State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 79 Autumn 2007


Shane Carmody
A Life of Scholarship:
A. B. Foxcroft at the Melbourne Public Library

Thank Mr McInnes for his kindness in making his studio available — I'm afraid that in the Trustees' Room I would have thought it was my burial service — also the staff for my present (those who were not present)…
When A. B. Foxcroft penned these words in May 1938 to William Baud, his friend and colleague at the Melbourne Public Library, he was at sea in the Great Australian Bight on the trip of a lifetime. Awarded a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, he was travelling to Britain, Europe and North America to investigate the latest developments in library services, and pursuing en route his interest in incunabula. It was a high-point in his already long career at the Library, and for a man accustomed to a quiet family life and the scholarly work of a librarian, the demands of a long voyage to places only read about and imagined were quite daunting. He concluded his letter in words reassuring perhaps himself as much as his reader: ‘…the tourist class on these ‘Strath’ boats is quite good. The company is naturally mixed but if a man can mix he won't worry.’1
Safely arrived in London, Foxcroft established himself in the Thackeray Hotel, conveniently located opposite the British Museum on Great Russell Street. In July he wrote to Chief Librarian Ernest Pitt to report that he had travelled as far north as Aberdeen, inspecting libraries in Edinburgh, Leith, York and Manchester. He had met with Sir Sydney Cockerell, London Adviser to the Felton Bequest, and had delivered to the Agent-General gifts to the Library from the Chancellor of the York Diocese and a selection of Sir Emery Walker's socialist pamphlets from his daughter, Miss Dorothy Walker. Foxcroft enthused about the ‘extraordinary amount to learn here of library practice and possibilities’ and said that he had ventured far from the beaten track in his studies. In London he had visited ‘among others Messrs Wellsford and Markham, Scholderer (incunabulist), A. F. Johnson (type expert), Mrs Warde and others.’ In his view the visit was not a waste of time: ‘it is the 11 weeks getting here and back that one regrets.’ The following Monday Foxcroft left for Europe, reporting in a quick note a second meeting with Cockerell.2
The European itinerary was ambitious. Writing from Copenhagen Foxcroft recounted that ‘travelling on the continent is interesting, but requires much showing of passports and giving details of cash in hand, let alone the constant use of the changers to get local currencies!’ In addition to Denmark, he visited Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Czechoslovakia and Germany. Within a month Foxcroft was back in London and calling on the Librarian at the Foreign Office, Sir Stephen Gaselee, who, at Cockerell's instigation,
presented him with a gift for the Library, an incunable — Thierry Marten's edition of the Formula Vivendi, printed in Alost in 1490. At a special lunch organised by Cockerell, Miss Walker presented him with a choice between two folio size incunables from her father's Library. Foxcroft chose The Commentaries of Cardinal de Tudeschis (Panormitanus) upon the Decretals, printed by Michael Wenssler in Basle in 1477. Not to be outdone, Sir Sydney added to the haul a copy of Abraham ben Ezra's De Nativitatibus, printed by Erhard Ratdolt in Venice in 1485 and in a binding by his brother, Douglas.3

Photograph of A.B. Foxcroft accompanying his obituary in the Library Association of Victoria Journal. March 1939, p. 8. YA 020.5 L6IJ

Foxcroft was clearly excited by the gifts and the stimulation of his travels but this was tempered by the news of his father's death. Just before he left England he visited Cambridge, and in a letter to Cockerell expressed the opinion of so many tourists that the rural setting of the University set it apart from the industrial grime of Oxford. He expressed dismay at what he saw as ugliness in the new University Library built with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation in 1934, but of the Fitzwilliam Museum Foxcroft wrote:
I was amazed at the sheer artistry of its internal arrangement (of the objects): at times I could almost imagine that the objects were purchased for the spot they are in! The absolute sureness of placing was a marvel to me.
Cockerell, who was immensely proud of his long tenure as Director of the Fitzwilliam, must have been pleased by the observation.4
In his last few days in London he sought out good second-hand books for the Library, and noted in a letter to Pitt the news of the death at 96 of Eleanor La Trobe, the last surviving child of Victoria's first governor and first sponsor of the Public Library. On Saturday 17 September he boarded the Empress of Britain bound for Quebec. On board he befriended a solicitor from Auckland, William Glaister, who was on a world tour with his wife, and met an old friend from University days and now Principal of the Glen Iris Bible College, A. R. Main. Glaister recalled that Foxcroft ‘…admitted that he had got very weary and was in sore need of a rest, which he thought he would take for a week or two at Santa Barbara…on he other hand he spoke of doing a lot of writing up there.’ The Glaisters and Foxcroft
established that they were to travel from Vancouver on the same ship, The Aorangi, and when they parted company in Quebec they did so looking forward to their next meeting.5
The Aorangi sailed from Vancouver on 23 November, and after it had left the wharf the Glaisters sought out Foxcroft. His appearance shocked them. Dishevelled and in need of a shave, he didn't recognise them at first and only responded to their promptings with monosyllabic answers. Fearful for his health, they asked friends travelling in the same class to watch over him, but soon found he had been confined to the ship's hospital where they visited him each day hoping to prompt some memory. The Glaisters left the Aorangi in Suva on 4 December 1938, leaving a written account for the Ship's surgeon. About this time news of Foxcroft's illness reached Melbourne. Ernest Pitt sent an urgent cable to John Barr, Chief Librarian in Auckland, asking him to visit the ship when it reached port and to report on Foxcroft's condition. Tragically Barr's reply was brief: ‘Foxcroft died 10th. Buried at sea. Letter following.’ He was 54 years old.6


