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Exhibition labels: World of the book

World of the book

Books are mirrors of many worlds: worlds here and distant, past and present, real and imagined. Through text and image, they act as keepers of ideas, of knowledge and of stories.

This exhibition showcases many of the rare, beautiful and historically significant books held by this Library on behalf of the Victorian community. It celebrates the unique place of books in our hearts and minds, taking you on a journey through the history of book production, design and illustration, from the medieval era to the present day.

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BOOKS AND IDEAS

‘[T]he book is an extension of the eye...’

Marshall McLuhan

The history of ideas is mirrored in the history of the book. Books have altered the course of history itself, through the dissemination of ideas that have changed how we think about the world and ourselves. In many cultures across different eras, books have played a highly symbolic and iconic role.

There was a time when it was thought that the world’s knowledge could be collected between the covers of a book. The information explosion of recent times now makes it impossible to contain the world’s knowledge within one library, let alone in one book, yet books continue to be a powerful means of informing and inspiring new generations.

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The Dome Galleries

You are standing in what was once the book stacks for the whole library. This photograph shows the storage of ‘elephant folios’ (very large books) in this very spot. Librarians used the spiral metal stairs to retrieve the books requested by readers sitting at desks below in the Dome Reading Room. In the late 1990s, this gallery (and the one above it on level 5) was turned into an exhibition space, which opened to the public in 2005.

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Cuneiform tablet c. 2050 BCE

Southern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq)

RARES 099 C89

Cuneiform writing, developed by the ancient culture of Sumer, was one of the world’s first scripts. It was written on clay tablets using a wedged stick (cunea is Latin for ‘wedge’), and the tablets were then sun-dried or fired. The earliest tablets (c. 3400 BCE) record economic transactions. This tablet records taxes paid in sheep and goats in the tenth month of the 46th year of Shulgi, second king of the Third Dynasty of Ur.

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The Age of the Manuscript

Before the development of the codex (folded sheets sewn together, bound between boards) by the Romans in the 1st century CE, texts were inscribed onto clay tablets and papyrus scrolls. The Romans began using vellum (prepared animal skin) as a writing surface, and their invention of the codex revolutionised the recording and accessing of information.

Until the 12th century, most Western books were hand-copied in the scriptoria (writing rooms) of monasteries, for use by those communities. The rise of universities in towns such as Paris and Bologna in the 13th century created wider demand for book ownership, and the commercial book industry was born.

The 14th and 15th centuries were the high point of manuscript book production in Western Europe. Personal prayer books, in particular, were often lavishly illustrated with miniatures (Latin: miniare, ‘to colour with red’) and gold-leaf illumination, and prized as much for their beauty as for their spiritual purpose.

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Flavius JOSEPHUS

(c. 37–100)

The Jewish Wars

Spain, 15th century

RARES 091 J77

Josephus, a Jewish priest and historian, helped lead the revolt against the Romans in 66–70 CE before changing sides. Later rewarded with Roman citizenship, he wrote this history describing the fate of the Jewish people and the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. His account of the early Christian Church ensured the preservation of his books in Christian libraries. This is a fine Spanish manuscript and rare outside of Spain, where the great medieval libraries have largely remained intact. It was purchased by this library in 1949.

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Book of Leviticus, Vulgate Bible

France, early 14th century

RARES 096 B47L

In the 4th century, the theologian Jerome translated the texts of the Christian Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin (the ‘vulgar’ or common scholarly tongue of his day, hence ‘Vulgate Bible’). This manuscript contains the Book of Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament. It was made in the 14th century for use by a student, probably at the University of Paris. Included with the biblical text are a 9th-century glossary by Walafridus Strabo and a commentary by Archbishop Raban of Mainz. The student has added his own notes in the wide margins.

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JEROME

(c. 347–420)

Commentaries on Isaiah

Roermond, Limburg, 1497

RARESF 096 J483

This manuscript is a beautiful example of the quirky marginalia that decorate many religious books made in the medieval period. Humour lies in the contrast between a serious religious text and the riotous behaviour of the creatures frolicking in its margins, and it reminds us that medieval people’s lives were less rigidly compartmentalised than our own. Monkeys in particular were often used as satirical commentary on human behaviour, their ‘aping’ a mirror in which we might see and laugh at ourselves.

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Leaf from an antiphonal

Central or north Italy, late 13th – early 14th century

RARESEF 096 R66L

This leaf comes from a large book used by a group of people for singing religious music together. Before the invention of ‘neumes’ (the representation of a single note), music in Europe was learned orally and chanted from memory. Initially, neumes were written above the relevant words at varying heights, showing only the general shape of a melody. By the time this choir book was made, the system had evolved. By using a four-line stave with a clef marker, scribes could indicate the relative pitch of musical notes, as well as their rhythm and duration.

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The Birth of Print

The end of one epoch is the beginning of another. An elite society gave way to a mass society.
Lucien Febvre

Chinese scholars pioneered printing from woodblocks around 200 CE and from moveable ceramic and metal type in the 11th century. German metalworker Johann Gutenberg (c. 1400–86), who, like all Europeans of his age, knew nothing of these Chinese inventions, is considered the founder of European printing.

Within a decade of Gutenberg’s famous 42-line Bible, German printers were operating around Europe, including in Rome, Venice and Paris. The earliest printed books reflected the black-letter style of German Gothic script. In the 1470s, Venetian printers such as Nicolas Jenson developed typefaces based on Italian humanist scripts (themselves based on Roman scripts), leading to the ‘roman’ typeface still used today.

Books printed before 1500 are known as incunabula, from the Latin for ‘cradle’, referring to printing’s infancy. Manuscript production continued in Europe into the 16th century, but the high costs involved ensured that printing became the pre-eminent technology of the book.

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Bernard of Clairvaux

(1090/1–1153)

Incipiunt contemplationes beati Bernhardi abbatis clarauallis de interiori homine (The Meditations of the Blessed Bernard, Abbott of Clairvaux, on the Interior Life of Man)

Augsburg, Anton Sorg, c. 1475

RARESF 093 C753S

From the beginning of the printed book industry in the 15th century, publishers and bookbinders often reused the expensive materials from older or out-of-date books to subsidise the cost of producing new ones. Fragments of durable vellum (animal skin) were used to line and strengthen the bindings of printed books, and sometimes – as is the case here – to form the binding itself. This leaf from a German antiphonal (a Latin musical text) is not much older than the printed text that it wraps, reminding us of the long overlap between technologies of book production.

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Myrrour of the Worlde

London, William Caxton, 1490

RARES 093 C902C

Published by England’s earliest printer, William Caxton, this is one of England’s first illustrated books. It is an English translation of the French text L’image du monde (1464), which in turn was derived from the medieval Latin text Imago mundi, a genre that conceived of the form of the book as a mirror of divine creation and human endeavour. Myrrour of the Worlde contains an introduction to the history of science, covering geography, economics, music, cosmography, zoology, meteorology and astronomy. These areas of knowledge are personified in the woodblock illustrations.

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Johannes de THWROCZ

(c. 1435–1488)

Chronica Hungarorum (The Chronicle of the Hungarians)

Augsburg, Germany, Erhard Ratdolt, 1488

RARES 093 C883R

This work, by lawyer and courtier Johannes de Thwrocz, was written to celebrate the Christian history of the Hungarians and to flatter their king, Matthias Corvinus. The first edition was printed in Brno (in what is now the Czech Republic) by Conrad Stahel and Matthew Preinlein. This edition, printed ten weeks later by Erhard Ratdolt in Augsburg, was commissioned by Theobald Fegher, a Budapest bookseller. Ratdolt worked in Augsburg and Venice, where he was famous for combining type and woodcuts in an elegant and beautiful form.

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Vocabularius juris utriusque (Legal Vocabulary)

[Strassburg, Georg Reyser, c. 1476]

RARESF 093 C783G

This anonymous collection of legal terms and definitions became extremely popular, appearing in 70 other printed editions between the 15th and 18th centuries. This copy has an early (though not original) binding of blind-stamped pigskin – a heated metal stamp applied to the skin to create a pattern, but not embellished with gold afterwards. The metal corner pieces and central ‘boss’ (known collectively as ‘furniture’) were added to protect the boards of the heavy book from rubbing on desk surfaces. The remains of clasps can also be seen.

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Leaf from Infancia Salvatoris (The Infancy of Christ)

Westminster, William Caxton, c. 1476–77

RARESEF Sticht Coll. (England) 1

This leaf comes from a ‘mystery play’ published by England’s first printer, William Caxton. Mystery plays were dramatic performances of stories drawn from the Bible and other apocryphal sources. This Latin play used non-biblical sources to imagine the childhood of Christ, a subject in keeping with the medieval interest in the human aspect of Christ’s dual nature but about which there is little information in the four Gospels.

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Geoffrey CHAUCER, author

(Died 1400)

Leaf from The Canterbury Tales

[Westminster, William Caxton], c. 1476

RARESEF Sticht Coll. (England) 2

William Caxton brought the technology of printing to England from continental Europe, where he had learned and practised it. He set up his printing workshop in Westminster in late 1475 or early 1476, close to the lucrative customer-base at the abbey. It was here that he produced what is believed to be the first English-language book printed in England: an edition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century poem about pilgrims, The Canterbury Tales. Very few full copies survive, making this leaf a precious fragment.

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The John Emmerson Collection

In 2015, the library received one of the most generous gifts in its 161-year history: the John Emmerson Collection.

Born in Melbourne in 1938, John Emmerson has been described by book historian Nicolas Barker as ‘one of the great book collectors of our time’. He completed a PhD in nuclear physics at Oxford University in 1964, and it was there that he began to collect 17th-century English printed works, especially those relating to Charles I and the English Civil War. Returning to Melbourne in 1971, he studied law and became a leading intellectual-property lawyer.

Ove the next 40 years, Emmerson amassed 5000 rare titles, including early newspapers and political pamphlets; rare literary editions of Milton, Defoe, Dryden and others; and works relating to Charles I. Emmerson died in August 2014.

The people of Victoria are indebted to John Emmerson for his passion and his generosity, which have so significantly enriched our library.

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William CAMDEN

(1551–1623)

The Historie of the Most Renowned and Victorious Princesse Elizabeth, late Queene of England

London, printed by Nicholas Okes, Elizabeth Allde?, Bernard Alsop and Thomas Fawcet, Thomas Purfoot and John Beale for Benjamin Fisher and are to be sold at his shop in Aldersgate streete, at the signe of the Talbot, 1630

RAREEMM 126/6

Elizabeth I of England and Ireland, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, reigned for 44 years (1558–1603), inheriting the crown on the death of her half-sister Mary. Known as the Virgin Queen, she never married and was the last of the five Tudor monarchs. The Elizabethan age is one of the most celebrated periods of English history, particularly due to its influential literary and theatrical scene, led by William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe among others. Throughout much of Elizabeth’s reign, her relative Mary Queen of Scots was a key political rival.

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Thomas HEYWOOD

(1574–1641)

Englands Elizabeth: Her Life and Troubles During Her Minoritie from the Cradle to the Crowne …

London, printed by Iohn Beale for Philip Waterhouse and are to be sold at his Shop at St Paul’s Head, near London-Stone, 1631

The frontispiece to this work about Elizabeth refers to her imprisonment by Mary. Dynastic rivalry was rife in Tudor England, in part due to the fraught legacy of Henry VIII’s multiple marriages. A Catholic, Mary (r. 1553–58) feared an uprising led by her popular Protestant half-sister, so she held Elizabeth under house arrest for most of 1554 in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Before her death in 1558, the childless Mary recognised Elizabeth as her heir.

