State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 79 Autumn 2007


Sticht the bibliophile, in his library at Penghana, Queenstown.‘It was in his charmed and charming home that one got the finest impressions of Mr Sticht…’ (Zeehan and Dundas Herald, 1 May 1922).Archives Office of Tasmania, NS 193/1/3.


Heather Gaunt
The Library of Robert Carl Sticht

IN 1923 A.H. Spencer, proprietor of the newly established Hill of Content bookshop in Bourke Street, Melbourne, advertised the library of the recently deceased Robert Carl Sticht, telling newspaper readers:
My shop has been crowded all the week by booklovers examining [this] unique collection. No library has ever given such pleasure in Melbourne, and I certainly remember nothing like it during my long Sydney experience. Whether you wish to purchase or not, I invite you to inspect this wonderful library, which had no ‘double’ in this part of the world.1
Among the crowd were buyers from the Public Library in Melbourne, who snapped up ‘a large number of rare and important works’.2 These included a number of early Bibles, Euclid's Elementa (1482) (one of only three complete copies in the world), the ‘Hendriks collection’ of fly-leaves and title-pages, numbering over 3000 pieces, 137 volumes of the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the twenty-two volumes of Georg Kaspar Nagler's Neues allgemeines Künstler-Lexicon (1835–1852), Richard Earlom's Liber veritatis, or, A collection of two hundred prints, after the original designs of Claude Le Lorrain (1777), J.H. Green's A catalogue and description of the whole of the works of the celebrated Jacques Callot (1804), and Francesco Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), described as ‘the most beautiful book of the fifteenth century’3 and now considered one of the great treasures of the State Library's collections — amongst dozens of other choice purchases.4 A few months earlier, the Library and Art Gallery had used Felton Bequest funds to purchase directly from the Sticht estate a typographical collection, of ‘extraordinary value from the educational and historical point of view’5, according to Melbourne Public Librarian Edmund La Touche Armstrong. The collection consisted of some 2,200 specimens of early printing, dating from 1460 to c.1600, some very rare. A large selection of prints and drawings from Sticht's collection was purchased at the same time with Felton funds for the Art Gallery collections.6 Altogether, the Public Library and Art Gallery benefited enormously from strategic purchases from Robert Sticht's collection, not only in the short term, but also in the future. In particular, the acquisition by the Public Library of Sticht's typographical collection was a key factor in furthering the bibliographic expertise of staff, and the international reputation of the institution in the ensuing decades.
But who was Robert Sticht? A man well known among contemporaries for his brilliance as a metallurgist and mine manager at the Mount Lyell Mine in western Tasmania, how did he form a book collection that provided such rich pickings for the Melbourne Library? This article aims to draw a picture of Robert Sticht the bibliophile, drawing primarily on Sticht's private letters, and using Sticht's ordering of his collection
demonstrated in his book catalogue as a methodological framework. A brief summary of Sticht's life is necessary to place his bibliographic endeavours in context.7

Robert Sticht, life and character:
‘…“A remarkable man!” you say on reading this. He is.’8

Robert Sticht (1856–1922) was born of educated, German-speaking parents in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA. He supplemented his American university education in science with five years of study in Germany where he gained his qualification as a Mining and Metallurgical Engineer in 1880, and he noted ‘among Germans I am completely one of themselves’.9 Upon his return to the USA Sticht established his career in various mining fields in the Rocky Mountains. He developed an international reputation as an expert in pyritic smelting, and became accustomed to living in frontier communities, always attempting to marry the romantic and practical aspects of his nature. Describing his life in the Rocky Mountains, he wrote:
…there is a continuous fund of pleasure in the necessity of contact with the rude healthfulness of outdoor roughness… It has been the outcome of a much dissatisfied youth to see beyond the material and yet reverence it, too, as the stepping stone to wider utility and profounder impress on the destiny of the race than could ever be accomplished by a life devoted to more artificial ideals. This conviction is bought only at the expense of many a heart-ache, — the purchase price is well returned by the peace of settled opinion.10
Sticht's creation of his professional persona in the Rocky Mountains enriched the pioneering aspect of his character that he referred to as his ‘Western American manhood’.11
Sticht claimed in a letter to his fiancée in 1892 that ‘it has always been a pastime to carry the study of my fellow beings into the remotest corners of human manifestation’.12 In 1895 he put this resolution into practice, removing with his new wife to one of the very remotest corners possible — the Mount Lyell mining field on the west coast of Tasmania, where he had been recruited as the chief mining engineer by the recently established Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company. Queenstown, which was to be the Stichts' principal place of residence, was at the turn of the century an isolated mining community, the only access by boat from Hobart or Melbourne to Macquarie Harbour and Strahan, then thirty-four kilometres of rack-and-pinion railway into the mountains.13 Sticht himself on more than one occasion described it as a ‘benighted’ and ‘abandoned’ place.14 Visiting American consul H. D. Baker found ‘the desolation all about…simply awe-inspiring.’15 Within two years of his arrival Sticht had risen to General Manager; by 1900 he was the proud resident of the new Mine Manager's Residence, Penghana; and by 1903 he earned £5000 per annum, ‘by and far the biggest screw ever paid in Tasmania’ in the words of a contemporary journalist.16 Described as ‘Tasmania's foremost citizen’17, an ‘industrial idealist’18, and a ‘scientific agnostic’19, Sticht was a teetotaller and an early supporter of Prohibition. He enjoyed great popularity as a manager among the Mount Lyell workers, described as being

Queenstown at the turn of the century with the Mine Manager's residence, Penghana, newly built in the foreground.The original photograph in the Archives Office of Tasmania is inscribed on the verso, almost certainly by Sticht's wife Marion,‘View of our house — Queenstown and Mt Owen.We are 80 ft above the town on a pyramidal shaped hill — we have taken the top off to build the house — Is the view not worth it?’ Archives Office of Tasmania, NS 193/1/13.