Albert Broadbent Foxcroft was born on 21 November 1884 in Carlton. His father was John W. Foxcroft, who gave his occupation on the birth record as ‘clerk’. His mother was Emma, née Hardy. Like his father and grandfather he attended Wesley College, but only briefly, as changing family circumstances forced him to forgo a scholarship. On 2 January 1902, aged only 17, he was appointed to the staff of the Melbourne Public Library, National Gallery and Museums as a messenger. He studied part-time and in 1905 matriculated in Greek, Latin, English, French, and Arithmetic. Matriculation with two ancient and one modern language was a requirement for working in the Library, and with this he was able to transfer in October 1906 from the general to the Library staff. To move to the professional staff required enrolling at the University of Melbourne in the Bachelor of Arts course, which he did on 26 February1908. Promotion depended on the successful completion of studies, and as Leigh Scott, his contemporary at the Library, recalled, this was never in doubt: ‘Foxcroft was a real student. He studied by himself and sailed through the Arts course and in the final examination in the Philosophy School took first class honours.’ Towards the end of 1909 he began wearing glasses to compensate for his extreme short-sightedness, leading Scott to comment that ‘…his outlook on the external world must have been greatly changed.’ Perhaps it helped him notice Ethel May Buchanan, whom he married in the following year, setting up house in Brighton and producing in time a family of two sons and a daughter.7
Foxcroft was a bright young man in the Library at a time of great change. The Queen's Hall and Barry Hall were filled to capacity, the driving leadership of Edmund La Touche Armstrong had won support and the money for a new building (the Dome), and the great transition from Redmond Barry's vision of a Library with all books freely available to users on open shelves to a closed-stack reference library had begun. In the remarkable battle that ensued over the classification of the collection between A. W. Brazier and R. D. Boys, Foxcroft was enlisted on the winning side. Together with Boys he conducted a count of the
collection, arriving at a total of 135,000 volumes and implemented an accessions register which began with the arrival of the next volume — 135,001. They then reclassified the collection according to the Dewey system, a task which kept them busy until 1916. The Dewey system enabled a growing collection to be shelved in a logical sequence that facilitated relatively simple retrieval, and in the new Dome Reading Room with its ascending annuli of closed collection storage this was essential.8
In 1911 Foxcroft published his first book. The Australian Catalogue: a reference index to the books and periodicals published and still current in the Commonwealth of Australia was the first ‘books in print’ for the new nation. It was greeted by Walter Murdoch, who wrote a preface, as a boon for the bibliophile and a wonderful time-saver for himself and others who might otherwise spend hours scouring second-hand book stores for obscure works. Producing the catalogue alongside his normal duties was a remarkable achievement. Leigh Scott recalls a workplace that was often under great pressure, and in his memoir warns against the misapprehension that Library work was a ‘comfortable — a cushy — job’. At the end of 1910 he records that ‘…I had a rather serious breakdown due to the very strenuous year…when accessions numbered over 10,000 items all handled by me.’ By contrast Foxcroft seemed to thrive in this environment, and his work with Boys and his book had established his reputation as a hard worker. In 1922 he succeeded Boys as Senior Assistant Librarian, with his main duty to ‘have charge of the catalogue’. This personal milestone coincided with a decision by the Trustees of the Felton Bequest to purchase a collection, which was to give Foxcroft an opportunity to expand his work beyond the running of an efficient catalogue to a level of scholarship that won for him, and the Library, international recognition.9
Robert Carl Sticht (1856–1922) was an American mining engineer and metallurgist who worked from 1895 until his death at the Mount Lyell copper mine in Tasmania. He had a private passion for objects of beauty and spent a great deal of his income purchasing works of art and adding to collections of drawings, prints, samples of printing and rare books. These filled the handsome manager's house he occupied at Mt Lyell and on his death were pretty much the only assets he left to his widow and children. The Felton Bequest purchased from his estate the collections of Old Master drawings, etchings, prints and examples of early printing for £4,600. This was divided with the early printing items placed in the Library. John Poynter describes this as separating wheat from chaff, but Foxcroft could see in the straw that remained stuff that could be spun into gold.10
In 1926 Foxcroft began the work of cataloguing the Sticht collection. Far from the great centres of bibliographical scholarship and with a useful but limited reference collection, this must have been a daunting task. Patiently and with the long delays of correspondence, he noted for each leaf or set of leaves their relative place in the surviving examples of each printer. He expanded his work to include the early books that had been collected by the Library, and for the sake of completeness added the facsimiles that were also in the collection. The work was done in time outside his normal duties, and was recognised