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William CAMDEN

(1551–1623)

The Historie of the Life and Death of Mary Stuart, Queene of Scotland

London, printed by Iohn Haviland for Richard Whitaker, and are to be sold at the signe of the Kings Head in Pauls Church-yard, 1624

RAREEMM 126/9

Mary Stuart, daughter of James V of Scotland and his French queen, Mary of Guise, was the first cousin once removed of Elizabeth Tudor and a claimant of the English and Irish crown through her grandmother, Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII and sister of Henry VIII. After the death of Mary Tudor in 1558, many English Catholics saw Mary Stuart as the rightful queen, not the Protestant Elizabeth, who they considered illegitimate. Though the two queens never met, their lives were entangled till the end; Mary was executed by Elizabeth in 1587.

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William CAMDEN

(1551–1623)

The Historie of the Life and Death of Mary Stuart, Queene of Scotland

London, printed by Iohn Haviland, and are to be sold by William Sheares in Britaines Burse at the signe of the Harrow, 1636

RAREEMM 114/14

Mary left for France at age five, the promised bride of the French dauphin, and would not return to Scotland until 1561, aged 18 and already a widow. With her French manners and renowned beauty, she was a personal as well as a political rival for Elizabeth. In 1565, Mary married her half-cousin Lord Darnley, a fellow Catholic and claimant on the English and Irish thrones, with whom she had a son, James. Elizabeth, unmarried and childless, would ultimately recognise Mary’s son as her own heir, despite having executed his mother for treason.

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JAMES I

(1566–1625)

The Workes of the Most High and Mighty Prince, Iames by the Grace of God, King of Great Britaine, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c.

London, printed by Robert Barker and Iohn Bill, printers to the Kings most excellent Maiestie, 1616

RAREEMM 324/1

James Stuart became King of Scotland in 1567, when his mother Mary Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate. At the death of Elizabeth I, in 1603, he became King of England and Ireland as well, uniting the three realms under the new Stuart dynasty. He reigned until his death in 1625. A scholarly man, James published works on a variety of subjects, including the divine right of kings,a conception of absolute monarchy that would lead his heir, Charles I, into civil war with the English parliament.

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John THORNBOROUGH, Bishop of Bristol

(1551–1641)

A Discourse, Shewing the Great Happinesse, that hath, and May Still Accrue to His Majesties Kingdomes of England and Scotland, by Re-uniting Them into One Great Britain: In Two Parts

London, printed by R[ichard]. H[earn]. for Charles Duncomb, dwelling in Little-Britain, 1641

RAREEMM 114/16

From 1601, the kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland shared a single monarch, James I (of England and Ireland) and VI (of Scotland). These two crowns remained separate. James unsuccessfully pursued constitutional unification through the English parliament; instead he adopted a new title, King of Great Britain, and a new flag (named for him), the Union Jack, which combines the English St George and Scottish St Andrew crosses. Parliamentary unification occurred in 1707, not to be rescinded until 1999. Today, debate about the political union of Great Britain has been rekindled by Brexit.

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Thomas WATERTOUNE

(Dates unknown)

A Ninuectyue Agaynst Treason

Imprynted at London by Roger Madeley, and are to be solde in Paules Church yearde at the sygne of the Starre, [1553]

RARESEF Sticht Coll. (England) 76

This broadside ballad was printed when Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII, ascended to the English and Irish thrones after the death of her half-brother Edward VI in 1553. Edward had finalised the move towards Protestantism that began during Henry’s reign. Mary sought to reinstate the Catholic religion, sowing the seeds of violent civil discord. This ephemeral printed work, designed to be pasted up in public spaces, emphasises her rightful claim to the throne. It has survived because it was used to line the binding of a book.

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The Michael Abbott Collection

The internationally significant Michael Abbott Collection of South-East Asian manuscripts was gifted to State Library Victoria in 2012. Comprising 50 manuscripts (the majority from Indonesia), the collection includes Qur’ans, commentaries, prayers, stories of prophets and other Islamic texts. They are written in a range of languages and scripts, including Arabic, Javanese and Malay, and a number are housed in hand-tooled leather bindings.

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Muḥammad ibn SULAYMĀN AL-JAZŪLĪ AL-SIMLĀLĪ

(Died 1465 CE / 870 AH)

Dalā’il al-Khayrāt (Prayers for the Prophet Muḥammad)

Turkey, date unknown

Michael Abbott Manuscript Collection

Prayer books have been popular throughout Islamic lands. Transcribing, reciting and listening to the prayer books are considered acts of devotion as well as having talismanic effects. Dalā’il al-Khayrāt, composed in Morocco, is one of the most significant prayer books containing blessings upon and prayers to the prophet of Islam, Muḥammad. This copy was printed in Istanbul, based on the manuscript calligraphed by Nūrī ‘Uthmān, known as Qāyishzādah (1833–1894), a famous calligrapher of the Ottoman Empire.

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A leaf from a Qur’an

Northern India, Bihari script, 16th century

RARESEF 297.122 (15–16th cent.)

This Qur’an leaf is written in Arabic in Bihari script, indicating it originated in northern India. It is a variant of the naskh (cursive) script, which was used in that region between the conquest of Timur (Tamerlane) and the establishment of the Mughal dynasty, during the 14th to 16th centuries. An interlinear Persian gloss is written in red ink. Circular segmented ayah (verse) markers are drawn in black, yellow, blue and red, and the name of Allah is written in red throughout. Extensive insect damage is visible around the edge of the leaf.

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Religions of the Book

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
John 1:1

Many religions are founded on books. The oldest, Hinduism, draws on the Vedas, texts dating back to 1400–1200 BCE. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are often referred to as the ‘religions of the book’, as each has a religious text at its centre: the Torah, the Bible and the Qur’an, respectively. The word Bible derives from biblia, the Greek word for ‘books’. Torah is translated as ‘teaching’ or ‘word’, while Qur’an means ‘to read’ or ‘to recite’.

The rise of new religions has coincided with key moments in the history of the book, such as the development of the codex around the time of the birth of Christianity. Its form assisted the early Church to distinguish itself from Judaism, which used the scroll form for its sacred texts.

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Knox and the Reformation

John Knox is regarded as the father of the Scottish Protestant Reformation. The Church of Scotland followed a more extreme reform than the Church of England, known as Calvinist due to the influence of French reformer Jean Calvin (1509–64). An educated, ordained Catholic priest, Knox converted to Protestantism in 1545.

Henry VIII (1491–1547), who did not consider himself a Protestant, pursued a limited English religious reformation that maintained many Catholic practices while adopting reformist elements, such as vernacular liturgy. Under Henry’s children, England’s religious affiliation alternated: Protestant (Edward VI, r. 1547–53), Catholic (Mary I, r. 1553–58) and finally Protestant again (Elizabeth I, r. 1558–1603).

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In Scotland, Elizabeth’s cousin Mary Queen of Scots (1542–87) maintained the Catholic faith. Protestants were sometimes burnt as heretics, and Knox fled Scotland.

Exiled in England, Knox became Edward VI’s royal chaplain and assisted with the publication of the Book of Common Prayer (1549). When Mary I assumed the throne, Knox travelled to Germany and Switzerland, where he met Calvin. In 1560, the Scottish parliament declared Protestantism the national religion; in the same year, Francis II died. Mary Queen of Scots returned to Scotland in 1561, but did not attempt to re-establish Catholicism. A prolific author, Knox became minister of St Giles in Edinburgh, where he died in 1572.

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The Bible, with handwritten notes attributed to John Knox

Rouen, France, printed at the cost and expence [sic] of Rychard Carmron, 1566

RARESEF 220.52 E66K

This English-language Bible, printed in 1566, was presented to John Knox, the Scottish Protestant reformer, in 1567. When Knox died, in 1572, the Bible passed to his successor at St Giles’ parish (Edinburgh), ‘Mr Carson’, and later to Carson’s widow, a female relative of Thomas Page. Other notes record subsequent changes of ownership and the book’s rebinding in 1845. These detailed notes are characteristic of family Bibles, which often record the births, deaths and marriages of family members, as well as the provenance of the book.

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Carved wooden box (to house a Bible)

Denmark, date unknown

RARESEF 220.52 E66K

At the heart of domestic prayer and record-keeping, family Bibles were highly valued and kept in protective cases, such as this carved wooden box. This box’s Danish inscription refers to the Feast of the Holy Three Kings, on 6 January, the Protestant name for the feast known to Catholics as the Epiphany. While Knox’s Bible entered the library’s collection in this box, it is unlikely to be its original case; Knox had no Danish connections and the box (while designed to hold such a book) is likely to be of a later date.

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Leaf from the ‘Life of St Anastasia’, from a Plenarium (Life of Christ)

Strassburg, Martin Schott, c. 1483

RARESEF 093 SCH7

Leaf from the ‘Life of St Erasmus’, from a Heiligenleben (Collection of Saints’ Lives)

Augsburg, Hans Schoensperger, 1489

RARESEF 093 SCH7

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Kabbalah (הלבקַ), Hebrew for ‘to receive’, is the name given to a mystical branch of Jewish theology that emerged in the 12th century, building on traditions going back to the 1st–2nd centuries. It is often described as ‘esoteric’ thought, meaning it contains knowledge that is only intended for and understood by a small group of people. Kabbalah began as an oral discipline and claims access to the unwritten Torah, that is, the divine revelations granted to Moses and Adam. Kabbalists explore the relationship and possible interactions between the eternal divine (the origin of all life) and the finite expressions of life in the mortal, human world, thus aiming to reveal the meaning and purpose of life.

This display explores printed books from the David Hailperin Collection that relate to the history of this complex and still thriving system of thought.

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Dr David Hailperin (1814–60) was born in Bucharest, Romania, and appears to have served as rabbi there for several years before living in Turkey, where he obtained his medical qualification. Moving to England in the 1840s, he worked as both a merchant and a clairvoyant who claimed magical powers, reflecting his lifelong fascination with esoteric mysticism. Hailperin immigrated to Australia in 1855 and practised as a physician in Melbourne and in Bendigo, where he died from pneumonia. He is buried in the Jewish section of Bendigo Cemetery.

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Dr David Hailperin assembled a remarkable collection of around 160 volumes during his worldwide travels, which he brought to Melbourne in 1855. An eccentric figure, he divided opinion in Victoria’s Jewish community and he struggled financially. Not long before his death, he deposited his books with a pawnbroker to secure a loan of £10. The Rev. Isaac Pulver purchased them, and in 1864 he sold the collection to this library. Comprising codes, responses and commentaries on Jewish religious law, and also works on Kabbalah and mysticism, the David Hailperin Collection of manuscripts and early printed Jewish books is internationally recognised for its rarity and significance.

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Athanasius KIRCHER

(1602–1680)

Oedipus Aegyptiacus (Egyptian Oedipus)

Rome, Vitalis Mascardi, 1653, vol. 2, part 1

RARESF 913.32 K63

The tree has been used as a symbol since the dawn of human history. Its form – with roots, a trunk, branches and leaves – is perfect for representing relational, hierarchical ideas. The earliest practitioners of the Kabbalah, in the 12th century, used the tree as a mental image to organise their knowledge system. The first literal visualisation of a Kabbalic tree appeared in a 1516 printed text by German Catholic theologian Johann Reuchlin. This diagram, the work of the German Catholic polymath Athanasius Kircher, represents his understanding of the Kabbalah of the Divine Name.

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Abraham ben Mordecai AZULAI

(c. 1570–1643

Chesed le-Avraham (Mercy to Abraham)

Amsterdam, Be-vet uvi-defus ‘Imanu‘el ’Atyas, [1685]

David Hailperin Collection, RARES 181.3 AZ85H

Rabbi Abraham ben Mordecai Azulai was born in Fez, Morocco. In 1599, he immigrated to the region known today as Palestine. His work Chesed le-Avraham was published posthumously in 1685. It is a reinterpretation of the Zohar (רהזַֹ, ‘splendor’ or ‘radiance’), the foundational text of the Kabbalah. The Zohar was first written down in the 13th century by Spanish Jewish mystic Moses de Leon, who presented it as the received work of a 2nd-century rabbi, Simeon ben Yoḥai. Today, it is considered a composite work, drawing on texts from many different periods.