‘a great and kindly soul, a wonderful leader of men, and a true friend.’20 He claimed he was ‘personally friendly with the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, the Premier of Tasmania, and others such as US Consuls’21; friends who shared his cultural interests and enjoyed his library at Penghana included businessman, politician and philanthropist George Swinburne22, James Watt Beattie, prominent Tasmanian photographer, amateur historian and collector, and the young academic Edmund Morris Miller who was later to write the comprehensive bibliography Australian literature from its beginnings to 1935 (1940).23
Sticht formed the major part of his collection, estimated in 1922 at 7000 items, between 1900 and 1913. The collection, housed throughout Penghana in the libraries, dining rooms, bedrooms, and corridors, consisted of books, prints and drawings, printed ephemera, paintings, and ethnographic objects. Of all the facets of his diverse collection, the library was by far the most significant to Sticht himself, and he poured most of his time, effort, and funds into it. While Sticht undeniably read a large proportion of his books, his library — like all great private libraries — also functioned as an intellectual and cultural status
symbol, a means by which the owner could situate himself in relationship to the canon of great literature and to the civilizations from whence that literature came. The global nature of Sticht's library is a reflection of his perception of himself as an intellectual, and it was highly successful in conveying a lasting imprint of this aspect of the collector. The importance of his library to Sticht's self-definition can be demonstrated in the use he made of it to lure interesting company to Penghana. He encouraged American politician and diplomat Alva Adams to visit Penghana during his tour of Tasmania, commenting temptingly ‘I have some bibliographic treasures!’24 Not all visitors were equal, however:
…A visit to his library was a pleasure one would not easily forget, but it was a pleasure not easily obtained. Mr Sticht was a connoisseur both in art and literature, and he had a wonderful collection of treasured “first editions” and other rarities from the early days of printing, together with manuscripts dating back from centuries before the art of printing was discovered; but the average visitor would be shown into another library, the walls of which were covered with shelves containing the works of modern authors, particularly books on travel and discovery, in which he was keenly interested.
The other library was a sanctuary which he jealously guarded. No one was allowed to see it unless Mr Sticht was satisfied that he was a highly interested party. But once a visitor was accorded the honour of entering the sanctuary he was certain of an interesting couple of hours among books and documents centuries old… There was an amused twinkle in the old man's eye when on one occasion he hauled out before an astonished pressman's eyes a number of printer's proof sheets dating back from the time when books were scarce and newspapers hardly thought of. He thoroughly enjoyed his visitors' keen interest in the documents.25
From around 1913 unsuccessful investments in mining ventures had a significant impact on Sticht's finances. Apart from the enormous stresses that this imposed, it also forced an end to his collecting. His eldest son Robert Sticht Jr., wrote of this period:
…the last ten years of [Sticht's] life were really tragic. Such a life as his should have ended with a period of tranquillity and enjoyment of the fruits of his labours. One of father's favourite quotations was ‘Happy is the heart that hath its twilight hour’…but during the last years of his life troubles piled thickly about him, and he carried a load that only I am able to fully appreciate.26
Sticht made only two return visits to the USA (1914/15 and 1917) including on the earlier trip a meeting with the President Woodrow Wilson at the White House. According to his eldest son, he spent his final years in Queenstown engrossed in the compilation of the complete hand-written catalogue of his library, an enormous task into which he poured his last energies. Sticht died of cancer on 30 April 1922 at the age of sixty-five.
After Sticht's death his family were obliged to leave Penghana, which belonged to the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company, and were forced to sell the majority of his collections.27 Robert Sticht Jr. noted that he had ‘absurd diffidence’ about writing to the Trustees of the Felton Bequest and Public Libraries in Melbourne and Sydney to offer them the collection as he felt ‘all the time how Father would have liked to have presented them to such institutions instead of having to haggle with their representatives’.28 Robert Jr. originally made an offer to A.H. Spencer to disperse all the collections, but as terms could
not be mutually agreed upon (Spencer wanted a 25% cut on sales, at which Robert took umbrage) Spencer was given sanction to sell the general library, and to return any unsold items to the Sticht family after three years. Spencer's new business enterprise was effectively filling a vacuum in antiquarian dealers in Melbourne that had been apparent since the financial crash of the 1890s, when the focus of antiquarian dealing had shifted to Sydney.29 Thus it can be seen that the sale of Sticht's library played an important role in putting Melbourne back on the national bibliographic scene.

Robert Sticht the bibliophile: ‘…a connoisseur both in art and literature.’30

It is possible to gain a remarkably complete understanding of Sticht's library at Penghana, and his collecting practices that formed it. Aside from extant letters that document his relationship with his dealers, Sticht provided photographic and written documentation of his achievements in the catalogue that he made of his library and the set of professional photographs he commissioned of every major room in Penghana. Such a full picture of a collection is relatively rare: one of the few other examples of such a complete photographic record of a collection is that of Sydney art and book collector Dr. James Robert Millar Robertson, who commissioned a series of views, including six interiors, of his home in 1910 as a gift for his overseas relatives.31 It is quite possible that Sticht got the idea from his Sydney contemporary, as Robertson and Sticht almost certainly had contact through Robertson's role as an advisor to the Mt Lyell Mining Company. Although it is difficult to date the Penghana photographs precisely, they were probably taken between 1915 and 1921. Sticht exhibited a self-conscious modernity in his exploitation of the medium of photography to create a lasting picture of himself as the cultured bibliophile. His self-portrait in the library is a signal image, made all the more poignant by our awareness of how soon this artfully created sanctuary would be unmade. The photographs make a statement not only about how Sticht wanted himself to be seen, but also document his deliberate creation of a private library firmly in the nineteenth-century British tradition of domestic library economy, espoused by Thomas Horne in his Introduction to the study of bibliography (1814), and elaborated upon by later writers such as J.C. Loudon.32
Sticht's library spanned four hundred years of production, and ranged in subject through many fields, reflecting what has been described as his ‘almost universal cultural interests.’33 It included (using Sticht's own categorisation) ‘Australiana, ethnographic, anthropology; art, fine art, books on art; typographical, printing on books; history, political only; philosophy, morals; theology; scientific, general science, zoology, botany; mathematics, alchemy; technical, professional, mining and metallurgy; Belles Lettres; general literature; sociological literature; works of reference’.34 Sticht had dramatically expanded the small library he brought from America by purchases made locally and internationally, mostly in the period 1900 to 1913. His early collecting, which he described as a ‘mania’,35 was characterised by purchases in large quantities; by 1909 he had narrowed his focus to specific areas of interest, and purchased with greater discrimination. In the

