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Canberra, Australia -- At a luncheon hosted by Australian Prime Minister John Howard at Government House in Canberra today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper repatriated to the people of Australia an historic treasure from their country's past.
On behalf of Canadians, Prime Minister Harper presented Prime Minister Howard with a theatrical playbill printed in Sydney in 1796. The document was discovered inside a 150-year-old scrapbook that had been donated to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) by the Library of Parliament in 1973. Experts in both countries have confirmed that the playbill is the oldest surviving document printed in Australia.
"Canadians and Australians share a passion for the preservation of our cultural heritage," said the Honourable Josée Verner, Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages. "We were thrilled to discover this extraordinary artifact, and we are proud to return it, in the spirit of the great friendship between our countries, to the keeping of the Australian people."
The playbill was printed for a July 30, 1796 production in Sydney of Jane Shore, a drama written by a British playwright in the early 1700s. Researchers are still trying to track the path of the document from Sydney, to the scrapbook, to Canada's Library of Parliament. An investigation by LAC's rare book librarian uncovered the significance of the document.
"The discovery of this 211-year-old document and its provenance is a credit to our talented and dedicated people at Library and Archives Canada," said Minister Verner. "I'm proud to say that Canada has preserved it with great care so we can return it to the people of Australia."
The Jane Shore playbill will become part of the collection of Australia's National Library, where it will be exhibited in their new Treasures Gallery, due to open in 2008.
For more information on the document and its provenance, please visit www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/whats-new/013-301-e.html
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Sr. Media Relations Officer
Library and Archives Canada
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For historical information visit: Archived What's New