Light - portrait and relics

Colonel William Light (1786-1839) was responsible for choosing the site and laying out the City of Adelaide in 1836 and has been called the "Founder of Adelaide".  The Society is fortunate to have a portrait by artist George A J Webb, Light's surveyor's dumpy level and relics salvaged from his cottage.

Read more