Beyond the Book: A Journey Through the Treasures of the Emmerson Collection is a digital exhibition by State Library Victoria that uses leading-edge photogrammetry technology to bring rare collection items to life.

Explore a treasure trove of rare books and thrilling tales from British history: from King Charles I and the English Civil War to Prince Rupert’s pet hunting poodle and life during the Plague, Beyond the Book takes you back in time to shed new light on a bygone Britain.

See impressive and significant works from the internationally renowned John Emmerson Collection in stunning detail for the first time through three-dimensional models. 

Stories from the collection

Explore seven interlinking story themes that celebrate the strengths and highlights of the John Emmerson Collection.

Making Books

Explore the design, paper, typography, printing, illustration and binding materials involved in making books by hand.

Using Books

Delve into the wonderful world of marginalia – annotations people make in their books – for a very human connection to the people who have owned and read them over the centuries.


A celebration of John Emmerson, and an exploration of how a Melburnian came to create one of the world's finest private collections of rare British books and bequeathed them to the people of Victoria.

Killing the King

Go behind the scenes of the English Civil Wars and discover why, and how, Charles I came to be executed in 1649 – the first time a king was executed for treason.

Inside the exhibition

Beyond the Book has been developed over several years, using leading-edge photogrammetry technology to create three-dimensional digital imagery of the exhibition objects.  

The use of this technology allows the viewer to see these objects close up, providing them with an experience that can’t be achieved from a physical viewing of the object due to their frail condition. It also gives people all over the world the chance to view these rare items without having to leave their homes.

Beyond the Book opens access beyond the walls of the Library and gives the public the chance to experience these rare treasures for the first time.

From the blog

Learn more about the treasures from the John Emmerson Collection at State Library Victoria.

Bringing rare books to life with photogrammetry

Learn more about the meticulous and extensive photogrammetry work undertaken by the Library’s Digital Production team in preparation for the exhibition.

About the collection

The John Emmerson Collection is an internationally significant collection of rare British printed works. It was donated to State Library Victoria in 2015 and is the most significant gift of rare books in the Library’s history.

Formed over 40 years by lawyer John Emmerson, the collection comprises more than 5000 books and pamphlets from the 15th to 18th centuries. The collection has a particular emphasis on the reign of King Charles I and the English Civil War, fought during the 1640s. The only comparable collections belong to the British Library and Oxford’s Bodleian Library. 

Its significance lies not just in the quantity and quality of the books, but also in the important provenance of the items, including works originally owned by significant figures at the time of Charles I’s reign. 

About the project

This exhibition is a result of the Australian Research Council Linkage project Transforming the Early Modern Archive: The Emmerson Collection at State Library Victoria.

The project brings together experts in early modern studies and the digital humanities with specialist library staff, and investigates what the collection contains, why it is significant, and how it can be shared with others.

Transforming the Early Modern Archive is a partnership between State Library Victoria and the Australian National University, the University of Newcastle, La Trobe University and Victoria University, Wellington.

World of the Book

The annual World of the Book exhibition at the Library features more than 300 rare, remarkable, historically significant items in the State Collection, including select items from the John Emmerson Collection. View these rare books in person on your next visit to the Library.

World of the Book