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Tobias COHN

(1652–1729)

Maaseh Tobiah (The Works of Tobias)

Unknown place and publisher, [1707]

David Hailperin Collection, RARES 181.3 T55

Born in what is today Poland, Tobias Cohn was one of the first Jewish men to qualify as a doctor in Germany, studying in Frankfurt an der Oder. He later travelled to Padua, Italy, to continue his studies, and ultimately became the court physician for the Turkish Sultan. A leading Jewish proponent of Enlightenment rationalism, Cohn explicitly rejected the occult knowledge system of the Kabbalah. This encyclopaedia of his writings covers diverse topics in the medical and natural sciences, including anatomy, botany, geography and astronomy, as well as theology and metaphysics.

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Naphtali ben Jacob Elhanan BACHARACH

(Active 17th century)

Sefer ‘Emek ha-melekh (The King’s Valley)

Amsterdam, ‘Imanu’el Benvenisti, 5408 [1647 or 1648]

David Hailperin Collection, RARESF 181.3 EL3S

Naphtali ben Jacob Elhanan Bacharach was born in Frankfurt, Germany. He spent some years in Poland training with Kabbalists before returning to his hometown and publishing, in 1648, one of the key texts of the Kabbalist tradition, Sefer ‘Emek ha-melekh. It contains a commentary on the Zohar and on the doctrine of Isaac Luria (1534–72), a mystic whose influential teachings came to be known as the Lurianic Kabbalah. The ornate title page is testament to the Jewish printing industry that flourished throughout Europe and the Middle East in the early modern period.

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Leaf from Constantine Lascaris, Grammatica Graeca (Greek Grammar)

Louvain, Theoderic Martin, 1516

RARESEF Sticht Coll. (Belgium) 467(1)

Leaf from Johann Habermann, Liber radicum seu lexicon Ebaicum (Book of Roots, or Hebrew Lexicon)

Wittenberg, Johann Krafft, 1558

RARESEF Sticht Coll. (Germany) 247(5)

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Sefer Torah scroll with mantle and binder

Lodz, Poland, c. 1939

Parchment, ink, wool and silk

Donated by the Hirsch family & Rose Boltin

Jewish Museum of Australia Collection 1480

Yad (Torah pointer)

England, 19th century

Parchment, ink, wool and silk

Silver, chain attached

Jewish Museum of Australia Collection 493

Loaned by kind permission of the Jewish Museum of Australia

The Torah contains five sacred texts of Judaism, later adopted by Christians as part of their Old Testament. As God’s covenant with the Jewish people, it is the basis for Jewish religious, political and social life. The Sefer Torah is handwritten on parchment made from the skin of a ritually killed animal, then placed on a scroll for public reading in the synagogue. The reader uses a yad (rod with a hand and extended forefinger) to avoid touching the text.

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This Sefer Torah originally belonged to Chaim Menachem Hirsch, who took it from his home in Lodz, Poland, to Palestine in 1923. His son Moshe Baruch Hirsch immigrated to Australia in 1926 and set up an embroidery and clothing manufacturing business in the Telma Building, opposite the Melbourne Town Hall, on Swanston Street. Before Chaim died, in 1938, he gave Moshe this Torah. Returning with it from Palestine to Melbourne in 1939, Moshe designed and made its binder and mantle.

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Qur’an

Arabic manuscript, possibly from East or West Africa, c. mid-19th century

RARESEF 297.8 AR

‘Read in the name of thy Lord …’ The first words of the Qur’an symbolise the central role of the book in Islam. Muslims regard the Qur’an as the sacred word of God (Allah), dictated to the Prophet Muḥammad by the Archangel Gabriel in the 7th century. Calligraphic art venerated the sacred text; as a result, printed Qur’ans did not appear until the 18th century. This 19th-century manuscript copy was housed in a portable leather satchel.

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Titus Flavius JOSEPHUS

(37–100)

A leaf from Antiquitatum Iudaicarum libri XX (The Jewish Wars)

Paris, [Jean Petit] Apud Ambrosiium Girault, 1535

RARESEF Sticht Coll. (France) 425(4)

A leaf from L’histoire de Flaue Iosephe: De la guerre, destruction & captiuité des Iuifs (The Jewish Wars)

Paris, Chez Nicolas Chesneau, rue sainct Iaques, á l’enseigne de l’escu de Froben, & du chesne verd, 1539

RARESEF Sticht Coll. (France) 430(6)‎

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The Midget Library

Glasgow, David Bryce and Son, c. 1895

RARESM 099 M58B

Miniature books are a popular novelty. Their proliferation in the 19th century was in part made possible by new printing technologies, such as stereotype plates and photolithography. At that time, they were often called ‘midget’ books, a word for ‘small’ that derives from the Old English mygg, ‘tiny insect’, and which today is pejorative when applied to a person. The Midget Library comprises 12 reference books, including a Bible; a Qur’an; various dictionaries; a volume of Robert Burns’ poems; and an alphabet of birds and animals.

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The Self and Society

What does it mean to be human? This question has occupied philosophers from ancient Greece to the present day. French philosopher Rene Descartes’ 1637 maxim Cogito ergo sum – ‘I think, therefore I am’ – continues to underpin much of our modern understanding of the self: to be human is to be conscious, both of oneself and of one’s relationship to others.

The books in this display explore the relationship between the individual and society, and the role of self-knowledge in political agency from the 17th to the 20th century.

In the 21st century, the Black Lives Matter movement has confronted the conscious and unconscious racial bias that shapes our political and social structures. As we navigate this and the unprecedented challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic, which likewise tests social cohesion, the title of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr's 1967 book holds renewed resonance: Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

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Michel de MONTAIGNE

(1533–1592)

Les essais de Michel, Seigneur de Montaigne (The Essays of Michel, Lord of Montaigne)

Paris, chez Pierre Lamy, au second Pilier, de la grand Salle du Palais, au grand Cesar, 1657

RAREWKF 844.3 M761E (1657)

French author Michel de Montaigne grew up in a rarefied atmosphere, speaking only Latin at home and being educated at a leading humanist college. His erudition and independent wealth combined to make him the first and one of the greatest essayists, writing on a huge variety of topics. At the heart of all his reflections on the human condition and the possibility of self-knowledge were the attributes of scepticism and doubt; he is famous for his maxim Que sçay-je?, ‘What do I know?’, which appears under his portrait on this title page.

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René DESCARTES

(1596–1650)

Opera philosophica (Philosophical Works)

Amsterdam, Daniel Elsevir, 1677

RARES 195 D45OP

French Enlightenment philosopher René Descartes sought to establish how knowledge can be validated independently of the senses, and therefore how humankind can understand its own consciousness. Popularly, he is remembered for his observation Cogito, ergo sum – ‘I think, therefore I exist’ – which first appeared in a 1637 text. This later edition of his collected works features an appropriate printer’s mark depicting Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, with her symbols, the olive tree (referenced in the motto Ne extra oleas, ‘nothing but the olive’) and the owl.

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François-Marie AROUET, known as VOLTAIRE

(1694–1778)

Oeuvres de M. de Voltaire (Works of Mr Voltaire)

Amsterdam, Jaques Desbordes, 1732

RAREWK 848.5 V88O (1732)

The prolific French writer Voltaire published thousands of works in his lifetime, including plays, novels, poems, histories, essays and scientific treatises. He is regarded as a central figure in the French Enlightenment, whose intense personal individualism was expressed in his writings as an insistence on secular civil liberties. Though he believed in the separate origins of races and occasionally used race to attack his targets, he was an early and outspoken critic of slavery and at the vanguard of liberal European politics.

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Jean-Jacques ROUSSEAU

(1712–1778)

Oeuvres completes de J.J. Rousseau (Complete Works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau)

Lyon, s.n., 1796

RARES 848.5 R76O

The Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was deeply influenced by Voltaire, his elder contemporary. Rousseau’s political philosophy has shaped modern political, economic and educational thought, particularly his Discourse on Equality. Voltaire, however, was unimpressed, and has been judged by many to be jealous of the younger scholar:

No one has ever employed so much intellect to persuade men to be beasts. In reading your work one is seized with a desire to walk on all fours. However, as it is more than sixty years since I lost that habit, I feel, unfortunately, that it is impossible for me to resume it.

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William WILBERFORCE

(1759–1833)

A Letter on the Abolition of the Slave Trade

London, T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1807

RARES 326.1 W64L

William Wilberforce was a leading figure in the English anti-slavery movement that culminated in the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, passed just three days before his death. He was largely motivated by his evangelical Christianity, which was also the driving force behind his involvement in the founding of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Running to 350 pages, Wilberforce’s Letter was aimed primarily at the members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, on whose votes the passing of the Act depended.

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Karl MARX

(1818–1883)

Das Kapital (Capital)

Hamburg, Otto Meissner, 1872

RARES 330.1 M36CA

Karl Marx’s Das Kapital was a cornerstone in the foundation of the communist movement and modern socialism. Marx’s theory of dialectical materialism contextualised capitalism as just one stage in humanity’s economic and social history. Although Marx intended it to be a comprehensive history of capitalism and a critique of its failings, as a dehumanising system, he had published only the first volume when he died. The second and third volumes were edited and published by Friedrich Engels and a fourth by Karl Kautsky.

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Sigmund FREUD

(1859–1939)

Gesammelte Schriften (Collected Writings)

Vienna, Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, 1924–34

YB 131.34 F89G

Sigmund Freud invented the practice of psychoanalysis, a form of talking therapy that investigates the formation of identity. His theories of the unconscious, dreams and psychosexual development continue to be intensely debated, and they have had a profound influence on psychology, sociology, feminism and cultural studies. Gesammelte Schriften was the first compilation of Freud’s writings and includes all his major texts within its 12 volumes. Its frontispiece recalls the famous saying falsely attributed to Freud, referencing his psychosexual theories: ‘sometimes a cigar is just a cigar’.

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Simone DE BEAUVOIR

(1908–1986)

Le deuxième sexe (The Second Sex), vols 1 and 2

Paris, Gallimard, 1949

RARES 305.4 B38D

‘One is not born but becomes a woman.’ French feminist, novelist, critic, activist and existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir’s Le deuxième sexe is a foundational text in feminist thought. She deconstructed the notion of the ‘eternal feminine’ and argued that women have suffered by being perceived historically and culturally as the inferior ‘Other’. This modernist binding was designed by French artist Mario Prassinos.

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Mohandas Karamchand GANDHI

(1869–1948)

The Wheel of Fortune

Madras, Ganesh & Co., 1922

RARES 330 954 G15W

The hand-spun cloth that binds The Wheel of Fortune is emblematic of Gandhi’s political, social and economic ideals. He advocated the practice of spinning – and a boycott of British goods – to revitalise village industries, stem the tide of Western materialism and advance the cause of Indian independence from Great Britain. Khadi (hand-spun cloth) and the charkha (spinning wheel) became symbols of Indian self-rule, with the latter incorporated into the flag of the Indian National Congress. This book was published in the year that Ghandi was jailed for instigating a civil disobedience campaign.

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Martin Luther KING, Jr

(1929–1968)

Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

New York, Harper and Row, c. 1967

RARES 323.173 K58C

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr transformed the African American civil rights movement from one of local protest to what he described as ‘a coalition of conscience’ at a national and international level. In the 11 years to 1968, King travelled more than six million miles, gave more than 2500 public speeches and wrote five books. Where Do We Go from Here? was his last book, published the year before his assassination. Based on his speech of the same title, the work advocated a guaranteed minimum wage for all, regardless of colour.