Julian Notary. Horae ad Usum Sarum. Sticht Collection no. 35. Rare Books.

by the Trustees with an annual grant from their own funds of £100 — equivalent to one seventh of his annual salary. In December 1928 Foxcroft reported to the Chief Librarian that he was spending between 24 and 27 hours each month on the task and had to that time catalogued 1,450 items, involving ‘…much correspondence with England, America and Holland.’ Foxcroft explained that ‘the concentrated and exacting nature of this cataloguing makes anything over two hours continuous work upon it too exhausting.’ By the end of the following year he requested permission to spend the first half-hour of each working day on the Sticht collection, and noted that:
The unidentified section is of extreme difficulty; but as it will be many years before any other officer will by qualified to deal with this work, I am at present concentrating on this before dealing with the last separate country — France — that still requires to be done.
Foxcroft's notes from this great project have survived, carefully stored in ten file boxes according to the country of origin of each sample of printing. One box holds notes that Foxcroft prepared for exhibitions and talks on the collection. He took delight in the great rarities. For instance, his notes on the sheet of pages for a miniature Book of Hours Use of Sarum, printed by Julian Notary on the 2nd of April 1500, explained that
The pages of this book measure only 1½ by 1 inch. This fragment is unique. It is printed in red and black in a very small black-letter type — the only book that Notary printed in this type, and therefore of great interest in the history of English printing.11
The results of this work were published in two volumes. The first, A Catalogue of English Books and Fragments from 1477 to 1535, was published in 1933, and the second, A Catalogue of fifteenth century books and fragments in the Public Library of Victoria, in 1936. In the preface to the first volume Foxcroft is given credit by Ernest Pitt, the Chief Librarian, for the ‘inestimable benefit’ of his ‘scholarly cataloguing’. Acknowledgement in the second volume was more effusive and specifically mentioned Foxcroft's commitment of time ‘outside his normal duties’ to the project. The Trustees gave acknowledgement of a more practical kind with an award of 25 guineas from the publication fund in recognition of the first book, and 40 guineas for the second.12


