State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 36 December 1985


Ballarat From the Fire Brigade Tower, Looking East.

By the late 1860s Ballarat has shed its image of gold-rush impermanence; the unruly tent town of the 1850s had developed into a prosperous city. Anthony Trollope, who visited in 1871, found a “… town so well built, so well ordered, endowed with present advantages so great in the way of schools, hospitals, libraries, hotels, public gardens and the like …1 “The Golden City”played host to Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh in December 1867 and two years later held a Fine Arts Exhibition at its local Mechanics’ Institute.
It was in this spirit of blossoming civic pride that in 1869 the proprietors of the Ballarat Star commissioned Eugene von Guérard to draw a view of Ballarat. This view was engraved on wood and impressions from it presented to subscribers of the newspaper as a New Year gift for 1870.
Not only do two preparatory drawings and the engraved woodblock for this print survive, but references to it in newspapers of the day give a valuable insight into the problems that faced Melbourne wood-engravers in the 1870s.
Eugene von Guérard was the natural choice of artist for this view as he knew Ballarat intimately, “and was one of the best artists in the colony”.2 Born 19 November 1811 in Vienna, he studied art in Italy and Germany before travelling to Australia to seek gold. Arriving in Geelong on 24 December 1852 he immediately set out for Ballarat where he spent sixteen months searching unsuccessfully for gold. His memories of this period are recorded in his recently published diary.3 In April 1854 von Guérard travelled to Melbourne and established himself as a professional artist. Commissioned paintings and drawings became a significant part of his work from 1854, and in this capacity he travelled extensively, particularly in the rich Western District of Victoria, sketching views and homesteads to develop into pictures for many of the wealthy landowners.
Although von Guérard's printed works are not extensive, they are certainly distinguished. He had probably experimented with lithography as a student at the Düsseldorf Academy, or at the lithographic workshops owned by his future father-in-law Heinrich Arnz.4 A large colour lithograph of Tower Hill, 1855 was published by Thomas McLean of London5 and his View of the Upper Mitta Mitta was included in Charles Troedel's Melbourne Album of 1863.6 In 1868 the Melbourne lithographic firm Hamel and Ferguson printed and published Eugene von Guërard's Australian Landscapes,7 a series of 24 original lithographs. It was the most outstanding ‘view book’ produced in Australia.
Only a small number of engravings were published after von Guërard's drawings and paintings and the View of Ballarat is by far the most successful.8 The Dixson Library, Sydney, holds a preliminary sketch for the Ballarat print, dated 19–23 January 1869. The final drawing, in the collection of the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, from which the engraving was executed has had an additional row of buildings included at the foot of the composition. This brings into view a horizontal cross-road so adding a firm base for the design. It is almost identical in measurement to the engraving and shows only minor variation in detail.9
On 7 January 1870, the editor of the Ballarat Star announced:
On or about the 14th January will be PRESENTED to the SUBSCRIBERS to THE BALLARAT STAR a LARGE PICTURE giving a VIEW OF BALLARAT drawn by E. Von Guërard, Esq. Artist, from the top of the Western Fire Brigade Tower, and engraved and printed in London.
The view measures 38 inches x 18 inches. It takes in all the leading features of the town, and those that send it to their friends in England will be able to point out to them the site of the celebrated Eureka Lead, Golden Point, Black Hill, War-renheip, Buninyong Mount, the Main Road, Sturt Street, several well known buildings and many other subjects of interest … The view will be accompanied by a History of Ballarat … by a gentleman who has been connected with the literary staff of the Star for many years10 … All who have subscribed to the Ballarat Star for three months, or who may now pay the subscription for three months in advance will receive a copy of the picture accompanied with the History Gratis.11
As can be seen, the Ballarat Star was not only motivated by civic pride; there was also a strong commercial push.
Patrons were informed that the “supplement and view can be sent by post to any part of these colonies, or to England for one penny.”12 Single impressions of the view could also be purchased, the price being one shilling and sixpence if printed on plain paper, two shillings and sixpence if on ‘extra’ paper and three shillings if on toned paper.13 The publisher (as do many these days) had made “special arrangements for framing the views as cheaply as possible”with J. K. Baird & Co. of Bridge Street, Ballarat, and sample frames could be seen at their premises.14 Like many publishing ventures, the view was behind schedule and two days before it was to be circulated the editors explained:
“As the picture has not yet reached this office, its delivery will be postponed until Tuesday the 18th January.”15
On Monday the 17th all was ready and agents were requested to deliver the view on the following day unfolded so it would not be damaged.
The view, together with the promised four-page History of Ballarat, was issued as a supplement to the Ballarat Star on Tuesday, 18 January 1870. The editors took the opportunity to counter the expected criticism concerning “the point of view selected by Mr Guerard”which showed only the fashionable Ballarat West and completely ignored the older, unruly East Ballarat.
“In giving ‘a view of Ballarat’ we had to consider whether such a view should be a general one, embracing a portion of both the township and some of the more remarkable points of the landscape around, or whether it should be a minute or particular view, bringing into prominence the principal shops and public buildings in some part of the town. The conclusion we came to, was that a general view of the town and neighbourhood would be most acceptable to the public generally, and with this understanding we allowed the artist to chose his own point of view. To those that know how conscientiously Mr Guerard does his work, we need not hardly say that this preliminary step was done most carefully about. He ‘viewed’ Ballarat from the Eastern and Western Fire Brigade Tower and also from St. Pauls Church Tower on Bakery Hill, and decided that the best for his purposes was the one that is before most of our readers. We think that the majority of these will agree that on the whole the artist made a wise selection, considering the difficulties he laboured under in getting a suitable ‘standpoint'. There are some people, we observe, who seem to be, or profess to be, highly disappointed because the artist has not managed to select some point that would give a general view of Ballarat East and West, and of the country around it and at the same time give a minute view of the principal public buildings and business part of the town. We humbly confess our inability to meet such demands”.16