The front hall, showing some of Sticht's art collection.Artists represented included Tom Roberts, Louis Buvelot, Eugene von Guerard, John Glover, Nicholas Chevalier, and Henry Burn, whose ‘Jolimont, near Melbourne Cricket Ground’ (c. 1870) gained particular attention at the sale of Sticht's paintings in 1923. Archives Office of Tasmania, NS 193/1/7.

The parlour at Penghana.Archives Office of Tasmania, NS 193/1/6.


The ‘Den’ at Penghana:‘…a sanctuary which he jealously guarded. No one was allowed to see it unless Mr Sticht was satisfied that he was a highly interested party.’ (World, Hobart, 3 May 1922).Archives Office of Tasmania, NS 193/1/8.

period in which Sticht was collecting, the sources of supply for antiquarian and secondhand books in Australia were changing. In the nineteenth century, auction sales of private libraries were the dominant vehicle for books coming onto the market; the early twentieth century saw the rise of antiquarian and second-hand book dealers who acted as intermediaries, and served their buyers with increasing specialist knowledge. The first decade of the twentieth century was truly a goldmine for collectors, as dealers such as Angus & Robertson formed enormous second-hand bookstocks from the sales of private libraries, offering the books at remarkably low prices to a still small — but growing — clientele. Sticht, approaching the market with great intelligence and confidence, took advantage of all means of supply. These included personal visits to interstate specialised bookshops, correspondence with select book dealers who knew his collecting foci, and employment of an agent to bid for him at interstate auctions. Bookseller Albert Spencer fondly recalled Sticht's purchasing expeditions in his memoirs:
When I was a youth at Angus & Robertson's in Sydney I remember this quiet man carefully examining the stock of old books: his visits to Sydney were “made” if he
discovered something very desirable. His request to have his purchases shipped immediately, repeat immediately, was warmly amusing to us, his concern to quickly have the pleasure of loving the books in his “castle” at Queenstown being so innocently obvious. I fancy that he was a lonely man in this sense, that living in a remote mining town he had no peers within call with whom he could sit in his library and talk of the things that were his very soul.36
Where possible, Sticht purchased on the Australian market, patronising a number of booksellers including Angus & Robertson37 and Dymock's38 in Sydney, Melville & Mullen39 and H. Halewood in Melbourne, and J. Walch & Sons in Hobart. Purchases on the local market avoided the import duties that were levied, to Sticht's ongoing frustration, on his international purchases. His agent, bookseller Edgar A. Parr40, bid for him on commission at book auctions, particularly those of the specialist Melbourne book house Gemmell, Tuckett & Co., although Sticht was critical of the ‘very unsatisfactory’41 quality of Gemmell, Tuckett & Co.'s catalogues which provided little description of condition or binding. For rare items not readily available in Australia Sticht used international dealers. Despite his American origins, Sticht directed his custom to European and English sources, paying homage to London as the centre of book publishing and trade in the period. His principal dealer was James Tregaskis, of Caxton Head, London, who supplied Sticht with his incunabula, rare books, and a variety of ‘complete’ collections sourced from other collectors. Sticht formed his library of antiquarian technical books, relating to mining, metallurgy and alchemy, from dealers in Germany, particularly Johann Stettner in Freiberg. All of Sticht's dealers sent catalogues for perusal, and large consignments of books to Queenstown from which he could make a selection. On at least one occasion Angus & Robertson sent a complete library to Sticht prior to sorting or cataloguing it themselves, Sticht writing: ’you may rest assured I took your action in thus forwarding the lot without selection good naturedly only — being not a little amused at your decision to do so.’42 Sticht corresponded with his dealers in a perfect script, with a precision of detail and a frequently humorous tone that belied his firmness of intent. He used his bibliographic experience to drive a hard bargain, disputing with unfailing civility the price of books supplied by dealers if he felt the price unmerited due to poor condition.
Like many collectors of his era, Sticht commissioned bookplates to mark his ownership, and to differentiate his collection. He chose two sixteenth-century prints from his own collection as the basis for two of his three bookplates, commissioning the design work and production from Osboldstone & Co., Melbourne. Using his collector's experience in ex-libris, Sticht was very specific about the qualities he wanted in the plates, noting that they should be ‘in the spirit of the time of the cuts…as nearly as if the bookplates had been designed there and then.’43 He requested an ‘antique, badly cut effect’, preferring ‘fidelity to beauty of form’. For the Australiana and more modern parts of his library Sticht requested ‘something thoroughly modern, not armorial either’ and asked that Osboldstone recommend an artist who had some experience in designing bookplates, noting ‘Norman Lindsay has done some work that way, but what I have seen of it is not to my taste. It wants

Above left: Bookplate based on a print from Sticht's collection, used for his antiquarian books.Archives Office of Tasmania, NS 167/1/1.
Above right: Bookplate designed by John Shirlow, intended for Sticht's Australiana, and modern books. Archives Office of Tasmania, NS 167/1/3.

a man conversant with ornament, a careful draughtsman with a sense of quiet beauty.’44 The artist chosen was John Shirlow, probably the most prominent painter-etcher in Australia of the period, and the first Australian to make etching a career. Shirlow's overtly nationalistic sketch of an Aboriginal man under a eucalypt received a barrage of constructive criticism from Sticht. Too achieve ‘more style’ and balance in the image, Sticht instructed Shirlow to remove the oval frame circling the image in order to produce ‘an air of savage freedom…which accords with the black fellow in the corner!’ and noted that he had ‘taken the liberty of altering the physiognomy of the black to a more current type.’45 In typically modest style, Sticht responded negatively to a suggestion from Osboldstone for a bookplate with his own portrait: ‘It is considered shocking bad form in the first place to put one's likeness on!!’46