The title page of each book describes Foxcroft as the ‘Assistant Librarian, Reference Library’. Foxcroft began to act in this role in 1931 when Ernest Pitt was promoted to Chief Librarian on the retirement of R. D. Boys. The onset of the Great Depression placed a huge strain on the budget of the Library, Museums and National Gallery, salaries were reduced, and Foxcroft's confirmation in the position, which would help with a family budget stretched thin, was slow in coming. In October 1932 he wrote to Pitt pressing his case, pointing out that his responsibilities had increased and included charge of 28 staff, while his salary remained the same as that of Senior Assistant in charge of Cataloguing. He continued: ‘I might mention that some years ago I refused the more lucrative position of University
Librarian then offered to me, relying on being promoted to the position now vacant.’ Pitt supported the claim in a letter to the Under-Secretary in the Chief Secretary's department, noting that the matter was outstanding from a recommendation made the previous year, and explaining that
Mr Foxcroft does professional work of a highly technical character, and his administrative responsibilities have greatly increased as a consequence of my promotion a year ago. I strongly recommend that the vacancy be filled as soon as possible.
The advocacy was successful and in the following March the promotion was formally gazetted.13
In his new position, Foxcroft effectively ran the Library. The Chief Librarian was also Secretary to the Trustees and this involved administration of the conglomerate of the Library, Museums and National Gallery. Foxcroft proved an able leader, adding to his scholarly reputation as a bibliographer the distinction of creating a new category in the Dewey Classification. In 1932 he applied the vacant Dewey 819 to English colonial literature — that is, fictional writing in English from the Dominions and colonies of the Empire. In a sense he created the category that encompasses what is now described as Commonwealth Literature (and recognised annually in the awarding of the Commonwealth Writer's Prize). In 1934 he began a series of professional training courses for librarians in cataloguing and in the study of early books with regular tests to check on progress. A copy of his notes for the course on early books survives in the collection and these were published in Twelve Point, the journal of the Printing Craftsmen of Australia, Victorian Division. Shy and by preference scholarly, he was known to his staff as Foxie. Cataloguer Ursula O'Connor remembered that ‘he was always ready to help and to explain work to those who were genuinely interested, but had no time for those he considered slackers’; and perhaps with a slightly uncomfortable memory she added that ‘he was often too rigid in his interpretation of the term.’ C. A. McCallum, who became Chief Librarian some years after Foxcroft's death, remembered his gift for clear expression and succinct prose, but despite this ‘…he preferred the circuitous and evasive route in his actions rather than the direct and open one.’ His sense of humour could be cerebral; the staff lunched together, and O'Connor recalls that it was ‘Foxie's custom to produce the Times Literary Supplement Crossword with its learned literary clues. We were all questioned and to his delight he always knew the answers, we rarely did.’14
Foxcroft's daughter, Margaret, recalls that ‘…to my brothers and me he was just our father who always had plenty of time for us, a man of great kindness and humour, and a wonderful help with homework’. Comfortable with young people, he was popular among her friends and solicitous towards his children, especially in their education. The sons continued the family tradition at Wesley and both went on to University, while Margaret was educated at Methodist Ladies College. Family holidays were at Blackwood in central Victoria where Mrs Foxcroft had spent her childhood. Margaret recalls her father setting out on long bushwalks with his sons who were some years older than her, without the aid of a compass,
and unerringly returning after travelling some 20 miles.15
The Felton Bequest continued to provide the Library with valuable additions and Foxcroft with further inspiration. In 1933 a Book of Hours printed and bound by Geofroy Tory in 1531 was acquired for the considerable sum of £850.16 Foxcroft produced the text for Geofroy Tory and his device of the Pot Cassé, a ‘Christmas keepsake’ published in a limited edition of 250 copies for the Victorian division of the Printing Craftsmen of Australia. It is a handsome little pamphlet that tells the story of how Tory remembered his beloved daughter who died at the age of nine by incorporating a broken pot in the design of his bindings. It shows how Foxcroft made a link between the scholarly collecting of fine volumes and the modern practice of printing.17

Unknown Photographer. Photograph of Foxcroft on his wedding day. Original in private collection.