This rather long justification of the ‘point of view’ seemed to silence critics on this subject, but in Melbourne many engravers were worried that having the drawing sent to London to be engraved on wood might be the beginning of an unwelcome trend.
The boom in illustrated books and newspapers that began in the colonies in the 1850s with the influx of gold-seeking immigrants was at an end by the mid-1860s, unemployment in the printing industry reaching its peak in 1866. Work for Melbourne wood-engravers was particularly scarce after the amalgamation in December 1868 of the two largest Victorian illustrated papers, the Illustrated Melbourne Post and the Illustrated Australian News.
The editor of the Ballarat Star was sure that his decision to have the woodblock engraved in London was the right one. He had made it “… after careful consideration and enquiry, and with a pretty accurate knowledge of the facts of the case …”.17 Probably von Guërard himself wished his drawing to be engraved in London as he did not trust the quality of colonial tradesmen. In a letter to his fellow artist William Strutt (1825–1915), who was also disenchanted with the Australian printing industry, he described his disappointment in the printing of the lithographs in his Australian Landscapes by Hamel and Ferguson of Melbourne:
“I am very sorry that you have seen that series of views … because after all my trouble and time which I spent on that work, it was so totally spoiled in printing … I had to do everything and when I left it in the hands of the printers I was almost certain that after a few proves they would make a good mess of it”.18
The editors of the Ballarat Star felt sure this would not happen in England and proudly announced that:
”… some of the best of the Engravers in London were engaged upon it”.19
They also quoted a letter from their London agents boasting about details of the print's production:
“There have not been … more than three wood engravings that have ever exceeded this for size. The making of the wood occupied three weeks, the drawing on the wood one month, the engraving one month. Although about twenty persons were engaged on it from beginning to end in merely preparing it for the printing … and that the cost of the pictures has amounted to upwards of £260.”20
It is probably due to these exceptional reasons that the engraved woodblock is still in existence; owned by the Ballarat Historical Society, it is on view at the Gold Museum, Ballarat. It is still in excellent condition and in 1981 an edition of 150 impressions was printed from it.21 The debate about whether the engraving and printing of the woodblock could have been executed in Melbourne was sparked off by a review in the Argus upon the view being exhibited in Melbourne before its distribution in Ballarat:
“The picture has been executed in London, and is carefully and skilfully engraved. But we are bound to acknowledge that it could have been equally well put upon wood and cut in this city although it is doubtful whether a sufficient number of wood engravers could have been found to complete it in the time alloted for its production.”22
Four days later the Argus published a letter signed ‘Artist’ which disputed this:
”… at the present time in Melbourne there are numbers of engravers barley able to make enough to procure the necessaries of life … who could, within six months or less, have turned out an engraving double the size of the one in question”.23
He did admit that illustrations appearing in Melbourne papers were inferior to their English counterparts,
”… Why? — because engravers here are paid by the quantity, and not the quality of the work turned out; and no matter how much labour and time were spent upon a block, the workman would get no more than his miserable ten shillings per square inch for it.”24
His letter was answered by a ‘Mr X’ in the Argus of 14 January 1870. ‘Mr X’ did not doubt the quality of the work of local engravers, but argued that neither a woodblock nor paper of the required size could “be procured in the colony, nor was there a press of sufficient size to do the work.”25
The ‘Artist’ refuted these “mechanical objections”. He reminded ‘Mr X’ that large woodblocks are made up of many smaller blocks bolted together to form any required size. He also informed ‘Mr X’ that paper of the required size was available in the colony in “capital quantity” and that Messrs Mason and Firth “have two machines capable of printing a much larger block than the one under discussion”. The ‘Artist’ concluded:
“If Mr X still doubts my statements, let him give me an order for a block the same size as the Ballarat one — the subject, say, a view of Melbourne — and I will guarantee to produce it within six months, with purely colonial workmanship, and it shall be in no way inferior to the London productions.”26
Samuel Calvert (1828–1913), one of the foremost engravers of the colony, can be identified as the ‘Artist’ who wrote these letters.27 Born in England, the son of Edward Calvert, painter, printmaker and friend of William Blake, Samuel was an accomplished wood-engraver before he followed his brothers to South Australia in 1848. After working as an engraver and lithographer in Adelaide he moved to Melbourne in 1852. His work is found in all the leading illustrated papers of his day and at the Intercolonial Exhibition, Melbourne, 1866 he won a Gold Medal for his engraving.
‘Mr X’ must have taken up Calvert's challenge of January 1870 for the following year The Illustrated Australian News announced:
“We issue with this number a large bird's eye view of Melbourne. It bears testimony to the skill and assiduity of the artists who have been engaged in its production, and enables the beholder to take in at one glance the present magnitude of the city”.28
The view engraved by Calvert after a drawing by A. C. Cooke29 is as finely executed and larger than its London predecessor.
Calvert had proved his point. Wood-engravings of fine quality and of large dimensions could indeed be engraved and printed in the colony at competitive prices. In the next two decades special supplements became commonplace in Australian illustrated papers. Calvert himself engraved three more large panoramas, A View of Sydney, 1874, Dunedin, 1875 and in 1876 his remarkable ‘balloon view’ of Adelaide.30 But the Ballarat Star was not concerned with any of these later developments. It was happy with its view of Ballarat and had achieved its aim.
“Our simple endeavour has been to present to our suscribers … a picture giving a view of this beautiful town”.31