The Sticht library: ‘…it was wonderfully catalogued…’47

Sticht's catalogue, compiled finally in his last years, is an amazing document of a collector and his treasures, providing profound insights into his motivation for collecting, his skills in connoisseurship and scholarship, and his methodology in the formation of his library: it is not too fanciful to picture this catalogue as a baring of the bibliophile's soul. Few complete catalogues of private libraries exist, most records being in the form of sale or
auction catalogues. Sticht's catalogue came within a whisker of not existing at all: the enormous undertaking of its production was not possible in Sticht's busiest professional years (he wrote to Angus & Robertson in 1909 that ‘it is a hopeless idea — with the comparatively little leisure I have — to ever expect to catalogue my books, etc., myself’48) whilst his final cancerous illness took his life swiftly and at a relatively young age. Decades after Sticht's death a fire in a storage facility destroyed many of his letterbooks, badly damaged many others, but miraculously spared in perfect condition the multiple volumes of his book catalogue and his single volume catalogue of his prints and drawings.
The catalogue consists of five 180-page volumes, the order of books reflecting Sticht's physical organisation of his collection in Penghana. This ordering was a combination of placement according to value (incunabula in the den, novels in the front hall, etc.), and an attempt to group broad subject areas together (Australiana, Shakespeareana, technical literature, etc.). But a browse through the volumes of the catalogue shows that Sticht did not have the discipline of a librarian. There is order, and some anarchy; one is tempted to draw a comparison with Sticht's own character — the scientist versus the romantic. Most books in the catalogue are individually numbered, up to 5612, many with abbreviated details of place and date of purchase, and purchase price. Of great interest is Sticht's own estimation of the importance of individual items in his library. He maintained a rating of quality as part of many catalogue entries: x to xxxx indicated the importance of a book's content, or its rarity; b to bbb rated the quality of the binding. In many cases catalogue entries are further annotated with comments about edition, and provenance; some entries are over a page long. An analysis of these annotations demonstrates Sticht's formation of his library through group acquisitions, ‘core’ collections (often from the sale of other private libraries), which were intelligently enhanced by individual purchases.
Volume I of the catalogue documents books located in the ‘Den’ and ‘Back library’, consisting largely of poetry and general literature, including many antiquarian items, totalling around 2000 items.49 Books rated most highly by Sticht as ‘xxx’ in the Den include two copies of John Milton's Paradise Lost, that he described as ‘1st edition, 4th state of title, 1668’, and ‘1st edition, seventh variation, 1669’, and a collection of first edition papers by Martin Luther bound together in one volume with the Duke of Sutherland's arms impressed on the cover. One of the Sticht's most highly prized books listed in the Back library is Francesco Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), which included ‘172 full page and smaller woodcuts of great beauty’, with the bookplate of Thomas Gaisford. Rated by Sticht as ‘xxx, bb’, the book was one of the most expensive single volume purchases Sticht made, at £26–5–0. Volume I includes Sticht's collection of early bibles and religious tracts, such as Coverdale's Bible (1550), Cranmer's Bible (1549), and a volume Sticht listed as ‘Genevan, Tomson's Bible, 1599… and Thomas Sternhold's The Booke of Psalmes together in one volume, interleaved throughout and extra illustrated by the insertion of 232 old biblical copperplates by de Vos, Crispin de Pass, Visscher, Wierix and others’. Sticht noted that the interleaving, binding and extra illustrating were done circa 1625, ‘the whole an interesting
specimen of very early English grangerising’.50 These were doubtless some of the Bibles to which Sticht was referring when he wrote to his wife from Melbourne in 1911:
Sunday afternoon [I went to] to the Gallery to see a collection of Bibles exhibited there. It was humdrum from my point of view, only 2 good things (German of 1470 and 1483), and mostly modern editions in all sorts of queer languages. Rev. Sugden exhibited 26 English bibles, but nothing very rare, and my little lot is much superior. Had I known they were borrowing, I would have sent mine over and reaped the ‘fame’.51
Evidently Sticht's rating system measured beauty and fine production, as much as rarity or antiquity: the first ‘xxxx’ rated book in Sticht's catalogue is a facsimile production, J.B. Silvestre's two volume Universal Palaeography: or, Fac-similes of writings of all periods and nations (1850), which Sticht noted consisted of ‘300 large and most beautifully executed facsimiles, richly illuminated in the best style…the most sumptuous book on palaeography.’52 At the other end of the spectrum, the next ‘xxxx’ was given to the 2587 specimens of incunabula purchased as a collection from James Tregaskis around 1907, the ‘Collection illustrative of the Genesis, Development, and Early Decoration of the Printed Book’.53 This was the collection that would later be purchased whole by the Public Library in Melbourne through the Felton Bequest. Sticht acquired most of his early manuscripts and typographical fragments from Tregaskis between 1906 and 1909; this particular purchase of the entire contents of a Tregaskis catalogue makes it a landmark acquisition. Sticht received the collection mounted (in most cases), and housed in nine solander boxes, noting ‘quite apart from its intrinsic value the collection is thus rendered most presentable externally’.54 He noted that there were some slips in cataloguing in the original Caxton Head list, particularly concerning the total quantity, which Tregaskis had incorrectly noted as ‘close upon 1800 pieces’.55 The collection sold by Tregaskis was formed from the earlier collections of the antiquarian Sir John Fenn and ‘a Herr von Holtrop’ (possibly Jan Wilhem Holtrop, Librarian of Koninklijke Bibliotheek). Sticht was encouraged by Tregaskis to purchase the collection as a whole to retain its integrity. Tregaskis noted in the introduction to his catalogue:
So perfect an epitome appears to cry aloud against disintegration, and the present catalogue is part of a special effort to preserve it intact… Beyond all other reasons against promiscuous dispersal lies the fact that the collection could not possibly be duplicated — not even though one were allowed access to every public and private library in the world for the purpose of making “extracts”.56
Sticht was to take great pride in his early typographical collection, which he described as ‘altogether exceptional in character’57, adding to it with further purchases of choice pieces over the years.
Volume II of Sticht's catalogue details books held in his ‘Back Library’, including reference works on art, books and bookplates, collectors' marks, printing, and binding.58 Many of the books listed were among Sticht's treasures, including John Foxe's Actes and monuments (1570), a ‘tall clean copy from Canon Harford's Library’, purchased from Tregaskis in 1909 for £17–17–0, and Jacques-Charles Brunet's Manuel du libraire et de
l'amateur de livres (1860–65), the standard French bibliographical dictionary in the nineteenth century, given a ‘xxx’ for its value as a reference tool. Many of the items in the back library were collections of manuscript fragments or single pages, while the value of many whole volumes lay in their extensive extra-illustrations. One of the most significant of these was the Dictionnaire des graveurs anciens et modernes depuis l'origine de la gravure (1789) by Pierre Francois Basan, purchased by Sticht from Tregaskis in 1906. Sticht noted that the volume was ‘Libert du Beaumont's copy, expanded by the insertion of nearly 100 extra prints (mounted or inlaid) including rarities and fine impressions.’59 Sticht's active involvement with his collection can be seen through the many additions he himself made to individual items; he noted that Louis Fagan's Collectors' marks (1883), for example, had ‘some additions of tracings of collectors marks from William Bell Scott's collections, and some added by me’.60
Listed in the ‘Back Library’ are also solander boxes with collections of bookplates, ‘superlibros’, and ‘verso labels, book labels, gift labels, booksellers and circulating library labels, [and] tradesmen's labels’. In making an ex-libris collection Sticht was participating in what had become a very popular field in the previous decade, inspiring a number of dedicated societies internationally. Some of the ex-libris and labels collections were formed by Sticht himself, others were formed by previous collectors such as James Roberts Brown (past President of the English Ex-libris Society), Colonel Francis Grant, and G. W. Eve, and purchased by Sticht between 1903 and 1906. The core collection of this group is the ‘Hendriks Collection’, later purchased by the Public Library in Melbourne. Sticht described it as the ‘Extraordinary collection of inscribed fly-leaves and title-pages covering a period of five centuries…[O]ver 3000 pieces consisting of fly leaves, title pages from manuscripts and printed books, with autograph signatures, dedications, presentations, and other inscriptions written by the authors or owners of the books; also portraits, autographed letters…literary fragments pertaining to authorship, ownership, decoration, or production of books…collected by the late Frederick Hendriks…1889’.61 This collection, acquired from Tregaskis in 1910 for £54–12–0, was one of Sticht's last large purchases of bibliographic materials. Sticht wrote to Tregaskis of the collection: ‘It was really kind of you to think of me in connection with this, it appeals very strongly to me in connection with the other things I now have to which it adds the more immediate human element. I fully corroborate your remarks about the collection, it is genuinely a little marvel of its own.’ He went on to comment wryly that the practice of removing flyleaf autographs of noted people from books, which are thus ‘robbed of their…interest, has its interest’.62 Sticht grouped the Hendriks collection together in his catalogue with other collections of fragments and ephemera such as the 2887 ‘Items from James Roberts Brown Collection’, a diverse group of ‘Coronation and Funeral Tickets, Handbills, Playbills, Advertisements, Facetiae, Tradesman's Billheads, Broadsides…done for Horace Walpole from the Col. F. Grant Collection’ (purchased for £18–18–0 from Tregaskis in 1904), and two other collections