In this he found an ally in the London Adviser to the Felton Bequest, Sir Sydney Cockerell, one-time secretary to William Morris and the Kelmscott Press. Cockerell visited Melbourne in the summer of 1936 and 1937, and in a busy schedule of meetings with Trustees and social engagements with wealthy patrons, he made time to meet Foxcroft and discuss with him his draft lectures on incunabula. In a farewell note to Cockerell, Foxcroft expressed his desire to move to the study of manuscripts, expressing regret that ‘…unless I take this on, I cannot hope to see anyone else do it.’ On Cockerell's advice the Felton Bequest acquired for the Library and the National Gallery important medieval printed and manuscript books. Inspired by these and earlier acquisitions, Foxcroft wrote Manuscripts and Books of Art acquired under the terms of the Felton Bequest (1938) as a promotion and a celebration of a collecting practice that at that time appeared to be only beginning.18
Foxcroft's professional engagement extended beyond the confines of the Public Library of Victoria. In 1934 Frank Tate, President of the Australian Council for Educational Research, obtained support from the Carnegie Foundation to undertake a survey and report on the state of Libraries in Australia. Ralph Munn, Director of the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh was invited to lead the research and he invited Ernest Pitt to join him in this work. The project involved a survey of Library practice overseas, and Pitt was granted six
months leave with pay from his post as Chief Librarian for this purpose. The final report, published in 1935, advocated higher levels of government support and the creation of municipal libraries. The report sparked wide debate within the profession and prompted a revival of interest in a national professional body. On 20 and 21 August 1937 representatives of various State associations met in Canberra to discuss the proposal. Foxcroft was present as the delegate of the Library Association of Victoria and was elected to the four-person committee that drafted the constitution for what became the Australian Institute of Librarians, and by succession the current Australian Library and Information Association — a significant achievement in a previously fragmented profession.19
The Munn-Pitt report recommended an overhaul of training for Librarians, and in January 1938 the Carnegie Foundation, through the Australian Council for Educational Research, awarded Foxcroft a grant to assist in a tour of Europe to study recent library developments and practices ‘…particularly the methods of staff and professional training of librarians.’ To give this effect required six months leave with pay, and Pitt wrote to the Under-Secretary in the Chief Secretary's office supporting this application
In anticipation of the offer being made Mr Foxcroft has worked overtime in order to get everything up to date, and proposes to devote a good part of his spare time to the Library during the next two to three months before he leaves.
Pitt argued that the trip was critical in the development of the proposed Library Extension division and Library School and that Foxcroft's bibliographical knowledge would be ‘…greatly improved by visits to important centres in America and England.’ The response was not encouraging.
In view of the fact that Mr Pitt has only recently returned from abroad, and that any information acquired by Mr Foxcroft will be only a duplication of that obtained by Mr Pitt, the Chief Secretary is not disposed to approve of this application.
Frank Tate was not to be so easily deterred. Drawing on the memory and known munificence of Andrew Carnegie he argued in a lengthy letter to the Chief Secretary that the Munn-Pitt report required such follow-up, that other libraries in Australia and New Zealand had taken advantage of such grants, and that any overlap with Pitt's tour was irrelevant
I would like to stress the fact that the object of the Visitors' Grants has been as much to improve the outlook of individuals as to prepare reports on what has been done abroad, and therefore urge that not only Mr Foxcroft at present, but other library officers in the future who might be given this opportunity, should be granted the necessary facilities to take advantage of them.
He ended his letter with a stinging paragraph suggesting refusal to grant leave with pay smacked of ingratitude. The advocacy worked. Cabinet approved the leave conditional on no additional expense being incurred by the Government and no gratuities being paid to other staff in Foxcroft's absence. These conditions being accepted, Foxcroft boarded the Strathallan and sailed for England on Tuesday, 17 May 1938.20


John Barr's letter, which followed his cable announcing Foxcroft's death, told a sad story. He reported that the ship's surgeon, Dr O'Neill, was amazed that Foxcroft had managed to find the Aorangi, and that his decline had been quite swift. Two other doctors on board had conferred and agreed that the probable cause was a tumour. Unable to intervene they could only keep him comfortable. Barr concluded
Allow me to express to you my sincere regret at Foxcroft's death. I met him twice; once in 1929 and again in 1936 and formed a very high opinion of him both as a man and a librarian. The loss to your institution will be serious and on personal grounds I feel too that you have lost a friend. I would be most grateful if you would pass on my sincere sympathy to Mrs Foxcroft.
Letters of condolence flooded in from booksellers, librarians, and library committees. Most were formal but they reflected the impact that Albert Foxcroft had had on his profession. The Trustees passed a special resolution of regret and condolence, noting that ‘through his enthusiasm and scholarship he came to be recognised as the foremost authority in Australia on incunabula and early typography’, and that his untimely death was a blow to the Library profession and especially the Public Library of Victoria. Pitt dutifully passed this on to his widow and family. In an obituary for the Library Association Journal William Baud wrote: ‘A man of brilliant intellect, with a naturally alert and well-trained mind, his whole life was devoted to his profession, in which he was an expert.’ Sir Sydney Cockerell heard the news from the Melbourne fine printer and publisher, John Gartner. His letter in reply reveals how much he had grown to respect Foxcroft:
I formed a very high opinion of Mr Foxcroft's character and attainments when I was in Melbourne. This opinion was confirmed when he came here on several occasions during his visit to England. His knowledge of early printing was extraordinary — indeed quite amazing when one considered how restricted his first hand acquaintance with early printed books had been until he came to Europe. His other qualities as a Librarian and a man seemed to me equally outstanding. His death leaves a gap in the Melbourne Library which it will be hard indeed to fill. I shall be grateful if you will convey to his family and his friends among lovers of fine printing my deepest sympathy.21
Among the letters in the file, one stands out for its personal warmth. Ida Leeson, the great Mitchell Librarian, wrote to Pitt in her firm hand not shirking the tragedy of his lonely death at sea and reflecting that she
…had for many years regarded him as a friend, and always looked forward to meeting him in Melbourne or here. I esteemed him also, of course, for his scholarship and his keen enthusiasm…he took so much knowledge and experience away with him, and he would have returned so greatly enriched that the library world of Australia is indeed bereft by his loss.
The Public Library of Victoria had certainly suffered a loss. In advocating to the Under-Secretary for approval for the leave Pitt had argued that ‘Mr Foxcroft is the senior of the younger librarians on the staff, and will in the normal course rise to a senior position.’ The