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Nelson MANDELA

(1918–2013)

I Am Prepared to Die

London, Christian Action Publications, 1970

RAREP 322.440968 M31

‘I am prepared to die’ were the closing words from Mandela’s statement at his trial on charges of sabotage in April 1964. He was already incarcerated, serving a five-year sentence for the crimes of leaving the country illegally and incitement to strike. The 1964 trial resulted in a sentence of life imprisonment. Mandela’s powerful statement garnered support from individuals and organisations across the world, creating the momentum that ultimately ended racist segregation (apartheid) in South Africa. He was released from prison in 1990 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

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The World in a Book

From ancient manuscripts to the digital present, our desire to collect and contain knowledge has been constant. The dictionary, the atlas and the encyclopaedia each evolved to describe aspects of the world: its languages, its physical form, and the histories, cultures and knowledge of its peoples.

Encyclopaedias sprang from the desire of medieval scholars to create a speculum mundi – or ‘mirror of the world’ – in book form, to preserve and reflect theological, historical and scientific knowledge. As the extent of information grew and as trade increased contact between communities, this concept expanded into a wider range of more specialised texts, including dictionaries to define and standardise language, and atlases to record knowledge of the Earth and the cosmos.

In the 18th-century Enlightenment, the encyclopaedia and dictionary were crucial to efforts to replace religion with rationalism, to compile authoritative data and to emphasise a secular history of human achievement – concepts that continue to underpin our organisation of knowledge today.

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John FLORIO

(c. 1553–1625)

Queen Anna’s New World of Words or, Dictionarie of the Italian and English Tongues …

London, printed by Melch. Bradwood for Edw. Blount and William Barret, 1611

RARESF 453 F66

Giovanni Florio, known as John, was born in London, where his Tuscan father, Michelangelo (a Franciscan friar who converted to Protestantism), was tutor to Lady Jane Grey, the ‘Nine Days’ Queen’. On the ascension of the Catholic Mary Tudor to the throne in 1553, the Florios left for Europe. John returned to England in the early 1570s (under Elizabeth I) speaking no English, yet he became its leading humanist scholar. This expanded edition of a dictionary first published in 1598 was dedicated to Queen Anne, the Danish consort of James I of England and Ireland, and John’s pupil.

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Hiob (or Job) LUDOLF

(1624–1704)

Lexicon Aethiopico-Latinum

Frankfurt, the author and Martin Jacquet, 1699

RARESF 492.8 L96

German philologist Hiob Ludolf was reputed to speak 25 languages. He is known today for his pioneering lifelong work promoting Ethiopian languages, culture and history to European audiences. His publications, including this dictionary, remained the foundation for cultural exchange between Ethiopia and Western Europe for more than 150 years. The Ge ez script was first used to write the ancient language Ge ez (which remains the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Coptic Christian Church), but by the 17th century it had been adapted to write related Semitic languages, including Amharic, one of Ethiopia’s principal languages.

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Samuel JOHNSON

(1709–1784)

A dictionary of the English language

London, printed by W. Strahan, for J. and P. Knapton, T. and T. Longman, C. Hitch, L. Hawes and A. Millar; and R. and J. Dodsley, 1755

RARESF 423 J63

In 1746, Samuel Johnson was commissioned by a group of London publishers to produce a dictionary of the English language. Although he estimated the work would take three years, it eventually took eight to produce. The massive two-volume dictionary contained more than 42,000 words, with the definitions being illustrated by more than 100,000 quotes from English authors. Johnson received £1575 for his work. Although not the first English dictionary, Samuel Johnson’s would become the most famous. It provided the basis for all modern dictionaries, until it was superseded by the Oxford English Dictionary in 1928.

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Sydney PARKINSON

(c. 1745–1771)

A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas in His Majesty’s Ship, the Endeavour

London, printed for Dilly and Phillips, 1784

RARECCF 910.41 C771ZPA (1784)

Scottish natural-history artist Sydney Parkinson was contracted by naturalist Joseph Banks to join Captain James Cook’s first South Pacific voyage (1768–71), to record the plants and animals Banks and others collected. In his diary (published posthumously), Parkinson gives us a glimpse of communication efforts between the British and the Indigenous peoples of Australia. These 150 words from the Guugu Yimithirr language of Far North Queensland comprise the first European publication of an Australian Indigenous language.

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Wallpaper made using hand-illuminated marginal decoration from a Book of Hours, Besancon, c. 1430–40, RARES 096 R66HM.

This hand is a mnemonic device from Stephan Fridolin’s Schatzbehalter (The Treasury) (Nuremberg, 1491), RARESF 093 C913K. The system involved a speaker assigning numbered ideas/phrases to each section of the hand, to aid in recalling these ideas/phrases in the correct order when giving a speech.

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This engraving of an elegant lady seated at her writing desk comes from the entry about calligraphy in Denis Diderot’s ground-breaking Encyclopédie, or, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Sciences, Arts and Professions), published in Paris, 1751–72 (RARESF 034 D562).

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In 1543, the publication of Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres) subverted centuries of belief that the Earth was at the centre of the universe. This diagram from the second edition of 1566 ((RARESF 521 C79D) showed the true heliocentric structure, with the Sun at the centre.

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BOOKS AND IMAGINATION

‘For myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end.’

Jorge Luis Borges

Books hold the world’s stories: from the earliest known myths and legends to postmodern fictions. They are also keys that unlock inner worlds. The greatest authors and texts act as literary milestones, signposts marking collective journeys of the imagination.

Imagination begins at childhood. Our earliest experience of reading allows us to travel to new worlds, to inhabit the voices and lives of new characters. As adults, we never lose this sense of discovery, this capacity to journey to other places and times through books.

Books do many things: they entertain us, they give us pleasure, they allow us to escape the everyday, they offer us simple truths. They can also frighten us, or make us see ourselves in a new light. At a fundamental level, books allow us to imagine ourselves as other than who we are.

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Literary Milestones

Throughout history, unique literary works have been created that transcend the place and culture of their origin. Such works speak across language and time, coming to be recognised as universal in their themes.

The earliest narratives were recounted orally, and only later recorded in written form. Epics such as Gilgamesh, Beowulf, the Mahabharata, and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey retain a hold on our imaginations thousands of years after their creation. We continue to marvel at how Shakespeare, writing 400 years ago, could know our hearts so well.

The great narratives, such as those by Chaucer, Dante and Milton, will be reinterpreted and retold by each new generation. They will be refashioned in forms of media that did not exist at the time of their creation. In this way, they will entrance and inspire our descendants, just as they have the generations past.

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George SANDYS, translator

(1578–1644)

Franz KLEYN, artist

(c. 1582–1658)

Ovids Metamorphosis Englished, Mythologiz’d, and Represented in Figures: An Essay to the Translation of Virgil’s Aeneis

London, printed by J.L. for Andrew Hebb, and are to be sold at the signe of the Bell in St Pauls Church-yard, 1640

RAREEMM 146/15

The ancient Roman poet Ovid had completed his magnum opus, the epic 15-book poem Metamorphoses, by 8 CE. It narrates 250 experiences of transformation drawn from Roman and Greek mythology, such as that of Narcissus, who – condemned by the goddess Nemesis to love only his own reflection – is dissolved by the power of this futile passion and becomes a golden-and-white flower. Metamorphoses is one of the most influential literary texts ever composed, inspiring artists and writers from Dante and Chaucer to those of the present day.

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George SANDYS, translator

(1578–1644)

Ovids Metamorphosis Englished, Mythologiz’d, and Represented in Figures: An Essay to the Translation of Virgil’s Aeneis

[Oxford], John Lichfield, 1632

RAREEMM 146/16

Fourteenth-century English author Geoffrey Chaucer had translated sections of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in his own poetry, but the first full English version was a prose translation published in 1480 by William Caxton, England’s first printer. In 1567, Arthur Golding published an influential verse translation in iambic heptameter, which was the edition read by William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser. However, it was traveller and translator George Sandys’ 1621–26 translation in heroic couplet meter that set the new standard for English epic poetry.

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Giovanni Andrea DELL’ANGUILLARA, translator

(1519–1569)

Giacomo FRANCO, artist

(1550–1620)

Le metamorfosi di Ouidio (The Metamorphoses of Ovid)

[Venice], Bern. Giunti, 1584

RAREMM 151/12

Book three of Metamorphoses relates the story of Cadmus, exiled from his home for failing to recover his sister Europa, kidnapped by Jupiter in the form of a bull. With the aid of Apollo, he founds the city of Thebes in Boeotia, Greece. He then slays a murderous dragon, as depicted in the foreground of this engraving. Cadmus is instructed by Minerva to plant the dragon’s teeth, which grow into the warrior race of the Spartans, whose name means ‘sown’. The Spartans then build the citadel, or Cadmea, of Thebes.

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Gavin DOUGLAS, translator

(c. 1474–1522)

The XIII Bukes of Eneados of the Famose Poete Virgill …

Londo[n], [W. Copland], 1553

RAREMM 322/4

Scottish poet and clergyman Gavin Douglas’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid was the first full translation into Scots dialect of a text from classical antiquity. He completed it in 1513 and it circulated in manuscript form until this 1553 printed edition. Published during the brief reign of Protestant Edward VI, references to purgatory and other Catholic beliefs were removed from Douglas’s prologues. Ironically, the flyleaves of this copy are pages reused from an earlier Latin missal. Douglas’s translation attracted praise from 20th-century writers, including Ezra Pound and C.S. Lewis.

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John OLGILBY, translator

(1600–1676)

The Works of Publius Virgilius Maro

[London], sold by Tho[mas] Guy at ye Oxford Arms on ye west side of the Royall Exchange, 1684

RAREEMM 322/8

The Roman poet Virgil (70–19 BCE) was an elder contemporary of Ovid. The Aeneid, written at the end of his life, is an epic poem telling the legend of Aeneas and the founding of Rome. Aeneas is a Trojan prince who survives the destruction of his city by the coalition of Greek states led by Agamemnon and Achilles, in the conflict described in Homer’s Iliad (7th–8th-century BCE). An incident-laden voyage brings him to Italy, where, it has been foretold, he will establish a great civilisation.

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John VICARS, translator

(c. 1579–1652)

The XII Aeneids of Virgil, the Most Renowned Laureat-prince of Latine-poets; Translated into English Deca-syllables …

[Cambridge], printed by T. Buck [and] are to be sold by Ni: Alsop at the Angell in Popes head ally [London], 1632

RAREEMM 322/6

This engraved title page shows the key episodes and characters in the Aeneid. In the lower medallion, Aeneas and his family flee the flaming ruins of Troy, while the upper medallion shows their voyage to Italy. The figures of Aeneas and his Italian enemy Turnus (who Aeneas defeats in the final book of the poem) flank the title text. Above them sit the goddesses who have taken their sides: Venus with Aeneas, and Juno with Turnus. The theme of divine influence on human fate is a constant thread through all classical epic poetry.

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Unknown artist

Exhibition print made from George Sandys, Ovids Metamorphosis Englished, Mythologiz’d, and Represented in Figures: An Essay to the Translation of Virgil’s Aeneis

[Oxford], John Lichfield, 1632

RAREEMM 146/16

Many of the plates – though not this one – in George Sandys’ translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses are signed by German-born, England-based artist Franz Cleyn. The vivid nature of the transformations described by Ovid have made this text popular with artists in every generation.

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Jane Austen

The reputation of novelist Jane Austen (1775–1817) continues to grow with the passage of time. Born into a comfortable, intellectual clerical family, she grew up around the landed gentry whose lifestyle she critiques in her novels.

Austen published her work anonymously, rather than suffer censure for undertaking an activity deemed inappropriate for women at that time; her name never appeared on her books during her lifetime. She is now one of the most highly esteemed English authors, her works continually republished and adapted into new media.