The five volumes of Sticht's catalogue of his library, completed in his final years, are a remarkable testimony of the skill, connoisseurship, and dedication of Robert Sticht as bibliophile.This excerpt, from Volume I, includes Sticht's entry for Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), now in the collection of the State Library of Victoria. Freehills, Melbourne

‘American documents — financial 1773–1783’ and ‘Playbills, eight, bought at Coles in Melbourne’. Sticht noted that this large assemblage of over 6000 items required its own ‘special catalogue’, but there is no evidence that he ever achieved this aim.
Volume III of Sticht's catalogue lists items in his ‘Den’, a significant part of these being Sticht's ‘Shakespeareana’, a collection of many hundreds of volumes of reference related to Shakespeare's oeuvre. Sticht was hardly alone in this interest in the period: many of the Australian intellectual élite sought to reinforce their connections to British high culture through active engagement with the work of such greats of the English literary canon. While mainlanders engaged in what Martyn Lyons has described as a ‘national fetish for literary commemorations’, including the key event of the annual Shakespeare Day to celebrate the bard's birthday, Sticht signalled his enthusiasm locally through the promotion of the local Penghana Shakespeare Club, and in his usual bibliomaniac way.63 The majority of books in the ‘Shakespeareana’ collection were purchased from Australian sources between 1900 and 1904. Angus & Robertson obviously knew of their client's interest, and made gifts to him in 1902, 1904, and 1906. These included G. W. Rusden's Lecture on the character of Falstaff (1870), ‘delivered at Melbourne, in aid of the fund by which on the 23rd April, 1864, Three Hundred Years after Shakespeare's Birth, the Shakespeare Scholarship was established in the Melbourne University’.64 Sticht wrote to Angus & Robertson after a further gift in 1912:
Once more my special thanks are due for the gift of 3 pictorial Shakespeareana. Your kindness, and your memory, alike are commendable, and the effects most heartily appreciated. They are building up, among my collection, a unique corner of rare accessions, which will have a much greater significance than the ordinary, since the component items are representative of a bookseller's genuine interest in, and sympathy with, his customer.65
In the Den was also Sticht's large Goethe collection. Sticht's heritage and his period of residency in Germany ensured that Goethe was one of his earliest literary influences. He wrote in 1892 ‘[Goethe's] “Wander jahre” (curiously enough Goethe also calls him “Moutan” and makes him a devotee of mining) has gradually become the most influential figure in literature to me, and my bosom friend.’66 A copy of Goethe's Faust (1876), purchased by Sticht in 1880, was part of the small library Sticht brought to Australia in 1895. The Den also held Sticht's small collection of American literature, and books purchased in America, including works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Longfellow, and (rating ‘xxx’) thirteen volumes of the Writings of Oliver Wendell Homes (1891), ‘no.9 of 25 copies printed for Europe’67, the latter purchased in Sydney in 1905. The extensive collections of poetry that Sticht rated as high in quality in the Den included Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese (1886), purchased in 1887 in the USA, and multiple copies of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in various editions.
Volume IV of Sticht's library catalogue focuses on his extensive Australiana, numbering over 1000 items, including books and manuscripts. These were housed in the Study and Den. Australiana was, by the turn of the century, much sought after by a small