Notes on contributors

ROGER BUTLER is Assistant Curator of Australian Prints, Posters and Illustrated Books at the Australian National Gallery.
ALASTAIR H. CAMPBELL is the author of a forthcoming book entitled John Batman and the aborigines.
R.D.J. COLLINS is a Senior Lecturer in French at the University of Otago, actively involved in studying 19th century New Zealand art history in general, and the French topographers and draughtsmen who visited New Zealand in the 18th and 19th centuries in particular. His interest in Australian art history of the same period is the unexpected result of the unconcern with which many of these artists worked on both sides of the Tasman.
TOM GRIFFITHS is a field officer for the State Library of Victoria.
JAN JOUSTRA is a Lecturer in Textiles at the Riverina-Murray Institute of Higher Education at Albury.
JUDITH SCURFIELD is Map Librarian at the State Library of Victoria.


P. D. Edwards, R. B. Joyce, (eds) Anthony Trollope, Australia, Brisbane, University of Queensland Press, 1967, p.392.


Ballarat Star, 7 January 1870. In 1884 von Guérard, by then retired to Düsseldorf, received another commission for a view of Ballarat, Ballarat in the early times; As it appeared in the summer of 1853–54. Owned by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery it was a gift of James Oddie on Eureka Day 1885.


Eugene von Guéiard, Journal of an Australian gold digger, 1852–1854. Typescript copy, Dixson Library. Published as, Marjorie Tipping (ed.), An artist of the goldfields. The Diary of Eugene von Guérard, Melbourne, Currey O'Neil, 1982. Also included in Candice Bruce, Edward Comstock, Frank McDonald, Eugene von Guérard, Martinborough, New Zealand, Alister Taylor, 1982.