The 1897 boxed set displayed here contains all Austen’s novels, which were first published in the last years of her life and immediately after her death, at the age of just 41: Sense & Sensibility (1811), Pride & Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815), Northanger Abbey (1817) and Persuasion (1817). Published by J.M. Dent, this set was the first edition to illustrate her novels in colour. It includes a travelling case, designed to allow the reader to easily take these volumes with her on the road.

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Jane AUSTEN

(1775–1817)

Endpapers of Northanger Abbey

Sense & Sensibility, vol. 1

From The Novels of Jane Austen, edited by Reginald Brimley Johnson, with coloured illustrations by C.E. and H.M. Brock

London, J.M. Dent, 1897

Rare Books Collection

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Jane AUSTEN

(1775–1817)

Pride & Prejudice, vol. 2

Sense & Sensibility, vol. 2

From The Novels of Jane Austen, edited by Reginald Brimley Johnson, with coloured illustrations by C.E. and H.M. Brock

London, J.M. Dent, 1897

Rare Books Collection

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Jane AUSTEN

(1775–1817)

Travelling case for The Novels of Jane Austen, edited by Reginald Brimley Johnson, with coloured illustrations by C.E. and H.M. Brock

London, J.M. Dent, 1897

Rare Books Collection

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Jane AUSTEN

(1775–1817)

Pride & Prejudice, vol. 1

Mansfield Park, vol. 1

From The Novels of Jane Austen, edited by Reginald Brimley Johnson, with coloured illustrations by C.E. and H.M. Brock

London, J.M. Dent, 1897

Rare Books Collection

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Jane AUSTEN

(1775–1817)

Emma, vol. 1

Mansfield Park, vol. 2

From The Novels of Jane Austen, edited by Reginald Brimley Johnson, with coloured illustrations by C.E. and H.M. Brock

London, J.M. Dent, 1897

Rare Books Collection

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Jane AUSTEN

(1775–1817)

Endpapers of Emma, vol. 2

Persuasion

From The Novels of Jane Austen, edited by Reginald Brimley Johnson, with coloured illustrations by C.E. and H.M. Brock

London, J.M. Dent, 1897

Rare Books Collection

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James ANDREWS, artist

(1801–1876)

William Home LIZARS, engraver

(1788–1859)

Portrait of Jane Austen

Exhibition print from James Edward Austen-Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen, by Her Nephew, London, Richard Bentley, 1870

RARES 928.23 AU7L

The only authenticated portrait of Jane Austen is a watercolour-and-pencil sketch by her sister, Cassandra, painted in 1810. Jane and Cassandra’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh (son of their brother James) commissioned James Andrews to paint a new portrait based on Cassandra’s original, which was then turned into an engraving by William Home Lizars and used as the frontispiece of Austen-Leigh’s biography of Jane.

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The Eragny Press

Lucien Pissarro (1863–1944), son of the impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), moved to London and founded the Eragny Press with his wife, Esther, in 1894. The press, named for the Normandy village from which the Pissarro family came, was inspired by William Morris’s Kelmscott Press and the English Arts and Crafts movement.

Lucien’s initial training was as a painter and engraver, and he and Esther had to teach themselves how to be printers and publishers. Lucien designed the majority of illustrations in the books, some after works by Camille, while Esther engraved many of the decorative borders and initials on wood.

Eragny Press books are renowned for the harmony of their typography and illustration, and the press’s use of colour wood engravings provided its books with a style distinct from other English private presses of the period. Though the venture was rarely profitable, Lucien and Esther nonetheless managed to publish 32 Eragny titles before closing the press in 1914.

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John MILTON

(1608–1674)

Areopagitica: A Speech of Mr. John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing, to the Parlament of England

London, Eragny Press, 1904

RARES ERLMI

John Milton’s Areopagitica was first published in 1644, during the English Civil War. Drawing its title in part from a speech made by the 4th-century BCE Athenian orator Isocrates, Milton argued passionately against a censorious 1643 regulation requiring authors to seek government approval before they could publish. This Eragny Press edition, which follows closely the text and spelling of Milton’s original, features elegant borders and initials designed by Lucien Pissarro and engraved on wood by his wife, Esther.

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Laurence BINYON

(1869–1943)

Dreams Come True: Poems

London, Eragny Press, 1905

RARES 821.912 B51D

Poet, dramatist and artist Laurence Binyon is best known for his 1914 poem ‘For the Fallen’, still used today at Remembrance Day services, including Australia’s Anzac Day. This Eragny Press edition contains 16 poems by Binyon, who also designed the volume’s woodcut frontispiece. Produced in an edition of 175 copies, it features decorations by Lucien Pissarro, engraved by Esther Pissarro, and is bound in original floral-pattern-paper boards.

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Diana WHITE, translator

(1868–1950)

The Descent of Ishtar

London, Eragny Press, [1903]

RARES 094 ER1W

Diana White was both an artist and a translator. She and Esther Pissarro met while studying together at the Crystal Palace School of Art and remained lifelong friends. White’s translation of the tale of Ishtar’s descent into the underworld is based upon surviving Sumerian and Akkadian versions that date back to the second millennium BCE. For this edition, White designed the frontispiece, which was engraved on wood by Esther. It was produced in 226 copies, and the book’s initials and borders were designed by Lucien Pissarro and engraved in wood by Esther.

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Christina Georgina ROSSETTI

(1830–1906)

Verses

London, Eragny Press, [1906]

RARES 821.8 R7352V

The poems in the volume Verses were written by Christina Georgina Rossetti during her early teenage years, and privately printed by her grandfather Gaetano Polidori in 1847. This Eragny Press edition was the first republication of the poems and closely followed Polidori’s original, which had long been out of print and become rare on the market. Aside from her own writings, Christina Rossetti is also known for having modelled for a number of famous pre-Raphaelite paintings by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

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Pierre de RONSARD

(1524–1585)

Choix de sonnets de P. de Ronsard (Selected Sonnets by P. de Ronsard)

London, Eragny Press, en vente chez Hacon & Ricketts, 1902

RARES 841.3 R6697C

The 16th-century French poet Ronsard, one of Lucien Pissarro’s favourite writers, is best known for his verses on classical themes of nature, love and wine. Choix de sonnets, which features a selection of his love poems, was assembled by Pissarro drawing upon three of Ronsard’s best-known cycles of sonnets. Pissarro designed and engraved the image ‘Girl picking flowers’, used for the frontispiece to the book, and he also designed the borders and initials used throughout, which were engraved by Esther Pissarro.

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Robert BROWNING

(1812–1889)

Some Poems

London, Eragny Press, 1904

RARES 094 ER1B

Robert Browning is considered one of the great poets of the Victorian era. For this edition of Browning’s poems, Lucien Pissarro designed and engraved the frontispiece, printed in five colours, and he contributed designs for the nine-line initial letters, which were then engraved on wood by Esther Pissarro. The book was produced in 215 paper copies, with a further 11 copies printed on vellum.

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François VILLON

(1431–1463)

Ls ballades de maistre François Villon (The Ballads of Master François Villon)

London, Eragny Press, 1900

RARES 841.2 V719B

François Villon is the most celebrated French poet of the late medieval period, known for his brushes with the law, about which he often wrote. His work found later admirers in poets such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Swinburne, and even influenced the lyrics of Bob Dylan. For this Eragny Press edition, produced in 226 copies, Lucien Pissarro designed the borders and initials, which were engraved on wood by Esther Pissarro.

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Émile VERHAEREN

(1855–1916)

Les petits vieux (The Little Old Ones)

London, Eragny Press, 1901

RARES 841.89 V58P

Émile Adolphe Gustave Verhaeren was a Belgian poet and art critic, considered one of the founders of the Symbolist movement. Nominated a number of times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, he died tragically in 1916 when he fell under a train at Rouen station while trying to board. This Eragny Press edition of his work is printed in red and black, with a wood-engraved colour frontispiece and decorative initials designed by Lucien Pissarro and engraved by both Lucien and Esther Pissarro.

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Geoffrey CHAUCHER

(c. 1340s–1400)

Proof print from The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer Now Newly Imprinted

Hammersmith, printed by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, 1896

MS SEQUENCE (International Box 12/5)

William Morris’s Kelmscott Press was a major influence on Lucien and Esther Pissarro when they set up their Eragny Press in London in 1894. This wood engraving by William Harcourt Hooper is a proof print of a design by Edward Burne-Jones, produced to illustrate the Prioress’s tale from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. The Kelmscott Chaucer, as the deluxe publication is often referred to, was the last great work from the press and is considered its crowning achievement.

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William CAXTON

(c. 1422– c. 1491)

Proof print from The History of Godefrey of Boloyne and of the Conquest of Jerusalem

Hammersmith, printed by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, 1893

MS SEQUENCE (International Box 12/5)

This proof print of wood engravings of five border decorations was made after designs by William Morris. It was produced to accompany the decorated initials in the Kelmscott Press edition of Godefrey of Boloyne, a work originally edited and printed by William Caxton in 1481.

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The Pirates of Publishing

Unauthorised editions, or pirated printings of books, have long been a feature of the book trade. Throughout the 18th century it was common for pirate printers to operate at the geographical peripheries of the major book markets. For instance, printers in Ireland and Scotland regularly issued unauthorised editions of books published in London.

In the 19th century, many American publishers took advantage of lax international copyright law to issue inexpensive editions of works by prominent English authors. While the earliest attempts to safeguard intellectual property date as far back as 1481, the long history of pirated editions demonstrates that such breaches were generally difficult to police. In 1886, the Berne Convention was established to provide protection in all member states for every production in the literary, scientific and artistic domains.

Despite this, however, publishing pirates have continued to ply their trade. The material shown in this case demonstrates that piracy was alive and well throughout the 20th century.

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Samuel ROTH, editor

(1893–1974)

Two Worlds Monthly

New York, Two Worlds Publishing Company, 1926–27

Rare Bokks Collection

New York publisher Samuel Roth began printing James Joyce’s Ulysses in his magazine Two Worlds Monthly in 1926, despite the novel being banned in America. As Roth had neither sought Joyce’s permission nor paid for reproduction rights his actions triggered a letter of protest signed by 167 authors, including Virginia Woolf and T.S. Eliot, in support of Joyce. While the book’s ban prevented Joyce from taking out copyright in America, he eventually won an injunction against Roth publishing the work.

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Ezra POUND

(1885–1972)

he Cantos of Ezra Pound: CX–CXVI

New York, Fuck You Press, 1967

RARES

Ezra Pound began publishing his Cantos sequence in 1925. Cantos CX–CXVI were the final poems to appear in the series. Pound had been reluctant to publish them, until his hand was forced by the appearance of this pirated and mimeographed edition in 1967, issued in 300 copies by Ed Sanders’ Fuck You Press. It features a cover illustration by Joe Brainard. James Laughlin, Pound’s publisher at New Directions, subsequently pushed for him to issue an authorised edition, which appeared in 1969.

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James JOYCE

(1882–1941)

Poems Penyeach

San Francisco, [City Lights Books, 1966]

RAREP 821.912 J85P

Pomes Penyeach is a collection of 13 short poems, composed during the period 1904 to 1924, by the novelist James Joyce. It was originally published in Paris in 1927 by Shakespeare and Co., which had previously issued Ulysses. This pirated edition was published in San Francisco in the 1960s. While there is no publisher attribution, it is known to have been issued by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books.

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Ernest HEMINGWAY

(1899–1961)

The Collected Poems of Ernest Hemingway

San Francisco, [City Lights Books], 1960

RAREP 811.5 H37C

Ernest Hemingway’s first published work, Three Stories & Ten Poems, was published by expatriate American writer Robert McAlmon in Paris in 1923, in an edition of just 300 copies. This 1960 unauthorised printing of Hemingway’s poetry, issued in the year before his death, reproduces those original ten poems, along with a further six uncollected poems. Although no printer’s name appears on the publication, the design bears a striking resemblance to the well-known San Francisco publisher City Lights Books.

