SilvesterArrival in Qeensland
January 1855Date of Birth
24 January 1817Place of Birth
Liverpool, Merseyside, EnglandDate of Death
21 March 1880Burial
Toowong CemeteryPlace of residence in Queensland
Kangaroo Point, BrisbaneSpouse
Eliza BradleyDate of Marriage
Two daughters and a sonSpouse
Albina BirkettDate of Marriage
Natural History Artist
Silvester Diggles was a talented artist who sketched landscapes, sea life and the numerous birds he encountered during the voyage from England to Australia in 1853 (his digitised original sketchbook can be viewed on this site). After an exploratory visit to Brisbane in 1854, Sylvester permanently relocated his family to Brisbane in 1855. Diggles was a community minded citizen who founded the Brisbane Choral Society in 1859 and the Brisbane Philharmonic Society in 1861. He was also involved in the founding of the colony’s first scientific institution, the Queensland Philosophical Society on 1 March 1859. The Philosophical Society established a museum in the old windmill observatory on Wickham Terrace in 1862 and Sylvester was the honorary curator for many years. The collection was eventually transferred to the Queensland Museum between 1871 and 1874.
Diggles’ special interests were ornithology and entomology. His publication The Ornithology of Australia consists of twenty-one parts and each part contains six lithographed hand-coloured plates, each accompanied by a page of descriptive text. When bound, this formed a large volume of 126 plates and 126 text pages, but it covered only about one third of the known Australian birds as he lacked the funds to complete the publication. In 1877 his remaining plates and text were reissued under a new title, Companion to Gould’s Handbook. Between 1863 and 1875, Diggles, unassisted, made 325 detailed watercolour paintings depicting about 600 Australian land birds, as the preliminary artwork for his plates. These watercolours, now bound in four folio volumes, are held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney. Diggles’ major contribution to the knowledge of Australian fauna, however, was through the extensive collections of insects, particularly butterflies, moths and beetles, which he sent to overseas entomologists for description.
Silvester Diggles died at Kangaroo Point, Brisbane on 21 March 1880. He is buried at Toowong Cemetery.
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Papers and pamphlets
On some Australian birds : papers read before the Queensland Philosophical Society / by Silvester Diggles.
Queensland Philosophical Society