Heinrich Arnz was a partner in a well known Düsseldorf lithographic firm. Its most important publication was Düsseldorfer Monatshefe, 1848, modelled on the French publication Le Charivari. Quoted by Comstock, op. cit., Elsbet Colmi, Glanz und Elend einer Lithographischen Anstalt Arnz and Comp., Düsseldorf 1815–1858 Düsseldorf: Bibliothekarische Nebenstunden, Veroffentlichungen der Landesund Stadtbibliothek, 1964, V, 49 and Appendix.
Von Guéiard was on good terms with this artistic family, marrying their daughter Louise in Melbourne in 1854. He became acquainted with the family through their son Albert, who was a fellow student at the Düsseldorf Academy.


After Eugene von Guérard. View of Moroit [sic] or Tower Hill, extinct volcano between Lady Bay and Port Fairy in Australia Felix. Colour lithograph, 48.3 × 70.7cm, c1856. Printed by Thomas McLean, London.


The Melbourne album, containing a series of views of Melbourne and country districts. Respectfully dedicated to, and patronized by, His Excellency Sir Charles Darling, K.L.B. By the lithographer and publisher Charles Troedel. 73 Collins Street., E. Melbourne [1864]. (F 17322, 17325, 17327).
After Eugene von Guérard, G. A. Appleton, lithographer, Plate 7. View of the Upper Mitta Mitta lithograph 26.5 × 36.4cm.


Eugene von Guérard's Australian Landscapes: a series of twenty-four Tinted Lithographs illustrative of the most striking and picturesque features of the landscape scenery of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania, Drawn from Nature and Lithographed by the Artist with Letter Press Descriptions of each View, Melbourne, Hamel & Ferguson, [1866–1868] (F 10134a).
Originally published in six parts, each part containing four lithographs. The first part was issued in two sections each of two plates. First part, section one, plates 1–2, publication date undetermined; First part, section two, plates 3–4, published September 1866; Second part, plates 5–8, published April 1867; Third part, plates 9–12 published 1867; Fourth part, plates 13–16, publication date undetermined; Fifth part, plates 17–20, published May 1868; Sixth part, plates 20–24, publication date undetermined but before December 1868, when the prints were published in bound format. The book was remaindered before 1877. See Tim Bonyhady, Australian Colonial Paintings in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, ANG, forthcoming.


Engravings after von Guérard:
Unknown engraver. A sketch at St. Kilda c1854? wood-engraving 5.6 × 13.8cm
Henry LINTON, engraver. Part of the Ferntree Gully, 1856 wood-engraving in Illustrated London News, 25 November 1856, p.491.
Frederick GROSSE, engraver. An Australian sunset. 1857 wood-engraving 13.7 × 18.4cm in News Letter of Australasia, No. 17, November 1857.
Unknown engraver. Tasman's Island c1857 wood-engraving 11.2 × 16.6cm in Illustrated Melbourne News, 2 January 1858.
Frederick GROSSE, engraver. The Lal Lal Falls, near Ballarat c1858 wood-engraving 16.8 × 20.8cm in Illustrated Melbourne News, 16 January 1858, p.35.
Unknown engraver. View of Entrance to Launceston, VDL. 1858 wood-engraving in News Letter of Australasia, August 1858.
GROSSE and JENNY, engravers. American Creek, Wollongong c1861 zinc relief etching 23.4 × 18.8cm.
GROSSE and JENNY, engravers. View of Mount William in Western Victoria. 1861 zinc relief etching 19.0 × 29.7cm in Illustrated Australian Mail, 20 December 1861, p.22.
Frederick GROSSE, engraver. Entrance to Launceston, Tasmania taken above the cataract. 1862 wood-engraving 17.2 × 20.7cm in Illustrated Melbourne Post, December 20, 1862.
Unknown English engraver. Highland scenery of Victoria. 1863 wood-engraving 11.4 × 18.4cm in S. Dougan Bird, On Australasian climates and their influence in the prevention and arrest of pulmonary consumption. London, 1863 (F 7038).
Unknown English engraver. Distant view of Melbourne from the Botanical Gardens. c1863 wood-engraving 11.4 × 18.4cm in S. Dougan Bird, On Australasian climates and their influence in the prevention and arrest of pulmonary consumption. London. 1863 (F 7038).
Unknown English engraver(s). Ballarat from the Fire Brigade Tower, looking east. 1869 wood-engraving 47.8 × 105.0cm supplement, Ballarat Star, Tuesday, 18 January, 1870.
R. BRUCE, engraver. Yalla-y-Poora c1865 wood-engraving 16.6 × 22.6cm in Illustrated Melbourne Post, 25 December 1865, p.200.
Frederick GROSSE, engraver. The Mitta Mitta 1867 wood-engraving 22.6 × 35.0cm in Illustrated Melbourne News 27 July 1867.


