These two stereographic prints on salt paper, which were produced by Thomas J. Nevin in the late 1860s of Tasmanian ferns, bear his blind stamp, viz. “T. NEVIN PHOTO”. They belong to a series of stereographs of ferns taken around the foothills of Mt Wellington, several held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. These two stereographs are held in a private collection of Nevin descendants.
Impress: “T. NEVIN PHOTO” stereographs of Tasmanian ferns ca. 1868
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint and The Nevin Family Collections 2012 ARR
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collections
TMAG Ref: Q1994.56.13 T. Nevin impress
At least five stereographs of ferns by Thomas Nevin are held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, dated to ca. 1870. The TMAG catalogue entries (online until 2006) included these details:
Q1994.56.13 ITEM NAME: Photograph: MEDIUM: sepia salt paper stereoscope , MAKER: T Nevin [Artist]; DATE: 1870c DESCRIPTION : Fern Tree INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: Impress on front: T Nevin/ photo
Q16826.34 ITEM NAME: photograph: MEDIUM: albumen silver print sepia toned stereoscope, MAKER: T J Nevin [Photographer]; DATE: 1870s DESCRIPTION : Ferns. Possibly near Hobart, maybe Mt.Wellington or KangarooValley.
Q16826.33 ITEM NAME: photograph: MEDIUM: albumen silver print sepia toned stereoscope, MAKER: TJ Nevin [Photographer]; DATE: 1870s DESCRIPTION : Ferns. Possibly near Hobart, maybe Mt.Wellington.
Q16826.31 ITEM NAME: photograph: MEDIUM: albumen silver print sepia coloured stereoscope, MAKER: Nevin T. [Artist]; DATE: 1870s DESCRIPTION : Ferns With Snow. Ferns with snow, possibly at Kangaroo Valley. (LenahValley)
Q16826.30 ITEM NAME: photograph: MEDIUM: albumen silver print sepia coloured stereoscope, MAKER: T J Nevin ? [Artist]; TITLE: ‘Ferns Kangaroo Valley.’ DATE: 1870s DESCRIPTION : (LenahValley)
Charles Darwin on Tasmanian Ferns
Photograph of Charles Darwin by Maull and Polyblank for the Literary and Scientific Portrait Club (1855)
Source: The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online via Wikipedia
In this extract from his journal, Charles Darwin expressed amazement at the Tasmanian ferns he encountered on his walk around Mount Wellington:
From Chapter XIX:
Extract from Charles Darwin’s account of his visit to Hobart, February 1836 aboard the Beagle.
Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle. (London : H. Colburn, 1839.)
“The Beagle stayed here ten days, and in this time I made several pleasant little excursions, chiefly with the object of examining the geological structure of the immediate neighbourhood.
The main points of interest consist, first in some highly fossiliferous strata, belonging to the Devonian or Carboniferous period; secondly, in proofs of a late small rise of the land; and lastly, in a solitary and superficial patch of yellowish limestone or travertin, which contains numerous impressions of leaves of trees, together with land-shells, not now existing. It is not improbable that this one small quarry includes the only remaining record of the vegetation of Van Diemen’s Land during one former epoch.
The climate here is damper than in New South Wales, and hence the land is more fertile. Agriculture flourishes; the cultivated fields look well, and the gardens abound with thriving vegetables and fruit-trees. Some of the farmhouses, situated in retired spots, had a very attractive appearance. The general aspect of the vegetation is similar to that of Australia; perhaps it is a little more green and cheerful; and the pasture between the trees rather more abundant.
One day I took a long walk on the side of the bay opposite to the town: I crossed in a steamboat, two of which are constantly plying backwards and forwards. The machinery of one of these vessels was entirely manufactured in this colony, which, from its very foundation, then numbered only three and thirty years! Another day I ascended Mount Wellington; I took with me a guide, for I failed in a first attempt, from the thickness of the wood. Our guide, however, was a stupid fellow, and conducted us to the southern and damp side of the mountain, where the vegetation was very luxuriant; and where the labour of the ascent, from the number of rotten trunks, was almost as great as on a mountain in Tierra del Fuego or in Chiloe. It cost us five and a half hours of hard climbing before we reached the summit. In many parts the Eucalypti grew to a great size, and composed a noble forest.
In some of the dampest ravines, tree- ferns flourished in an extraordinary manner; I saw one which must have been at least twenty feet high to the base of the fronds, and was in girth exactly six feet. The fronds forming the most elegant parasols, produced a gloomy shade, like that of the first hour of the night.
The summit of the mountain is broad and flat, and is composed of huge angular masses of naked greenstone. Its elevation is 3100 feet above the level of the sea. The day was splendidly clear, and we enjoyed a most extensive view; to the north, the country appeared a mass of wooded mountains, of about the same height with that on which we were standing, and with an equally tame outline: to the south the broken land and water, forming many intricate bays, was mapped with clearness before us. After staying some hours on the summit, we found a better way to descend, but did not reach the Beagle till eight o’clock, after a severe day’s work. (Feb. 6, 1836: pp 486-7) “
[end of extract]
Darwin’s astonishment at the magnificence of these ferns was repeated by Tasmanian photographers right through to the 1900s in endless variations. Ferns laden with snow was a particularly popular image. The State Library of Tasmania holds hundreds of photos taken by Clifford, Anson, Cawston, Abbott, Allport, Haigh, Winter, Baily and every other photographer between 1860-1880.
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