Francesco Colonna, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Published by Aldus Manutius, Romanus, in Venice, 1499. Sticht Collection.


Sticht's skills as a draftsman are evident in the meticulous engineering drawings that he completed as a student at the Bergakademie Clausthal, Germany, and his later designs for the smelters at Mount Lyell.This sketch of rocks at Red Hills, north-west Tasmania, made in 1906, reflects Sticht's interest in exploring the local landscape as both a metallurgist and field naturalist. Archives Office of Tasmania, NS 167/1.

body of committed collectors, who took advantage of the large volume of material at reasonable prices on the market. Angus & Robertson were instrumental in encouraging Sticht's interest in the field. They ran a thriving specialist second-hand and antiquarian department and maintained a base of valued customers, including the major collectors and library benefactors David Scott Mitchell and William Dixson. Sticht began actively purchasing Australiana from sources in Melbourne and Sydney in 1900, and continued steadily to acquire items until 1910, after which time he made few further purchases in the area. By this time he seems to have felt that he had exhausted the market, at least for his own purposes, noting in response to an offer to purchase a private collection in Hobart: ‘I have duly considered your list of these [books], but regret they are not of the kind I am interested in. In fact, these are not likely to be found in Tasmania, except specifically Tasmanian books. But of the latter I already have everything of note.’68
Highlights of Sticht's Australiana and Tasmaniana collections were kept in a glass case in the Den, and ranged from voyage literature such as James Cook's A Voyage Towards the South Pole, and Round the World (2nd edition, 1777), and Cook and James King's A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (2nd edition, 1785), to James Ross's Hobart Town Almanack for 1829 and the Hobart Town Magazine Volumes I-II (1833–34). One of Sticht's key Tasmaniana collections was the ‘xxx’ rated ‘Collection of Convict Papers and Documents…consisting of
Prison Records (male and female), Conditional and Free Pardons, Letters by Prominent Officials, Assignment Lists, Police Warrants, Hobart Town Gazette, Prison Regulations, Permits…etc’.69 J.W. Beattie supplied some of Sticht's Tasmaniana, including Meteorological Observations Taken at Macquarie Harbour Van Diemen's Land in 1825/6 ‘being twelve large folio sheets in m.s. forming a Record of Daily Readings of Barometer and Thermometer and Direction of Winds, with notes on Rainfall etc, taken from February 1st 1825 to Jan 31st 1826 by James Spence, Col. Assistant Surgeon at Settlement Island’70; this had local interest for Sticht, Macquarie Harbour being the port which serviced the Queenstown district.
A number of significant volumes in Sticht's Australiana collection came from the collection of prominent Tasmanian and amateur historian James Backhouse Walker, who had died in 1899. Walker was a keen amateur historian who (along with J.W. Beattie and Anglican Bishop of Tasmania Henry Hutchinson Montgomery) had founded the Historical and Geographical Section of the Royal Society of Tasmania.71 Walker had formed an important library of Australiana, some of which was offered to the fledgling National Library of Australia in 1905 by Angus & Robertson.72 Sticht's Walker books included Richard Hakluyt's three volume Principal navigations, voyages, traffiques and discoveries of the English nation (1598–99) (an expensive purchase at £12 from Sydney in 1910); Charles de Brosses's Terra Australis Cognita… (1766–68); and Henry Melville's Van Diemen's Land: comprehending a variety of statistical and other information likely to be interesting to the emigrant, as well as to the general reader, published in Hobart Town in 1833. Sticht also acquired contemporary Australiana, including novels by authors such as Rolf Boldrewood, and historical essays such as J.H. Maiden's Sir Joseph Banks: the ‘Father of Australia’ which he purchased hot off the press in 1909, commenting to E.A. Parr that ‘it is a notable book, and its small bulk contains more good stuff than many a ponderous quarto volume.’73 He also enjoyed Australian poetry, noting in a letter to Angus and Robertson that he found Bertram Stevens's anthology, The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse (1909), to be a ‘fine selection, and truly characteristic of Australian poetical tendencies, tastes, and attainments.’74 Some of the last books to enter Sticht's collection were two gifts from Clive Lord (then Curator, and later Director, of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery), presentation copies of Lord's Notes on the snakes of Tasmania, and Notes on the mammals of Tasmania (1918).
The fifth and final volume of Sticht's catalogue deals with his ‘technical’ library, and documents a rich collection of antiquarian volumes. Highlights from the handful of sixteenth-century volumes include Hugh Platte's The Jewell House of Art and Nature (1594), and two copies of Georgii Agricolae de re metallica libri XII (1556), one purchased from London in 1904, another from Germany in the same year. The technical library included some seventy books dating from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, and hundreds more from the nineteenth century. Volume V of Sticht's library catalogue lists another niche collection, ‘Railroadiana’, formed almost entirely from two group purchases from London in 1905 and 1906. The 1905 purchase was a collection of ‘Original Drawings, Maps, and
Books, illustrative of the Early History and Development of the Railway System in Great Britain’, much of which was ‘more or less rare’.75
Robert Sticht, in a brief decade of earnest collecting, formed a remarkable library, as rich as it was diverse. One of the many published responses to Sticht's death in 1922 reflects the poignancy of this great collector's achievement:
Apart from achieving such success with the progress of smelting with which his name is identified, Mr Sticht took the deepest interest in general science, literature, and art… His library was one of the finest private collections in the Commonwealth. His comment when chaffed with having such possessions in a mining field was “Well, one must have reasonable pleasure, and what can assure it more than chosen companions?”76


‘Newspaper cuttings relating to Sticht 1895–1922’, Archives Office of Tasmania (NS167/4).


