Largest Black Butt in Australia. Bulli, N.S. Wales.

Wonderful image of the Bulli Big Tree, one of the largest Black Butts in Australia in c.1888. This series of views were the first examples of the new printing technique of photo lithography. In this method the plate was photo … Read Full Description

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Full Title:

Largest Black Butt in Australia. Bulli, N.S. Wales.




Faint crease across centre, otherwise in good condition.


Photolithograph printed in colour.

Image Size: 

x 360mm

Paper Size: 

x 570mm
Largest Black Butt in Australia. Bulli, N.S. Wales. - Antique View from 1890

Genuine antique



Wonderful image of the Bulli Big Tree, one of the largest Black Butts in Australia in c.1888.

This series of views were the first examples of the new printing technique of photo lithography. In this method the plate was photo sensitised and the image was then transferred by photography. The plate then was inked and printed in the traditional way. Rare.

From Stephan, Picturesque Views of Australia.

The Bulli Big Tree, Eucalyptus pilularis, commonly known as  a blackbutt, towered 166 feet, or over 50 metres in height. The tree’s height though wasn’t its claim to fame, but its huge girth, said to be the largest in NSW. The tree came to prominence after the new Bulli Pass was surveyed in 1864. By the 1870s, the tree, on the McKinnon’s Farm, was described as a “curiosity that was often visited”. As it was on private property, the McKinnon’s charged sixpence for people to walk down the track off Bulli Pass to see the wonder.

The Australian Town and Country Journal reported on August 2 1879:
“In height it looks as if it had a mind to enter into rivalry with the mountain itself, while its circumference at the base measures 18 paces, which, on a rough calculation would give 54ft… It is a noble tree, and well worthy of a passing visit.”

The surveyor, C.F. Bolton, who mapped-out the 1864 route of Bulli Pass, wrote to the Illawarra Mercury explaining how he measured the tree 33 years previous.

“When I surveyed and laid out the Bulli Pass in October, 1864, where the present road was subsequently cleared and formed by the Works Department I, in company with my brother, my then assistant, Mr Alexander MacPherson and Mr John MacKinnon, measured a tall, symmetrical and shapely tree on Mr Norman MacKinnon’s land half way up the spur leading from the flat land and a little down on the Sydney side of the spur. The circumference of the tree at three feet from the ground was exactly 4ft 6in (41 feet six inches), measured with a steel standard tape. It is not likely that there are many authentic measurements of trees made at such a remote date, hence my reason for communicating this information through your valuable columns. It might be of interest if some one were now to put a tape on the ‘sapling’ and see how much it has increased in girth in nearly 35 years.”

Mr W. B. Green, of Bulli Pass, supplied the Mercury with the following information in 1897:

“The measurement of Mr MacKinnon’s tree known as the ‘big tree’, on the road to  the Bulli Pass is at a distance of 3ft from the ground, 46ft 2 inches in circumference, and is 166ft in height. During the 33 years, therefore, the girth of the tree has been increased by 4ft 8in.”

The Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens botanist Mr. J. H. Maiden described the tree in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald in March 1891:

“The girth of the Bulli blackbutt at the ground, measuring from buttress to buttress, is 57ft, 6in. The girth at 3ft, above the ground is 45ft., and at 6ft, above the ground , 40ft. The taper is thence very gradual for about 90ft. (estimated), where the head is broken off, but it has a vigorously growing leafy top, and some of its branches are of the size of small trees. I estimated that the first branch springs from the trunk at the height of 50ft. There are ten principal buttresses, of an average diameter of over 2ft., but they practically cease to flute the trunk at the height of 10ft, to 15ft. The tree is on the land of a resident, who charges a small fee for seeing it, and I would that all the trees in New South Wales, remarkable either for their size or historic associations, were as well cared for as this one.”

Ferguson, J. A. Bibliography of Australia Volumes 1-8, Canberra 1976: 1411a, Vol. VI, P.1034..

State Library New South Wales: Call Numbers:X980.1/15

Adam Stephan ( - )

Adam Stephan was a lithographer and Samuel Phillip was a photographer who began working on their new process of photo lithography in 1884, and by late 1887 had formed a company in Sydney. A Melbourne company was established in June 1889 and a Brisbane branch was also contemplated in that year.

View other items by Adam Stephan

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