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Ships and maritime history: Images of ships and boats

The State Library has one of the best shipping and maritime history collections in Australia. It includes books, periodicals, newspapers, shipping registers and several substantial pictorial collections.. Shipping enthusiasts and maritime historians will

  Australian Sites - images viewable online

  Overseas sites - images viewable online

Ships pictures index 1491-1991

The Ships Pictures Index lists ships' pictures in print compiled and published by Nick Vine Hall. In the introduction he says that it lists appearances of ships' pictures published in 101 books, journals, magazines, newspapers and microfilms. With some 3,221 entries, the majority are photographs, but include woodcuts, watercolours, oil paintings and illustrations of some ship models. It is international in coverage and not limited to ships sailing in Australian waters. A list of sources is at the end of Fiche 1.

  Useful books

For merchant sailing ships:

General catalogue of historic photographs: Volume 2 Merchant sailing ships : Published by the National Maritime Museum in 1976, this is a useful guide to photographs of ships held by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK.

A guide to the Allen Knight and Capt. Walter F. Lee photograph collections : This is a guide to a collection at the Allen Knight Maritime Museum in Monterey, California in 1986 and is another useful guide to an overseas photographic collection, and does include Australian ships.

Historic photographs at the National Maritime Museum : an illustrated guide : This well-illustrated Guide gives an insight into the negatives which form the core of the Museum's Historic Photographs Collection, cataloguing of which is still far from complete. Denis Stonham, formerly curator of the Collection, sets its development in context and current Museum staff provide entries on the 250 individual holdings listed, including their size, content and availability for research and reproduction. Most are represented by a sample print, making the Guide itself a work of detailed visual interest and information.

Tryckare, Tre. The lore of ships. New York : Crescent Books, 1973.  Explains and illustrates all of the significant components of sailing ships, merchantmen, liners - every kind of ship from primitive dugouts to the nuclear warships of the present. It contains more than 1,550 illustrations of diverse nautical details.

For shipping companies:

Ships in focus record : An acclaimed illustrated journal with histories of ships, shipping companies, shipbuilders and ports 

Merchant fleets : Primarily authored by Duncan Haws and Norman Middlemiss.  Presented as a chronology of the main events in a company's history, followed by a full and detailed list of all the ships owned together with technical details and the career history of each. Illustrated with scale profile drawings.

There is also a range of specific shipping line histories authored by Roy Fenton and John Clarkson including Blue funnel line, Ellerman lines and New Zealand and Federal lines.

The AD Edwardes collection

PRG 1373/1/35

The Ganymede under sail circa 1877 View more information here.

This world renowned collection contains about 8000 photographs, mostly of sailing ships, taken between about 1865 and 1920.

You can locate photographs from the collection via the State Library catalogue by

*Please note that whilst only approximately half of the collection has been digitised, each photograph has a catalogue record. If the record has an associated photograph you will see a 'view image' link. If not, you can Ask Us about your options for gaining access.

Ron Parsons, the noted maritime historian, has provided expanded captions to the Edwardes Collection photographs, giving the history of the ships where known.

The collection is mounted in 91 albums with volumes arranged by country of ownership (and some special volumes).

Items from the collection are retrieved from storage for use in the Somerville Reading Room. A card index is located in the Family History Microfilm area.

The South Australiana pictorial collection

B 7752
The City of Adelaide circa 1880 - View more information about this image here

The Library's pictorial collections contain several hundred photographs of ships associated with South Australia, and of South Australian port scenes. They include ships which traded in Australian waters from the 1870s onwards. Family historians may find photographs of the ships which brought their families to Australia. Most of these photographs have been digitised and can be viewed on the catalogue.

Shipping illustrations index

This is a card index of references to illustrations of ships in some of the books in the Library's collections. Although no longer added to, it is still a valuable additional resource. It should be noted that the Library does not hold the copyright on these illustrations, so permission may need to be sought from the publisher of the book in order to publish any illustrations.

Newspaper illustration index

This is a three volume index compiled in 1990 by Vaughan Evans of the Australian Association for Maritime History to three 19th century newspapers which frequently provide drawings of ships and ports. The three indexes are held at the Information desk.

Volume 1 covers the Illustrated Sydney news: index to illustrations of ships, ports and places, and other items of general maritime interest 1853 to 1889 inclusive.

Volume 2 covers the Illustrated London news : index to illustrations of ships, ports and places, and other items of general interest to Australia and New Zealand 1842 to 1891 inclusive

Volume 3 covers the Australasian sketcher with pen and pencil : index to illustrations of ships, ports and places, and other items of general maritime interest 1873 to 1889 inclusive.

  The AL Arbon - RR LeMaistre collection

PRG 1324/100
The Achille Lauro in 1947. View more information about this image here.

This collection contains around 80,000 photographs of mainly 20th century ships, mostly powered vessels, and including nearly all of the ships which carried post Second World War migrants to Australia. There is a card index to the collection located in the Family History and Microfilm area, and items from the collection are retrieved from storage for use in the Somerville Reading Room.

The HA Godson Collection of River Murray Shipping

PRG 1258/1/23
The Adelaide circa 1937. View more information about this image here.

This collection contains approximately 16,000 photographs of paddle steamers and other vessels and river ports, as well as historical River Murray scenes. Many of these photographs can now been seen through the catalogue. You can find them by entering the name of the vessel as a keyword search or by searching by the number of a photograph such as PRG 1258/1 when selecting the Archival Number option. Items from the collection are retrieved from storage for use in the Somerville Reading Room.

River Murray paddle steamers collection

Paddle-steamers Lancashire Lass and Tarella at Goolwa wharf circa 1920. View more information about this image here

John Clifford Tolley collected photographs on ships and paddle-steamers. Some 99 images relating to Goolwa and Victor Harbor 1854-1900 have been digitised and can be viewed online at PRG 1377/77.

Some 183 images relating to paddle steamers on the River Murray 1880-1999 are at PRG 1377/79 and 98 images of places on the River Murray 1829 to 1999 are at PRG 1377/80. These images are not yet digitised but can be retrieved from storage for use in the Somerville Reading Room.

All images have been described in the catalogue so you can find them by entering the name of the vessel as a keyword search. The JC Tolley archival collection also has research papers relating to these interests in PRG 1377.