Unknown Photographer. [Library staff]. 1932. Detail of photograph shows Foxcroft seventh from right, front row. Gelatin silver photograph. H5646. La Trobe Picture Collection.

normal course, through seniority and talent, would have seen him assume the role of Chief Librarian. Pitt retired in 1943 and Foxcroft would have had seven years at the helm before reaching the retirement age of sixty-five. Instead, Pitt was replaced for a year by T. F. Cooke, Foxcroft's older colleague in the lending library. His friend William Baud then followed in 1944, and was granted a travelling fellowship. Preparing for the task through public speaking at Toastmasters, he suddenly died at lunch — less than a year into the job. This instability came at a time when the Library was finding its way as an independent institution following the break-up of the conglomerate Library, Museum and Gallery. C. A. McCallum, who followed Baud as Chief Librarian, noted in his memoir that Foxcroft bridged the gap between the nineteenth-century library practices and the modern, and that he was a ‘…remarkable, clear and profound thinker’. In McCallum's view he was unquestionably the person ‘…who left the longest impact on his contemporaries.’22
Now, through the generosity of Wallace Kirsop, a great friend of the Library, Albert Broadbent Foxcroft is remembered with an annual lecture on the subject of Bibliography, inaugurated in 2006. After his death his old friends in the Victorian division of the Printing Craftsmen of Australia had commemorated him in the way they knew best. A fine little pamphlet, limited to one hundred copies and printed at John Gartner's Hawthorn Press, celebrated his contribution to libraries, to the understanding of the history of typography and printing, and to the printers themselves.23 One of their number, P. I. O'Leary, penned A Tribute: ‘Skill in the bibliographic art / Chilled no warm current of his heart / And files and indices and such / Made but more sure his human touch. / Book-lover and librarian, / He was that greater thing — a man. / World wandering over, now he's free; / And one with the many-volumed sea’.


A.B.Foxcroft to ‘Bill’ (W.C.Baud), 21 May 1938, P&O Strathhallan, in personnel file held at the State Library of Victoria. I am indebted to Richard Overell, who compiled a brief biographical file for A.B. Foxcroft in 1987.


Personnel file: Foxcroft to Pitt, 12/7/1938; 16/7/1938; 18/7/1938.
The Trustees of the Bequest authorised Foxcroft to meet Cockerell in London. Their purpose was to propose to Cockerell a program of purchases of examples of fine binding, following an earlier recommendation by Percival Serle. On advice from Cockerell, the Trustees agreed to authorise two London booksellers to acquire items. The plan became ensnared in the ongoing dispute between the Trustees of the institution, the Trustees of the bequest and the narrow legal interpretations of the Trustee and Executor Company. Cockerell's papers in the British Library include a file containing details of this sorry saga (Add Ms 52770). The intervention of the Second World War and the decision in 1944, confirmed in 1946, restricting the Bequest to the National Gallery, finally prevented any purchases being made.


Personnel file: Foxcroft to Pitt, 23/7/1938;17/8/1938; 3/9/1938; summary of the gifts prepared by the Office of the Agent-General, 5/9/1938. Foxcroft also had some communication with the Treasurer of the Roxburghe Club, C. H. St. J. Hornby, about two further donations of recent facsimiles — this was a misunderstanding and the volumes were later offered to the Library at cost. Foxcroft to Pitt, 28/8/1938; Hornby to Foxcroft, 18/8/1938; Pitt to Hornby, 20/9/1938; Hornby to Pitt, 5/10/1938.
See also brief notice of the gift from Sir Stephen Gaselee in The Times, 24/8/1938. Gaselee had presented his considerable collection of incunables to Cambridge University but had held this volume back because it was bound with six other treatises from 1505–1511. He added to the gift a copy of his catalogue and a recent imprint of the Roxburghe Club. See entry on Gasalee in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 21, Oxford, The University Press, pp. 598–599.
Miss Walker's gift was the first complete volume from this press placed in the collection, and was even more significant in that it is in a binding by the sixteenth-century Augsburg master-binder, Hans Leitz. She added to her gift printers' proofs of border designs for volumes from the Kelmscott Press.
Cockerell's gift joined two other complete volumes from this press in the collection, the Euclid from 1482 (formerly in Sticht's collection) and the Chronica Hungarorum, which the Library had held since 1876.
Cockerell Diary,1 September 1938, British Library Add. Ms. 52676.