Edmund La Touche Armstrong, The Book of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, 1906–1931, Melbourne, Trustees of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, 1932, p.54.


See the description of this book on the website of the State Library of Victoria, Treasures collection (


Accession Book of the Public Library of Victoria 1922–23, State Library of Victoria. The first purchase from Spencer of Sticht books was made on 22 December 1922, and numbered 22 items, mostly prints and books about prints; a further 55 items were purchased by April; smaller numbers of books were purchased until late 1923.


Armstrong, The Book of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, 1906–1931, p.49.


For a discussion of the purchases that became part of the Art Gallery's collection, see Heather Lowe [Gaunt], ‘The Robert Carl Sticht Collection: A Forgotten Legacy’, in Art Bulletin of Victoria, vol. 38, 1998, pp. 13–24.


Sticht's professional life has been well documented in Geoffrey Blainey's The Peaks of Lyell (5th ed.), Hobart, St. David's Park Publishing, 1993, and T.R.A. Davey's Robert C. Sticht, The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Biographical Series No.5, 1995; aside from the author's article in the Art Bulletin (above), references to his cultural life are brief, scattered anecdotally in literature regarding other intellectual figures of the period, such as Reynolds and Giordano's Countries of the mind: The biographical journey of Edmund Morris Miller (1881–1964), Hobart, Melanie, 1985, and memoirs such as A.H. Spencer's Hill of Content: Books, Art, Music, People, Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1959. Conversely — and fortunately — primary sources are relatively rich: Sticht's catalogue of his library and art collection, and many of Sticht's papers are extant, managed by Freehills (Melbourne), and the Archives Office of Tasmania.


‘People we know’, Punch, Melbourne, 8 August 1907, p. 184.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Marion Oak Staige, 17 January 1892, Freehills, Melbourne.


R.C. Sticht, letter to M. O. Staige, 17 January 1892, Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Manager, Republic Mines Corporation, 3 June 1911, Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, letter to M. O. Staige, 17 January 1892, Freehills, Melb.


Geoffrey Blainey in The Peaks of Lyell gives a detailed description of the Queenstown district in Sticht's time. For a contemporary description, see Laurie Hoare, ed., Tasmanian towns in Federation times, Sandford, 1998, pp. 253–260.


R.C. Sticht, letter to H. D. Baker, April 1909, Freehills, Melb.


H.D. Baker, ‘A consul's impression’, Examiner, Hobart, 2 October 1908.


Bulletin, 11 May 1922. The journalist wrote of ‘the sensation created in the Speck a couple of decades ago by the news that Lyell's new boss was to receive £5000 a year’, but conceded ‘the clever and kindly specialist lived long enough to convince the island that a £100 a week man could earn every penny of his wage’.


Zeehan and Dundas Herald, 1 May 1922.


Zeehan and Dundas Herald, 1 May 1922.


‘The Late Mr Robert Sticht, a scientific agnostic’, Age, Melbourne, 3 May 1922.


W.G. Thomas, ‘Robert Carl Sticht: An appreciation’, Advocate, Burnie, 1 May 1922.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Frank A. Wadleigh, 24 April 1914, Freehills, Melb.


See E.H. Sugden and F.W. Eggleston, George Swinburne: A Biography, Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1931. Sugden and Eggleston note that Swinburne was on the Mt Lyell Company Board of Directors; also Swinburne and Sticht had interests in common ‘not only in technical and scientific work but in artistic matters’. (p. 425) Swinburne was a Trustee of the Public Library and Art Gallery of Victoria from 1910 and gave advice to Sticht's eldest son Robert in sorting and dispersing the collections after Sticht's death.


Miller had worked at the Public Library in Melbourne from 1900 to early 1913, prior to moving to Hobart to take up an academic position at the University of Tasmania as a lecturer in mental and moral science, later becoming Professor of Philosophy and Psychology, and Vice-Chancellor. Reynolds and Giordano note that Miller valued his friendship with Sticht highly: Sticht provided him with the intellectual and moral support that was not forthcoming from colleagues at the University. Sticht helped Miller establish the Workers' Educational Association on the West Coast, and Miller strengthened his interest in bookplates by examining Sticht's collection. (See Reynolds and Giordano, Countries of the mind.)


R.C. Sticht, letter to Hon. A. Adams, 31 October 1913, Freehills, Melb.


‘Robert Sticht the Man of Lyell, Memories of the “G.M.”’, World, Hobart, 3 May 1922.


Robert Sticht Jr., letter to Mr Doherty, 20 June 1922, Freehills, Melb.


Sticht's paintings were sold at the Fine Art Society's Galleries, Melbourne, in early May 1923. The sale ‘aroused considerable interest among art connoisseurs’ (‘Robert Sticht Collection’, Australasian, 5 May 1923), but was considered a failure by the family, realising only £1000.


Robert Sticht Jr., letter to George Swinburne, 21 September 1922, Freehills, Melb.


For further discussion of this phenomenon, see Martyn Lyons and John Arnold, eds, A History of the Book in Australia 1891–1945: A National Culture in a Colonised Market, St Lucia, 2001, especially Wallace Kirsop's chapter on private collectors' libraries.


‘Robert Sticht the Man of Lyell, Memories of the “G.M.”’.