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Bob DYLAN

(Born 1941)

Tarantula

[Madison, Wis., no publisher, c. 1970]

RAREP 811.54 D992T

Bob Dylan’s Tarantula, a book of experimental prose poetry, was written in 1966. Dylan’s motorcycle accident in July that year, delayed editing and publication of the work, by which time he had lost confidence in it. Already, however, early page proofs had leaked onto the market and a number of ‘bootleg’, or unauthorised, editions began to circulate. These underground printings of the work finally convinced to Dylan to agree to the book’s publication, and Tarantula officially appeared in 1971. Despite this, unauthorised printings continued to circulate.

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J.D. SALINGER

(1919–2010)

The Complete Uncollected Stories of J.D. Salinger

[California?, publisher not identified, 1974]

RARES 813.54 S33C

The reclusive author of Catcher in the Rye refused to allow the majority of his stories, published in magazines from the early 1940s onwards, to be reprinted. These two unauthorised works, published in 1974, contain 22 such stories, several referencing well-known Salinger characters such as Seymour Glass and Holden Caulfield. Their appearance led Salinger to break his silence, publicly denouncing the publications. The volumes conclude with Salinger’s last published story, ‘Hapworth 16, 1924’, which appeared in the New Yorker in 1965.

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Phillip [sic] ROTH

(1933–2018)

Portnoy’s Complaint

[Melbourne, no publisher, 1970]

RARES 813.54 R74PP

Gift of Andrew Richards, 2019

Philip Roth’s novel was officially banned in Australia soon after its American publication in 1969, preventing importation of the book. To circumvent this, Penguin Books printed a local edition, but subsequently found itself prosecuted. During the trial, a number of literary authors, including Patrick White, spoke in the book’s defence, and the ban was eventually lifted in June 1971. This unauthorised samizdat edition, few copies of which have survived, is believed to have been produced in Melbourne in 1970. Its amateur nature is testified by the misspelling of Philip Roth’s name on the cover.

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Thomas PYNCHON

(Born 1937)

Low-lands

London, Aloes Books, 1978

RAREP 813.54 P99L

Mortality and Mercy in Vienna

London, Aloes Books, [1976]

RAREP 813.54 P99MO

Thomas Pynchon published six short stories in magazines prior to his first novel, V (1963). In the 1970s, Jim Pennington, who ran Aloes Books in London, began printing them, without permission, as a series of pamphlets. For most avid readers, these Aloes editions were the sole means by which they could read Pynchon’s early work. Their appearance eventually led Pynchon to acquiesce to official publication, and five of the stories were collected and officially published in 1984 under the title Slow Learner.

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Sylvia PLATH

(1932–1963)

Three Women

[Oakland, Ca.?, no publisher, 1970? or 1975?]

RAREP 811.54 P69T

Sylvia Plath’s radio play Three Women was first broadcast on the BBC on 19 August 1962. Framed as a verse drama for three voices and set in a maternity ward, it was written just a few months after the birth of Plath’s second child, Nicholas. The play was later included in her posthumous publication Winter Trees (1971). This pirated edition is believed to have been issued in California in the 1970s and features a striking cover image by German artist Kathe Kollowitz (1867–1945).

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Bob DYLAN

(Born 1941)

Great White Wonder

[Los Angeles, Trademark of Quality, 1969]

Rare Books Collection

Bob Dylan’s Great White Wonder is considered the first major bootleg, or unauthorised, vinyl recording. The double-album includes songs Dylan recorded in an apartment in Minneapolis in 1961, along with songs he recorded with the Band in 1967, known as the Basement Tapes. It surfaced in 1969, under the imprint Trademark of Quality, run by two Los Angeles music insiders known as Dub and Ken. The album’s financial success led to a spate of bootleg recordings of major rock acts in the 1970s.

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Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac (1922–69), along with poet Allen Ginsberg and novelist William Burroughs, was a leading light of the 1950s Beat movement. Kerouac reputedly coined the term ‘Beat’ in the late 1940s to describe a postwar beaten generation, though he later emphasised the ‘beatific’, or visionary, aspect of the term.

Beat literature’s defining moment came in 1957 with the publication of Kerouac’s novel On the Road, a semi-fictionalised account of a road trip he made across America in the late 1940s with friend Neal Cassady, immortalised in the novel as Beat hero Dean Moriarty. Kerouac had originally typed his novel onto a 120-foot-long scroll over a three-week period in 1951, intending his spontaneous and rhythmic prose to be the literary equivalent of jazz improvisation.

The book brought Kerouac instant fame and he went on to publish a further 12 fictional works prior to his death, at age 47, in 1969.

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Jack KEROUAC

(1922–1969)

On the Road

New York, Viking Press, 1957

RARE 811.54 K45O (1958 printing)

On the Road

London, Andre Deutsch, 1968

RARE 813.54 K45O (1968)

On the Road

London, Andre Deutsch, 1958

RARES 813.54 K45O (1959)

On the Road

New York, New American Library, 1960

RARES 813.54 K45O (1960)

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Jack KEROUAC

(1922–1969)

Dharma Bums

London, Andre Deutsch, 1959

RARES 813.54 K45DH (1959)

Dharma Bums

London, Pan Books, 1962

RARES 813.54 K45DH

Dharma Bums was another of Kerouac’s semi-fictionalised accounts. It is set in the period after the events recounted in On the Road and explores the duality of his life at that time, pitting his love of the outdoors against his city life of jazz clubs and poetry readings. Kerouac based the book’s narrator on himself, while the other main protagonist, Japhy Ryder, is based on Beat poet Gary Snyder. The book’s final sections poetically describe Kerouac’s time as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak, in Washington State.

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Jack KEROUAC

(1922–1969)

The Subterraneans

New York, Avon, 1959

RARES 813.54 K45S (1959)

The Subterraneans

London, Andre Deutsch, 1960

RARES 813.54 K45S (1960)

The Subterraneans is a semi-fictionalised account of a relationship Kerouac had with Alene Lee in Greenwich Village in 1953. For the novel, he moved the setting to San Francisco and renamed her character Mardou Fox. Thinly disguised portraits of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg feature in the book. A film version starring George Peppard and Leslie Caron appeared in 1960, illustrating the way in which Hollywood traded on the growing popularity of the Beat movement.

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Jack KEROUAC

(1922–1969)

Maggie Cassidy

New York, Avon, 1959

RARES 813.54 K45MA

Book of Dreams

San Francisco, City Lights Books, 1961

RARES 818.5403 K45B

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Jack KEROUAC

(1922–1969)

Doctor Sax: Faust, Part Three

New York, Grove Press, 1959

RARES 813.54 K45DO

Doctor Sax: Faust, Part Three

London, Andre Deutsch, 1977

RARES 813.54 K45DO (1977)

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Jack KEROUAC

(1922–1969)

Tristessa

London, World Distributors, 1963

RARES 813.54 K45T (1963)

Tristessa

New York, Avon Book Division, 1960

RARES 813.54 K45T

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Jack KEROUAC

(1922–1969)

Big Sur

New York, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, [1962]

RARES 813.54 K45B

Big Sur

London, New English Library Ltd, 1965

RARES 813.54 K45B (1965)

Big Sur is a key work in Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical cycle of novels, often referred to as the Dulouz legend. It recounts several trips he made to a cabin in Big Sur, northern California, owned by friend and Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Kerouac’s fictional alter-ego Jack Dulouz, battling an addiction to alcohol, retreats to the cabin to find solace in the surrounding wilderness. The novel explores the dark side of the public fame that came his way with the success of On the Road.

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Jack KEROUAC

(1922–1969)

Scattered Poems

San Francisco, City Lights Books, 1971

RAREP 811.54 K45S

Lonesome Traveller

New York, Ballantine Books, 1973

RARES 813.54 K45K

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Albert TUCKER, photographer

(1914–1999)

Jack Kerouac in Tucker’s Apartment, Charles Street, Greenwich Village, New York with Cindy Lee (Girlfriend of Robert Graves), at 2am 1959

Photographic print, gelatin silver

H2010.72/51

Melbourne artist Albert Tucker was closely associated with the Angry Penguins group of artists. In 1947, he left Australia to travel to Japan, before moving to Europe where he resided for some ten years. In 1958, he sailed for New York, where he lived and painted for several years, prior to returning to Australia in 1960. While in New York, Tucker mixed with artists and writers, including Jack Kerouac, as evidenced by this portrait of the author, which he shot in his Greenwich Village apartment.

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Poster advertising performance of The Beatification of Sal Paradise at the Continental Cafe, Prahran, Victoria 1995

Offset lithographic print

H2010.95/14

Gift of Mario de Pasquale and Mario Maccarone, founders of the Continental Cafe

Beat writers, including Jack Kerouac, exerted an influence on Australian writers and poets from the 1960s onwards. This poster was produced to advertise a local theatrical adaptation of Kerouac’s novel On the Road, created by Paul Bonet and Simon-Peter Fahey. The production, directed by Cameron Mellor and produced by Miche Bonet, starred Bonet and Fahey, and ran for four nights at the Continental Cafe, in Prahran in 1995. Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s fictional alter-ego, is the narrator of On the Road.

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Margaret Atwood

Novelist, poet, essayist and activist Margaret Atwood (born 1939) is considered one of Canada’s greatest writers. Her first two poetry collections, Double Persephone (1961) and The Circle Game (1964), won awards, as have many of her later novels. She has twice won the Booker Prize, most recently in 2019 for The Testaments. A prolific author, she has published more than 60 titles to date.

Her earliest novels, such as Edible Woman (1969), Surfacing (1972) and Life Before Man (1979), explored the female experience, in particular issues around identity and the construction of gender. The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) extended these themes into speculative and dystopian territory, imagining the existence of a future America run by a totalitarian regime that has arisen in response to a fertility crisis. The novel was recently translated into a successful television series.

This collection of Margaret Atwood first editions was donated by Judge Graham Anderson.

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Margaret ATWOOD

(Born 1939)

The Testaments

London, Chatto & Windus, 2019

Limited edition of 100 signed and numbered copies

RAREGAA 813 AT9T

The Edible Woman

London, Deutsch, 1969

RAREGAA 813 AT9E

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Margaret ATWOOD

(Born 1939)

Alias Grace, 1996

Bluebeard’s Egg, 1987

Bodily Harm, 1982

Bones and Murder, 1995

Bottle, 2004

Cat’s Eye, 1989

Dancing Girls and Other Stories, 1982

The Edible Woman, Surfacing, Lady Oracle, 1987

Good Bones, 1992

The Journals of Susanna Moody, 1970

Lady Oracle, 1977

The Labrador Fiasco, 1996

Moral Disorder, 2006

Murder in the Burned House, 1995

Murder in the Dark, 1983, 1984, 1994

Negotiating with the Dead, 2002

Oryx and Crake, 2003

Penelopiad, 2005

Payback, 2008

Surfacing, 1973

The Tent, 1996

The Door, 2006

Graham and Anita Anderson Collection

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Margaret ATWOOD

(Born 1939)

Surfacing

Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, [1972]

RAREGAA 813.54 AT9S (CAN)

Selected Poems 1965–1975

Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co.,1976

RAREGAA 813.54 AT9SP

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Margaret ATWOOD

(Born 1939)

Life Before Man

London, Jonathan Cape, 1980

RAREGAA 813 AT9LI

The Handmaid’s Tale

London, Jonathan Cape, 1986

RAREGAA 813 AT9H (1986/UK)

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Margaret ATWOOD

(Born 1939)

The Robber Bride

London, Bloomsbury, 1993

RAREGAA 813 AT9RO (UK)

The Blind Assassin

London, Bloomsbury, 2000

RAREGAA 813 AT9BL

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Margaret ATWOOD

(Born 1939)

Year of the Flood

London, Bloomsbury, 2009

RAREGAA 813 AT9Y (UK)

The Testaments

London, Chatto & Windus, 2019

RAREGAA 813 AT9T

Wilderness Tips

London, Bloomsbury, 1991

RAREGAA 813 AT9W (UK)

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Poster advertising The Handmaid’s Tale television series 2020

Hulu

Rare Books Collection

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PULP FICTION

The 1950s were the halcyon days for Australian pulp fiction. Import restrictions on American books and magazines in the 1940s and 1950s created an opportunity for local publishers to meet the growing demand for American-style commercial novels.

