State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 56 Spring 1995

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Books and Pamphlets

The State Library of Victoria's resources of published material relating to exhibitions are extensive. All the great international exhibitions held in Australia and overseas, as well as many smaller ones, are represented. Holdings of material relating to individual exhibitions can be vast (for example, the Library's catalogue lists over 180 volumes of publications connected with the Paris Exposition Uni-verselle of 1867) and, as would be expected, the collection is particularly strong in the publications of the major Melbourne exhibitions of 1866, 1880–81 and 1888–89.
Prior to the opening of an exhibition, preliminary publications were issued, such as lists of commissioners appointed and instructions to them, rules and regulations and entry forms. The Library's holdings of this administrative and organizational material include such items as Special instructions for the guidance of local committees and intending exhibitors (Melbourne, [s.n.], 1854) for the Melbourne exhibition of 1854 and Ceremonial to be observed on the occasion of the opening of the Adelaide Jubilee International Exhibition (Adelaide, Government Printer, 1887).
Exhibition catalogues might contain introductory material on the countries exhibiting, plans of the exhibition layout, illustrations, descriptions of exhibits and prices of items available for purchase. The State Library's large collection of published exhibition catalogues includes not only official catalogues listing contributors and their exhibits for an entire exhibition but also separately issued catalogues for individual countries or sections. For the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880–81, in addition to the two-volume official catalogue, the Library holds separately published catalogues from countries such as Japan, Ceylon, Fiji, Germany, Belgium, Austria and Italy, as well as from all the other Australian colonies and New Zealand. Victoria's contributions to overseas exhibitions were sometimes included in their official catalogues alongside those of Britain and her other colonies, but often a separate catalogue of Victorian exhibits would be published, as for Paris in 1867 and 1878, London in 1886 and New Orleans in 1884–85.
Exhibitors' advertisements were sometimes included in the exhibition catalogues, but separate trade catalogues were also published. The Library holds more than 200 individual trade catalogues from the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879: they originate from the Australian colonies, New Zealand, Britain, the U.S. and Europe, and their contents range from domestic equipment to agricultural and industrial machinery, wines and spirits and perfumery products.
Popular guides, such as Edward McDermott's The popular guide to the International Exhibition of 1862 ((London, W. H. Smith and son, n.d.]), The pennv guide ([London. Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1862]) to the same exhibition, and Mussina's popular guide to the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880–81 (Melbourne, A. H. Mussina. 1880), were written in a narrative style. They provided court-by-court descriptions, highlighting exhibits of particular interest and sometimes containing ground plans and information on facilities and daily attractions. Tourist information might also be included. The Popular guide to the Centennial Exhibition: with which is incorporated the strangers' guide to Melbourne (Melbourne, W. H. Williams Printer, 1888) includes a walking tour of central Melbourne, listing the city's principal buildings, parks and gardens, and public transport information. Exhibition visitors were also the target of special city guides such as the Exhibition edition of the Visitors' guide to Sydney (4th ed., Sydney. W. Maddock, [1878?]) brought out for the 1879 exhibition, and Mussina's guide to Melbourne (Melbourne, A. H. Massina, [n.d.]) published in conjunction with the 1888 exhibition.
Exhibitions afforded an opportunity to advertise a country's products to the world, and the young Australian colonies used these occasions to promote their economic and social progress. Descriptive and statistical essays were often included in exhibition catalogues and official records, but were also published
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Title page of Centennial cantata

separately. A series of Intercolonial exhibition essays, sometimes reproduced in other languages, was published for the 1866 Melbourne Exhibition: in addition to The progress of Victoria: a statistical essay (Melbourne, Blundell, 1867) by the Registrar-General, W. H. Archer, other essays in the series, all written by experts in their field, covered the colony's climate, vegetation, agriculture, geography, geology, zoology and mineral resources. Similar essays were collected into an Illustrated handbook of Victoria, Australia (Melbourne, J. Ferres, Government Printer, 1886) for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886. G. C. Levey's Essay on the colony of Victoria (Australia) for the International and Colonial Exhibition of Amsterdam, 1883, is held by the Library in English, Dutch, French and German versions.
The reports and awards of the exhibition juries were published in detail, along with reports of the commissioners; and, after an exhibition, a variety of publications appeared containing overviews, reports and summaries. The Library holds reports of the commissioners for Victoria from, among others, the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1876, Paris 1878, Calcutta 1883–84 and London 1885–86, as well as reports on the Melbourne exhibitions by commissioners from overseas countries and the other Australian colonies. Victoria at the Intercolonial Exhibition of New South Wales 1873 (Sydney, Gibbs, Shallard, 1873) contains a summary of the objects exhibited and awards of the jurors, together with extracts from Sydney press reports on the exhibition. Notes of the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879 (Sydney, Thomas Richards, Government Printer, 1880) includes detailed descriptions of each court, along with reports of the opening and closing ceremonies, lists of commissioners and judges and a description of the Garden Palace, and is illustrated with numerous photographs produced by the ‘photo-type’ process, then new to Australia.
The single most comprehensive source of information on a major exhibition was its official record, produced after the event and containing details of all its aspects. The Official record (Melbourne, Mason, Firth & M'Cutcheon, 1882) of the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880–81 comprises more than 700 pages, including the Act of Parliament passed to provide for the holding of Victorian exhibitions, lists of commissioners and staff, regulations, historical background, details of the building, costs, opening and closing ceremonies, attendance and exhibits, reports and awards of the jurors, plans and illustrations.
In addition to the major sources of information on exhibitions, much related miscellaneous material was published. Poems and cantatas commemorating the Melbourne exhibitions included Richard Andrews' Ode: anticipatory of the opening of the Great Exhibition in Melbourne, 1880 (Sandhurst, Vic., The author, [1880]) and, for the 1888 exhibition, the Centennial cantata, with words by William Allen and music by H. J.
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Cover of Alf Vincent's Skits

King (Melbourne, W. H. Glen, [1888?]). Richard H. Home wrote The South-Sen sister: a lyric masque (Melbourne, H. T. Dwight, [1866?]) for the opening of the 1866–67 Intercolonial Exhibition in Melbourne, and Henry Hulloran published the poem In memoriam (Sydney, Thomas Richards. Government Printer, 1880) lamenting the closure of the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879. The Library holds books of cartoons such as Exhibition squibs: book of caricatures [on the Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1888] by Dob (A. O. Dobson) ([Melbourne], s.n., 1888) and Alf Vincent's Skits: a memento from the Tasmaian Exhibition, Launceston 1891–2 (Launceston, Tas., Thomas Sharpe, [1891]). Sir Redmond Barry's Address to the workmen employed in building the Great Hall of the Melbourne Public Library and Museum … (Melbourne, Wilson & Mackinnon, 1866) refers to the hall used for the 1866–67 Intercolonial Exhibition. A fascinating small pamphlet from the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, Specimen verses from versions in different languages and dialects in which the Holy Scriptures have been printed and circulated by the American Bible Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society (New York, American Bible Society, 1876) translates one verse of the Bible into 164 languages from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.
These are only a few examples from the wide range of exhibition-related publications in the State Library's collection. In some instances several copies of an item are held. Most are catalogued and housed separately, but examples of the different types of publications were collected together in the Library's 28-volume set of Exhibition pamphlets containing both official and miscellaneous items relating to Australian and overseas exhibitions from the 1850s to the 1920s.
Anne Glover
Librarian in the Research Section of the
La Trobe Library