Heather Johnson, The Sydney art patronage system 1890–1940, Grays Point, Bungoona Technologies, 1997, pp. 130–136.


For an extensive discussion of domestic libraries, see P.S. Morrish, ‘Domestic libraries: Victorian and Edwardian ideas and practice’, Library History, vol. 10, 1994, pp. 27–44. Although Sticht had until 1912 refrained from using the common wooden sectional book case, chiefly on account of its cost, and toyed with the idea of steel library shelving systems, the photographs demonstrate that Penghana was eventually fitted throughout with wooden book cases.


Reynolds and Giordano, Countries of the Mind, p. 56.


Supplementing his book purchases, Sticht subscribed to various international magazines, including lifestyle and politics magazines such as Life (New York) Puck (New York), North American Review (Boston), Century Magazine (New York), Harper's (New York), and the art journal Die Kunst für alle (Munich). He ceased subscribing to most of these magazines after 1907, due to the cost of import duty into Tasmania (which was far higher than in other states, amounting to some 44% of the entire government income, according to L. L. Robson, A short history of Tasmania, 1997, p. 68) raising prices by up to one hundred per cent in some cases. After shedding the financial excess of subscriptions to lifestyle magazines, he focused on art journals, and began his subscription to The Studio (London) in 1907 and, later, subscriptions to The Connoisseur (London) and The Print Collectors' Quarterly (New York).


R.C. Sticht, letter to Angus & Robertson, June 1909, Freehills, Melb.


A.H. Spencer, The Hill of Content, p. 18.


Angus & Robertson also supplied Sticht with works of art, including a set of caricatures, to match the hand coloured set already purchased from James Tregaskis, and watercolours by John Skinner Prout.


Dymock's also secured books for Sticht on request from London in 1911.


Melville and Mullen undertook book repairs, binding, and casing for Sticht.


Edgar A. Parr had worked for Melville & Mullen since 1890; he was operating on his own at the time of his dealings with Sticht, and didn't set up his new-and-antiquarian bookshop in Collins Street, Melbourne, until 1913. Parr was the principal supplier to the Parliamentary Library in Melbourne after setting up in business, due to his friendship with Parliamentary Librarian Arthur Wadsworth. (See Andrew Osborn and Margaret Osborn, The Commonwealth Parliamentary Library, 1901–27 and the Origins of the National Library of Australia, Canberra, Department of the Parliamentary Library in association with the National Library of Australia, 1989.)


R.C. Sticht, letter to E.A. Parr, December 1907, Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Angus & Robertson, June 1909, Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Osboldstone & Co., Melbourne, 22 October 1909, Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Osboldstone & Co., Melbourne, 22 October 1909, Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Osboldstone & Co., Melbourne, 27 January 1910, Freehills, Melb. It is likely that Sticht had seen some of J.W. Beattie's albums of photographs of Aboriginal Tasmanians, some taken after earlier portraits by Charles Woolley, and would have had a specific model in mind in making this comment.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Osboldstone & Co., Melbourne, 27 January 1910, Freehills, Melb.


‘Robert Sticht's wonderful library’, Evening Herald, Melbourne. Archives Office of Tasmania, NS 167/3.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Angus & Roberston, 12 September 1909, Freehills, Melb.


Sticht applied a catalogue number to each book (single or multiple volumes); discrete ‘collections’ such as the Early Typography Collection or the Hendriks collection also received a single catalogue number.


R.C. Sticht, Catalogue of library, vol. I, p. 87, Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Marion Sticht, 28 March 1911, Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, Catalogue of library, vol. I, p. 87.


James Tregaskis, The Genesis, Development, and Early Decoration of the Printed Book. In a Series of Specimens from Seven Hundred and Thirty Early European Presses, Offered for Sale as a Collection by James Tregaskis, London, Caxton Head, (n.d.).


R.C. Sticht, letter to James Tregaskis, 18 February 1909, Freehills, Melb.


Tregaskis, The Genesis, Development, and Early Decoration of the Printed Book, p. 1.


Tregaskis, The Genesis, Development, and Early Decoration of the Printed Book, p. 1.


R.C. Sticht, Catalogue of library, vol. II, p. 4, Freehills, Melb.


Sticht's collection of art reference books, particularly in relation to prints and drawings was outstanding, and curatorial staff at the National Gallery of Victoria have expressed regret to me that the Art Gallery did not purchase more books from the Sticht estate from Spencer in 1923, to enrich their (at that time) meagre holdings.


R.C. Sticht, Catalogue of library, vol. II, p. 100.


R.C. Sticht, Catalogue of library, vol. II, p. 4.


R.C. Sticht, Catalogue of library, vol. II, p. 71.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Tregaskis, March 1910, Freehills, Melb.


For more information on Australian Shakespeare commemorations see Martyn Lyons, ‘Literary anniversaries: commemorating Shakespeare and others, 1900–1940’, in Lyons and Arnold, eds, A History of the Book in Australia 1891–1945.


R.C. Sticht, Catalogue of library, vol. III, p. 11.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Angus & Robertson, 1912, Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, letter to T. Doolan, 15 January 1914, Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, Catalogue of library, vol. III, p. 148.


R.C. Sticht, letter to B. Lewis, Hobart, 10 June 1909, Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, Catalogue of library, vol. IV, p. 54, Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, Catalogue of library, vol. IV, p. 54. The papers were purchased from J.W. Beattie in Hobart in September 1901.


See Stefan Petrow, ‘The Antiquarian Mind: Tasmanian History and the Royal Society of Tasmania 1899–1927’, Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, vol. 137, 2003, pp. 67–74.


The Library did not accept Angus & Robertson's offer.


R.C. Sticht, letter to E.A. Parr, 4 June 1909. Freehills, Melb.


R.C. Sticht, letter to Angus & Robertson, 23 November 1909, Freehills, Melb.


Loose typed notes accompanying R. C. Sticht, Catalogue of library, vol. V.


Australasian, 6 May 1922.