Foxcroft to Cockerell, 11/9/1938 [letter provided to author by Foxcroft's daughter, Mrs Margaret Carison]. Cockerell famously said that he found the Fitzwilliam a pigsty and left it a palace. His impact on museology and the combination of collections to create contrasts and interiors continues to resonate.


Personnel File: W. Glaister to Dr E. O'Neill (Ship's surgeon), 4/12/1938.


Personnel File: Glaister; file note of cable from Ship to the Public Library dated 5/12/1938; copy of cable message to Barr; Barr to Pitt, 12/12/1938


Leigh Scott, ‘Mostly from Memory’, June 1960, Ms 7644. p. 4. A transcript of the Student Record, Foxcroft, Albert Broadbent shows that Foxcroft (University of Melbourne enrolment number 080095) graduated B.A. on 20/04/1912, and M.A. 05/09/1938, but the latter date appears to be incorrect. The children were Albert (later a sports master at Hailebury), Edmund (later Cabinet Secretary to the Menzies Government) and Margaret who later married Ronald Carison who had a career in banking. See J. Kirby, ‘Contributions of some pioneers — Foxcroft, Perry, McMahon’, in Library Association of Australia 18th Biennial Conference Melbourne August 1975, Proceedings, Melbourne, LAA, 1976, pp. 437 — 440.
Additonal information provided by Mrs Carison.


Kirby, p. 438. See also C. A. McCallum, ‘Looking Back — the Public Library of Victoria 1919 — 1960’, Ms 8451, p. 17. For an eye-witness account of the dispute between Brazier and Armstrong, see the La Trobe Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 35, April 1985, which published ‘Some Public Library Memories 1900 — 1913’ by E. Morris Miller, especially pp. 77 — 80.


A.B Foxcroft, The Australian Catalogue: a reference index to the books and periodicals published and still current in the Commonwealth of Australia, Melbourne: Whitcombe and Tombs. 1911.
Scott. p.4. See also, R. Overell, La Trobe Biography File, A. B. Foxcroft


See above, Heather Gaunt, ‘The Library of Robert Carl Sticht’; I.McShane, ‘Sticht, Robert Carl (1856 — 1922)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, Melbourne University Press, 1990, pp 93–94; G. Blainey, The Peaks of Lyell 5th edition, Hobart, St David's Park Publishing 1993 pp. 262–264; Records of the Felton Bequest, PA96/83; Minutes of the Felton Bequest Committee, 31 October 1922; 24 November 1922. J. Poynter, Mr Felton's Bequests, Melbourne, The Miegunyah Press, 2003, p. 333. In her ‘Reminiscences of the Public Library of Victoria 1927 — 1965’ (box 1619/5 p.4, M.) Ursula O'Connor recalls that the purchase of the Sticht Collection was due to A.B. Foxcroft. This is not substantiated in other records, and may conflate his achievement in cataloguing the collection with the acquisition.
The Sticht purchase was not straightforward. The Felton Trustees referred the matter for opinion to the distinguished counsel, Theyre a’ Beckett Weigall. At issue was the desire to acquire the entire collection and divide it between the National Gallery and the Library. Weigall opined that as the typographical specimens were not ‘works of art’ they could be purchased, noting that they represented good value, and any decision on their display or use was a matter for the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria. This decision opened the way for the Trustees to propose purchases by the Felton Bequest for the Library collection. See T. a'B Weigall, Opinion, 10/11/1922 in VPRS 805/26, The Trustees and Executors Agency.


A.B. Foxcroft to Chief Librarian, 22/12/1928; 9/12/1929. Chief Librarian to A/g Under Secretary to the Chief Secretary, 15/1/1930 (requesting continuation of the payment of the additional amount from the Trustee's own funds) — all in Foxcroft Personnel file. A. B. Foxcroft — Notes for an Exhibition in Box marked England II stored with Sticht collection


A. B. Foxcroft, A Catalogue of English Books and Fragments from 1477 to 1535 in the Public Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Fraser and Jenkinson, 1933;see preface, p. iv. A. B. Foxcroft, A Catalogue of fifteenth century books and fragments in the Public Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Brown, Prior and Co. 1936;see preface, p. ix.
Foxcroft annotated a copy of the larger catalogue for each additional incunable placed in the collection. This is held in the Rare Printed collection.
Chief Librarian to A. B. Foxcroft, 13 March 1934; Chief Librarian to A. B. Foxcroft, 4 May 1936 in Personnel file.


