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The Royal Arcade, Sydney

circa 1892




NSW Government Printer



The NSW Government Printing Office was established in 1840 as a printer for the state parliament and other government departments. The principal work of the department was the copying of maps for the Survey Department, this task having been revolutionised by the reproduction of linear work to scale by photo-lithographic means, instead of by hand-drafting or engraving. The department was also responsible for creating and maintaining a large collection of negatives documenting the natural and architectural environment of the colony. These were printed up for presentation to important guests and for distribution to the Agent-General or mounted for display in colonial and international exhibitions. The Government Printing Office was closed in 1989 and its negatives transferred to State Records.

The Royal Arcade in Sydney was opened in 1882 and demolished in the mid 1970s in order to build the Hilton Hotel. It ran from George Street to Pitt Street, opposite the Queen Victoria Building, and was one of the largest and best appointed arcades in the city, with 31 shops on the ground-floor alone. This is typical of the many photographs taken by the Government Printing Office from the 1870s, showing the main architectural features of Sydney and at the same time illustrating the city’s economic vitality. As the office employed nearly a dozen photographers, individual attributions are almost impossible. John Sharkey is known to have taken much of the late 1870s and early 1880s material.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007



circa 1892

Media category


Materials used

albumen photograph


35.7 x 27.0 cm image/sheet

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 1989


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information


Works in the collection


Artist information

NSW Government Printer

Works in the collection


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 4 publications


Geoffrey Dutton, City life in old Australia, South Yarra, 1984, 34.

Josef Lebovic Gallery and Helen Ennis, Masterpieces of Australian Photography, Late Nineteenth Century Photography, Sydney, 1989, 82, 83 (illus.). cat. no. 141

Steven Miller, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'In every house, and in every tent', pg.33-51, Sydney, 2007, 42 (illus.).

Michael Wardell, My city of Sydney, Sydney, 2000. no pagination or catalogue numbers