Sydney publishers such as Horwitz and Cleveland led the way, developing stables of writers capable of producing books to order, with strikingly designed covers. The ever-popular Larry Kent series ran to more than 400 titles, while Alan Yates, writing under the pseudonym Carter Brown, issued some 300 crime novels in the 30 years between 1954 and 1984. The stories were predominantly set on the mean streets of America.

With the arrival of television and the lifting of import restrictions, in 1959, the demand for locally produced pulp fiction declined. The next generation of ‘gumshoes’ – characters such as Cliff Hardy and Phryne Fisher – plied their trade in distinctly local settings, a sign of Australia’s growing cultural confidence.

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In 1994, the library acquired the Ken Pound Collection of Children’s Literature, a collection of almost 25,000 Australian children’s books. The collection is unique in comprehensively documenting the many variant editions and impressions of the Australian classics. It contains up to 100 versions of a single work, all different, reflecting changes in public taste, book production standards and social attitudes over the years. The collection is particularly strong in the work of early Australian writers such as Mary Grant Bruce and Ethel Turner, boys’ adventure stories, fairy books, Australian bushland books and annuals.

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Poet and critic John Lehmann founded the literary journal New Writing (1936–40), which provided a publishing outlet for his friends Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden, among others of the interwar generation. Between 1938 and 1944, Lehmann was also managing director of the Hogarth Press, which he ran with Leonard Woolf after Virginia Woolf’s death, in 1941.

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Where Imagination Begins

Children’s books are such a significant part of contemporary publishing that it’s hard to imagine a time without them. Yet, they are a relatively new phenomenon.

In ancient times, children listened to oral stories, such as tales of the Trojan War and Aesop’s Fables. During the Middle Ages, too, children read and listened to the same stories as their parents. The production of instructional books for young readers began in the Renaissance, although texts for adults, such as John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563), containing graphic scenes of torture and death, remained popular among children.

The ‘golden age’ of children’s books began in the mid-19th century in England – a period sometimes described as having ‘invented’ the concept of childhood – and saw the rise of the illustrated book. On many children’s bookshelves today, classic illustrated Victorian texts, such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, sit alongside favourites of the 20th and 21st centuries, testament to the transcendent power of well-crafted, well-illustrated stories.

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The period from the 1880s to the 1920s is considered a golden age for the production of illustrated children’s books. It came about largely thanks to the technological innovations pioneered by Carl Hentshcel (1864–1930) and others, which allowed for the accurate and inexpensive reproduction of paintings and drawings in books for the first time. Added to this, prominent illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Thomas Mackenzie, Kay Neilsen, Edmund Dulac, Thomas and Charles Robinson, William Heath and Warwick Goble, among others, were producing their finest work, reinvigorating traditional children’s illustration by drawing upon modern influences such as the Pre-Raphaelite movement and Art Nouveau.

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Arthur RACKHAM

(1867–1939)

Mother Goose: The Old Nursery Rhymes

London, William Heinemann, 1913

RAREJF 398.8 M85R

Arthur Rackham was a key figure in the golden age of illustrated children’s books, illustrating many works from the canon of European fairytales. A master in the traditions of caricature, costume, exaggeration, and the grotesque and imaginative, Rackham had an understanding of the complexities of the colour halftone printing process that ensured faithful reproduction of his original colours. Mother Goose contains 13 tipped-in colour illustrations, reproducing Rackham’s watercolours, along with 67 black-and-white lithographic illustrations throughout the text.

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Arthur RANSOME, author

(1884–1967)

Thomas MACKENZIE, illustrator

(1887–1944)

Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp in Rhyme

London, Nisbet, 1919

RAREJF 398.22 R17A

The story of Aladdin, one of the most popular tales from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, was transformed into rhyming verse by prolific writer, journalist and children’s author Arthur Ransome. Illustrator Thomas Mackenzie brought the verse to life with 12 richly coloured plates in art nouveau style, along with equally intricate yet bold monochrome designs on every other page. This edition is considered one of Mackenzie’s finest works, showing the influence of artists such as Aubrey Beardsley and Harry Clarke.

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Kay NEILSEN

(1886–1957)

Hansel and Gretel

London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1925

RAREJF 398.210943 H19G

Kay Neilsen was a Danish artist who later immigrated to America. He illustrated many collections of fairytales, folk stories and myths and is regarded as one of the great illustrators of the period. Hansel and Gretel, considered his finest work, brings together some of the best-known tales of the Brothers Grimm, including ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Juniper Tree’ and ‘Rumpelstiltskin’. Following his move to California in 1939, Neilsen worked for Walt Disney, providing artwork for several sequences in the animated film Fantasia.

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Grace JAMES, author

(1882–1965)

Warwick GOBLE, illustrator

(1862–1943)

Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales

London, Macmillan and Co., 1910

RAREFJ 895.3 J2311G

Warwick Goble was originally trained at the City of London School and the Westminster School of Art. Like a number of illustrators of the period, Goble was fascinated by Japanese art, an interest he explored more fully in the artwork he created for this selection of 38 Japanese stories collected by folklorist Grace James. Aside from his work as a children’s illustrator, Goble is also prominent for being the first illustrator of H.G. Wells’ novel War of the Worlds.

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Edmund DULAC, artist

(1882–1953)

Sindbad the Sailor and Other Stories from the Arabian Nights

London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1918

RAREJF 892.7 Ar1D

Edmund Dulac was a French-born, British-naturalised magazine and book illustrator, and later stamp designer. His earliest commission came in 1905 when he was asked to illustrate the novels of the Bronte sisters. For his later rendering of the popular Sinbad the Sailor tales, Dulac used imagery and colour to evoke all the mysticism of the Persian legend. He designed the cover with a title in mock Persian lettering, and the bright palette he drew upon for the illustrations expressed his admiration for Persian miniatures.

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Pixie O’HARRIS

(1903–1991)

Sketches from Preliminary Illustrations for a Hospital Wall Mural c. 1940s–1950s

Pencil, ink and watercolour

H2014.292/7-8

Pixie O’Harris (born Rhona Olive Harris) was a Welch-born Australian author and illustrator. A largely self-taught artist, she initially made her name with the 1923 publication The Pixie O’Harris Fairy Book, inspired by English illustrators such as Arthur Rackham. A prolific artist, she produced numerous illustrations for children’s books, magazines, sheet music and bookplates, as well penning many stories and poems. She is also remembered for the many murals she painted in schools, hospitals, nurseries and orphanages.

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Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan (born 1974) is an artist, illustrator, children’s writer and graphic novelist. He was born in Fremantle and currently lives in Melbourne. He began drawing at an early age, his first illustration appearing in the science-fiction magazine Aurealis in 1990, when he was still a teenager. His works include The Red Tree (2001), Tales from Outer Suburbia (2008) and The Oopsatoreum: Inventions of Henry A. Mintox (2012).

His book The Lost Thing (2000), with its visual cues to paintings by Giorgio de Chirico and John Olsen, was later turned into an animated short film, winning an Academy Award in 2011. In the same year, he was awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s most prestigious prize for children’s and young adult literature.

His graphic novel The Arrival (2006) explored the universal experience of migration in wordless images. With its strong contemporary overtones, it has won numerous prizes and is considered a classic work of Australian literature.

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Rather than merely providing visual accompaniment to the stories and fairytales they illustrated, these artists sought to create illustrations that were works of art in their own right. This selection of books on display features some of the most celebrated children’s illustrated books from this golden age.

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Shaun TAN

(Born 1974)

The Lost Thing

Melbourne, Lothian, 2000

RAREJLTF A823.3 T1537L

The Lost Thing is a significant book in Shaun Tan’s career. The story concerns a small boy who comes across a strange-looking creature while out collecting bottle tops at a beach. Feeling sorry for the creature, the boy strives to find out where it belongs. Tan’s striking artwork reflects a diverse range of influences, from Surrealism to the art of John Brack and Edward Hopper. The Lost Thing won many awards and was subsequently adapted for the stage and screen.

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Shaun TAN

(Born 1974)

The Singing Bones (book and box)

London, Walker Studio, 2016

RAREJLTF A823.3 T1537S

The Singing Bones features 75 sculptures by Shaun Tan, created and photographed between 2012 and 2015. They originally grew out of a commission to illustrate a German edition of Philip Pullman’s adaptations of the 19th-century tales by the Brothers Grimm. For this English version, Tan made many more sculptures and engaged scholar Jack Zipes to create new translations of the Grimms’ stories. This limited-edition box set includes a foreword by Neil Gaiman.

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Shaun TAN

(Born 1974)

The Thief and His Master 2014

Paper, clay, print and wax sculpture

H2017.347/106

Gift of Shaun Tan, 2016

This sculpture, made from paper, clay and wax, depicts a hybrid creature with a bird’s head and body, and a dog’s legs. It was created by Shaun Tan to illustrate the Grimm Brothers’ story The Thief and His Master. In the story, the character of the son transforms himself, by turn, into a bird, a dog, a horse, a sparrow, a fish and a fox.

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Shaun TAN

(Born 1974)

The Singing Bones

Crows Nest, NSW, Allen & Unwin, 2015

RAREJLTF A823.3 T1537S

Shaun Tan has acknowledged that the sculptures he created for The Singing Bones drew inspiration from pre-Columbian figurines he saw during a visit to Mexico, as well as Inuit sculptures he came across in Vancouver. With their universal and timeless presence, at once strange and familiar, Tan found in these works a perfect parallel with the people, animals and animal-people found in European folktales. This first Australian edition of The Singing Bones includes a foreword by English novelist Philip Pullman.

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Shaun TAN

(Born 1974)

Sketches for Tales from Outer Suburbia 2008

H2017.347/5, H2017.347/6

Gift of Shaun Tan, 2014

These pencil sketches and notes were created by Shaun Tan in 2006, as drafts for the stories ‘Broken Toys’ and ‘Turtle Rescue’, both of which appeared in his book Tales from Outer Suburbia. The book features 15 illustrated stories, each one recounting a strange event that takes place in an otherwise familiar suburban world.

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Shaun TAN

(Born 1974)

Drafts and production materials for Eric 2010

H2017.349, H2017.347/4

Gift of Shaun Tan, 2014 and 2016

These early draft notes and publisher’s production dummy were created between 2005 and 2009 for Shaun Tan’s Eric.

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Shaun TAN

(Born 1974)

The Arrival

Sydney, Hachette Australia, 2010

Deluxe collector’s edition

RAREJEF A823.3 T1537AS

Shaun Tan’s award-winning book The Arrival, first published in 2006, explores a theme common to much of his work – the universal idea of belonging, which lies at the heart of the migrant experience. Cast as a wordless graphic novel, this tale of a stranger in a strange land drew inspiration from many sources: the sepia tones found in old family photo albums, the visual language of film, photographs of migrant processing at Ellis Island, New York, in the early 1900s, as well as stories of his own family’s migration experience.

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Shaun TAN

(Born 1974)

Eric

Crows Nest, NSW, Allen & Unwin, 2010

RAREFJLT A823.3 T1537E

Eric is a story that originally appeared in Tales from Outer Suburbia (2008). This separately published edition, which contains new artwork and design, recounts the story of Eric, a foreign exchange student who comes to reside with a typical suburban family. The tale explores themes of otherness and belonging, focusing on the various cultural misunderstandings that ensue as the family attempts to adapt to their house guest’s presence.