Ballarat — Panorama of a city 1867 pencil and crayon, 30.8 × 97.6cm inscribed 19–23 January, 1869 Dixson Library, Sydney.
Ballarat from the Tower of the Western Fire Brigade. 1869 pen and ink and ink wash over pencil on paper 48 × 97cm (19 × 38ins). Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Gift of Thomas Wannliss, 1904.


William Bramwell WITHERS (1823–1913) was a journalist and historian. Born in England, he arrived in Australia as a gold-rush imigrant in 1852. By 1854 he was working for the Argus and in September 1855 joined the staff of the Ballarat Star. The four-page supplement, The History of Ballarat, presented with the Ballarat Star, 18 January 1870 was later expanded into a book that was first published by the Ballarat Star in twelve weekly parts beginning 11 June 1870 (F 18715). Bound volumes were available from 9 August 1870 (F 18713). A second edition was published by F. W. Niven and Co., Ballarat in 1887 (F 18716).


Ballarat Star, 7 January 1870.


ibid, 17 January 1870.


ibid, 7 January 1870.


ibid, 17 January 1870. In the catalogue of the Fine Art Exhibition, Ballarat, July 1869, the following advertisement appeared:
“J. K. Baird & Co. Wholesale and Retail Dealers in Paperhanging. Oils, Paints, Glass etc. house painters and paperhangers etc”.
It would appear that picture framing was only a very minor activity for the firm.


ibid, 12 January 1870.


ibid, 18 January 1870. Ballarat in the late 1860s was still divided. The older unruly East Ballarat was quickly losing ground to the newer Ballarat West which comprised all the major municipal buildings and wealthier population. The Railway Station was also in Ballarat West.


ibid, 18 January 1870.


Letter from von Guérard to William Strutt, 13 August 1872. Strutt Papers, Mitchell Library. In his autobiography Strutt comments on the printing of his lithographs in Thomas Ham's Illustrated Australian Magazine 1850–1852: “the printer, however, not having had much experience in lithographic work, always over-etched my drawings on stone and zinc, and thus marred most, if not all my lithographic work”.
Autobiography of William Strutt 1850–1862, p.28, typescript, National Library of Australia, Canberra (NK 4367).


Ballarat Star, 7 January 1870.




Published by Deutscher Art Publications, Melbourne, for The Ballarat Historical Society, 1981. The block was printed by Neil Malone on white French Velin Arches 270gsm paper. The engraved block is composed of 32 individual pieces of box-wood, each approximately 11.4 × 12.2cm. They are bolted together to form a total composition of 47.8 × 105.0cm. For similar reasons the large engraved woodblock for A view of Adelaide, 1876, has also survived. See John Tregenza, Some South Australian paintings and engravings by Samuel Calvert, Adelaide, Bulletin of the Art Gallery of South Australia, vol. 37, 1979.


Argus, 8 January 1870.


ibid, 12 January 1870.




Argus, 14 January 1870.


ibid, 15 January 1870.


See John Tregenza, op.cit.


Illustrated Australian News, Melbourne, 4 October 1871.


Albert Charles Cooke was born in England in 1836 where he studied under James Harding before emigrating to Australia in 1854. He set himself up as a draughtsman in Melbourne and studied for a time with Nicholas Chevalier. He produced many drawings for books and illustrated papers working closely with the engraver Samuel Calvert. Cooke travelled widely, being in New Zealand c1874 and Perth in the 1890s. He died in April 1902. (Information supplied by Pictorial Section, La Trobe Library, Melbourne.)


After A. C. Cooke, Samuel Calvert, engraver. A view of Melbourne. 1871 wood-engraving in Illustrated Australian News, 4 October 1871.
After A. C. Cooke, Samuel Calvert, engraver, A view of Sydney. 1874 wood-engraving in Illustrated Australian News.
After A. C. Cooke, Samuel Calvert, engraver Dunedin. 1875 wood-engraving in Illustrated Australian News, July 1875.
See E. M. and D. G. Ellis, Early Prints of New Zealand, Christchurch, Avon Fine Prints, 1978. (863–866).
After A. C. Cooke, Samuel Calvert, engraver. A view of Adelaide. 1876 wood-engraving 53.0 × 95.0cm.


Ballarat Star, 18 January 1870.