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A Diploma for ‘Stuffed Fish’, 1883

By: Patricia Egan, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 23 Feb 2016

Why is the recently discovered 1883 International Fisheries Exhibition diploma, designed by Linley Sambourne, unique?

Extract of a Diploma awarded to the Australian Museum, 1883

Extract of a Diploma awarded to the Australian Museum, 1883
Photographer: James King © Australian Museum

Recently discovered in the Australian Museum Archives is the only known surviving signed awarded Diploma of the International Fisheries Exhibition of 1883.

Exhibitors from around the world packed specimens and fishing equipment and travelled to London to participate in this highly successful yet competitive exhibition. Winners were presented with diplomas, certificates and medals with the Australian Museum collecting awards for both specific fish specimens and for exhibits. Among these were gold medals for “General Exhibit of Seals and other Aquatic Mammals Destructive to Fish” and “Exhibit of Fish in Spirits”.


Sambourne, best known as a cartoonist for Punch magazine, was chosen to design the Exhibition awards by Sir Philip Cunliffe Owen, Director of the South Kensington Museum. Sambourne frequently visited the exhibition, gathering ideas from the vast array of displays. The elaborate award he designed is crowded with classical and practical marine themes.


Working to a tight deadline Sambourne completed the outline on Friday October 26th and commenced shading the diploma the following day. His timing was close as the exhibition closed a few days later; with the presentation of the awards.

A copy of the fine lithograph Diploma for “Stuffed Fish” presented to the Australian Museum will soon be on display at 18 Stafford Terrace, Sambourne’s London home.www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/museums/18staffordterrace/aboutus.aspx