Personnel file; see also Scott, p. 47 : ‘In 1927 the Calendar of the University of Melbourne listed him as Librarian but he did not take up the appointment. Instead he stuck to the Public Library and in addition to his normal duties gave much time to the Sticht Collection.’
E. La Touche Armstrong records in his ‘Fifty years of the Public Library of Victoria’, Ms 5584, Box 42/10, p. 31, that ‘He (Foxcroft) was tempted to accept an offer of the Librarianship at the University, and indeed he had accepted it, but was persuaded by Mr Boys to withdraw. He was beginning his researches in fifteenth-century printing and was engaged in other important work in the Public Library. The Trustees readily agreed to give him a special grant to induce him to remain in the service.’.


A. B. Foxcroft, Staff Instruction Courses, ‘The Study of 15th Century Books’, Melbourne, The Public Library of Victoria, 1936. See also ‘Printing History’ and ‘The Study of 15th Century Books’ in Twelve Point, the Journal of the Printing Craftsmen of Australia, Victorian Division, July 1935 — August 1936; and October 1936 — September 1938.
O'Connor — both quotations from her ‘Reminiscences’, page 4.
McCallum p. 18. He records Foxcroft's invention of the use of Dewey 819.


Interview with Mrs Margaret Carison, 10/10/2006; quotation from a letter to the author, 29/08/2006.


See above, Hilary Maddocks, ‘Geofroy Tory's 1531 Book of Hours’.


A. B. Foxcroft, Geofroy Tory and his device of the Pot Cassé, Melbourne, Printing Industry Craftsmen of Australia, 1937.


Foxcroft to Cockerell, 30 January 1937, British Library Add. Ms 52770; Cockerell Diary, entry for 9 January 1937, British Library Ms 52675.
Manuscripts and Books of Art acquired under the terms of the Felton Bequest, Melbourne, Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria, 1938. Foxcroft's authorship was not acknowledged in the publication.
For an account of Cockerell's influence on the collection, see S. Carmody, ‘Mirror of a World: William Caxton at the State Library’, The La Trobe Journal no. 77, Autumn 2006, pp. 4 — 22.


R. Munn, E. R. Pitt, Australian Libraries: a survey of conditions and suggestions for their improvement, Melbourne, Australian Council for Educational Research, 1935. See also: S. Burt, ‘Library Profile: Ernest Roland Pitt’, The La Trobe Journal, No. 65, Autumn 2000, pp. 57–60
Margery C. Ramsay, ‘Pitt, Ernest Roland (1877 — 1957)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, Melbourne University Press, 1988, pp. 236–237.
R. J. W Selleck, ‘Tate, Frank (1864 — 1939)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, Melbourne University Press, 1990, pp. 169–172.
In 1949 the Australian Institute of Librarians became the Library Association of Australia; and in 1988 relocated from Sydney to Canberra, becoming known as the Australian Library and Information Association — see A. Johnson, ‘Historical Notes on the LAA 1937 — 1961’, Library Association of Australia, May 1961; and the website


Personnel File: Foxcroft to Pitt, 21/1/1938; Pitt to Under Secretary, 21/1/38; Under Secretary to Pitt, 25/1/1938; Tate to Chief Secretary, 15/2/1938; Cabinet, 28/2/1938; Advice to Chief Librarian, 2/3/1938.


Personnel file: Barr to Pitt, 12/12/1938; copy of letter enclosing the Resolution of the Trustees, Pitt to Mrs Foxcroft, 16/12/1938; W. C. Baud, ‘The late Mr A. B. Foxcroft MA’, Library Journal (Quarterly), Melbourne, Library Association of Victoria, No. 7, March 1939, pp. 8 — 9, quotation, p. 9; Sir Sydney Cockerell to John Gartner, 13/1/1939; copy provided by Mrs Carison. Cockerell added brief obituaries of friends and important figures at the end of each year in his diaries — Foxcroft was included in the Diary for 1938.


Personnel file: Ida Leeson to Pitt, 17/12/1938; McCallum, p. 17.


J. Gartner, A Tribute to Albert Broadbent Foxcroft, Melbourne, The Hawthorn Press, 1939.