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Lost Count: A mystery of mutilated books and missing beetles

Museums Victoria

Botanical Art in Books, with Jan MacDonald,

Rare Books Librarian

(4:51 mins)

Artists’ Books, with Des Cowley, Principal Librarian, History of the Book & Arts

(2:36 mins)

Zines, with John Stevens, Arts Librarian

(2:16 mins)

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Shaun TAN

(Born 1974)

Thousand Furs, 2015

The Queen, 2015

Lucky Hans, 2015

Limited edition digital prints, from The Singing Bones

H2017.347/37, H2017.347/32, H2017.347/44

Gift of Shaun Tan, 2017

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The John Emmerson Collection, with Des Cowley, Principal Librarian, History of the Book & Arts

(3:00 mins)

Letterpress Printing, with Caren Florance, artist

(5:55 mins)

The Art of Beatrix Potter, with Juliet O’Conor, Children’s Literature Research Librarian

(2:33 mins)

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EXPLORING THE WORLD

We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot

Books reflect our desire to know the world – to see it, to classify it and to make sense of it. As well as documenting the past, books have always recorded the new. From scientific discoveries to journeys to new lands, books enable novel ideas and information to be shared around the globe.

Before the age of jet travel and mass media, books played a crucial role in making the world accessible to many. Books now share this space with television and the internet, but have not been superseded by them. Because of their physicality – their ability to be held and owned, and their bringing together of word and image – books continue to be central to our lives.

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Europeans in the Wider World

From the dawn of recorded history, around 3100 BCE, to the 15th century, Europeans’ known world consisted of Europe, North Africa, |the Middle East, and Central and East Asia. When Europeans first set sail down the coasts of Africa in the 15th century, and then to the Americas and the Pacific, they brought back strange tales of unknown lands. The accounts published by these explorers gave readers at home a first glimpse of the world – and its peoples and cultures – beyond its previous limits.

The Greek geographer Ptolemy had set out the principles of mapmaking in the 2nd century, but it took another 1000 years before accurate outlines of the world and the heavens began to take shape. Early modern European cartographers gleaned information from ships’ logs and travellers’ tales, gradually filling in the blank spaces of their maps as knowledge became available, aided by technological innovation in navigational and observational tools.

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Owen JONES

(1809–1874)

The Grammar of Ornament

London, Day and Son, 1856

RARESEF 745 J72

Architect Owen Jones was one of the most significant design theorists of the 19th century. His masterpiece, The Grammar of Ornament, intended as a resource for designers in the Victorian era, reflected Jones’ belief that modern design could learn important lessons from the past. The book, which sought to reveal the universal design principles that lay behind all historical ornament, comprised 112 chromolithographic plates illustrating the styles of 19 cultural periods, including Byzantine, Celtic, Greek, Indian, Chinese, Pompeian and Egyptian.

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Owen JONES

(1809–1874)

The Grammar of Ornament

London, Bernard Quaritch, 1868

RARESF 745 J72

Owen Jones developed a strong relationship with the South Kensington Museum (now known as the V&A), established in 1852. Through a series of lectures and articles, he outlined what he considered to be the key principles for the decorative arts, which formed the basis of successive editions of The Grammar of Ornament, such as this 1868 second edition. Jones’ lasting influence can be seen in his student Edward La Trobe Bateman’s decorative schema for the Ian Potter Queen’s Hall in this library.

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Plates from Monumentos arquitectónicos de España (Architectural Monuments of Spain)

Madrid, Imprenta y Calcografía Nacional, 1859–81

H2014.292/7-8

The publication Monumentos arquitectónicos de España represents an ambitious project to document Spain’s artistic heritage. During the 1850s, architectural students were funded by the state to travel throughout Spain to record outstanding monuments. In 1856, a commission to oversee publication of the results was set up, with the initial instalment appearing in 1859. More than 20 years later, the project eventually ceased with the death of editor José Gil Dorregaray, in 1882. The many fine illustrations featured were produced by a variety of techniques, including aquatint, etching, lithography and chromolithography.

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Owen JONES

(1809–1874)

Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra, vol. 1

London, Owen Jones, 1842–45

RARESEF 782.81 J72

Owen Jones is best known for The Grammar of Ornament. His earliest work, however, was this study of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. Jones, with French architect Jules Goury, was the first to make a detailed study of this masterpiece of Islamic design. He and Goury spent some six months there between 1834 and 1837, producing detailed drawings, tracings and casts, later published in two magnificent volumes, using the newly devised technique of chromolithography.

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Owen JONES

(1809–1874)

Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra, vol. 2

London, Owen Jones, 1842–45

RARESEF 782.81 J72

The term ‘Alhambra’ means ‘Red Fort’ in Arabic. While the Alhambra Palace dates as far back as the 9th century, it was largely renovated and rebuilt during the Nasrid Dynasty (1232–1492), the last Muslim rulers of Spain. After the Christian conquest of Spain in 1492, it became the Royal Court of King Fernanda and Queen Isabella. Considered one of the finest extant examples of Moorish architecture and design, it was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1984.

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Mark CATESBY

(1683–1749)

The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands

London, printed for B. White, 1771

RARESEF 574.975 C28

Mark Catesby was born in Suffolk, England, and as a young man was able to pursue his interest in natural history after inheriting a modest fortune. His chosen field was the new British colonies in North America, where he made two long study trips in 1712–19 and 1722–26. To limit the production expense, Catesby engraved the plates himself and did much of the hand-colouring. He also devised the novel approach of combining an animal and a plant specimen within the one plate, sometimes naturalistically but sometimes with surreal results.

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Thomas MARTYN

(c. 1760–1816)

The Universal Conchologist: Exhibiting the Figure of Every Known Shell, Accurately Drawn, and Painted after Nature, with a New Systematic Arrangement, vol. 1

London, sold [by T. Martyn] at his house, no. 25 King Street, Covent Garden, 1784

RARELTEF 594 M36

The 18th century saw a vogue for collecting shells, with major collections formed by scientists and connoisseurs alike, including Sir Joseph Banks, Pierre Lyonet and Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria. Zoologist Thomas Martyn acquired hundreds of specimens from those brought back to England by James Cook’s three voyages around the Pacific; he purchased almost all those from the third voyage. His collection included shells from Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Tonga and the Hawaiian Islands.

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Thomas MARTYN

(c. 1760–1816)

The Universal Conchologist: Exhibiting the Figure of Every Known Shell, Accurately Drawn, and Painted after Nature, with a New Systematic Arrangement, vol. 2

London, sold [by T. Martyn] at his house, no. 25 King Street, Covent Garden, 1784

RARELTEF 594 M36

Thomas Martyn formed an academy of nine exceptional young artists to record his shell collection, intent on producing a new catalogue of shells to appeal to scientists and connoisseurs alike. The resulting two-volume work is a landmark publication in conchology (the study of shells). Its clear and refined taxonomy is enhanced by hand-coloured prints that are limited to no more than two per page, presenting their beautiful details at a larger scale than in previous publications on the topic.

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John WILKES, editor

(1750–1810)

‘1-4. Formation of the madrepora animal. 5-9. Madrepora of the first division’
‘Plate V, Madrepora of the fifth division’

From Encyclopedia Londinensis

London, printed for the proprietor by J. Adlard, Duke-Street, sold by J. White, 1796–1829

RARESEF 508 En192

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The Lyrebird

Birds in the Menuridae family, native to the east coast of Australia, are famed for their shy nature, beautiful tail plumage and ability to mimic sounds. Indigenous names for them include buln-buln, weringerong and woorail. In the early 19th century, they attracted the attention of colonial European naturalists, who called them variously ‘mountain pheasants’ and ‘birds of paradise’.

The first European images of these birds were drawn not from life but from specimens arranged by taxidermists in England, who inaccurately positioned the tail feathers. While sometimes shown curving inward in a ‘heart’ shape (as here), the feathers were also sometimes shown curving outwards, resembling the ancient stringed instrument the lyre, giving rise to the name ‘lyrebird’.

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David COLLINS

(1756–1810)

An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, vol. 2

London, T. Cadell, W. Davies, 1802

RARELTF 919.44 C69A

David Collins sailed with the First Fleet to Ka-may (named Botany Bay by the British) in 1788 and was appointed the judge advocate, administrating civil, criminal and military law. His account of his ten years in the colony was first published in 1798, and was the first substantial published British account of the Gadigal, Wangal, Wallumedegal, Boromedegal, Gamaragal, Borogegal, Birrabirragal and Gayamaygal peoples and their territories. Its second edition, published after Collins returned to England, included an illustrated description of the Maenura superba, drawn from a specimen in the British Museum.

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Jean Baptiste AUDEBERT, author

(1759–1800)

Louis Pierre VIEILLOT, artist and author

(1748–1831)

Histoire naturelle et générale des grimperaux et des oiseaux de paradis (Natural and General History of Climbers and Birds of Paradise)

Paris, Desray, 1802

RARESEF 598.8 AU2

Early European accounts often called these birds ‘Parkinsonian Birds of Paradise’, but not after the artist Sydney Parkinson, the first European artist to visit this land. This early depiction of the bird’s tail by naturalist Louis Pierre Vieillot was produced from a drawing by Sydenham Edwards, who drew the specimen in the collection of Lever Museum, in London. Vieillot named the specimen Le Parkinson mâle in honour of the Lever Museum’s proprietor, James Parkinson, a name widely used until it was replaced by ‘lyrebird’ in

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George SHAW, author and artist

(1751–1813)

Richard P. NODDER, artist

(Active 1793–1820)

The Naturalist’s Miscellany, or, Coloured Figures of Natural Objects Drawn and Described Immediately from Nature, vol. 14

London, printed for Nodder & Co., 1790–1813

RARES 590 SH2N

Doctor and scientist George Shaw co-founded the Linnean Society of London in 1788, and in 1789 was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge (today, simply the Royal Society). In 1791, he became assistant keeper (keeper from 1806) of the natural history department at the British Museum, where he was responsible for specimens of many creatures from the Pacific region, including lyrebirds. The orientation of the tail feathers in the image accompanying his description follows David Collins’ 1802 image.

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George BARRINGTON, attributed

(1755–1804)

An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, A History of New South Wales … from Its Foundation to the Present Time

London, printed for M. Jones, 1802

RARELTF 994.402 B27H

Notorious London pickpocket George Barrington was transported to Australia in 1790. Such was his celebrity that unscrupulous publishers began to use his name in a series of fake histories. By 1793, Barrington had received a pardon and was the superintendent of the convicts at Parramatta. He received no royalties from the publishers for the flurry of books printed under his name, which were loosely based on official accounts. They were a popular success and became widely available, sharing images, such as of this lyrebird, with a fascinated public in Britain.

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Gracius James BROINOWSKI

(1837–1913)

Birds of Australia: Comprising Three Hundred Full Page Illustrations with a Descriptive Account of the Life and Characteristic Habits of Over Seven Hundred Species

Melbourne, C. Stuart, 1887–91

RARELTF 598.2994 B78B

Polish-born Gracius Broinowski studied art and classics in Germany before immigrating to Australia in 1857. He married in Melbourne and took his growing family all around Australia as he painted on commission, eventually establishing himself as a respected artist and lecturer. Broinowski’s most notable achievement was Birds of Australia, issued to subscribers in a sold-out edition of 1000 in 40 parts, comprising 303 full-page colour lithographs, with notes on more than 700 species. Though today considered of little scientific value (unlike the work of his predecessors John and Elizabeth Gould), it remains appealing aesthetically.

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John GOULD, author

(1804–1881)

Elizabeth GOULD, artist

(1804–1841)

The Birds of Australia: In Seven Volumes, vol. 2

London, the author, 1848

RARELTEF 598.2994 G73B0

Ornithologist and artist John Gould began his career as a gardener, before training himself in the art of taxidermy. Following his 1827 appointment as the inaugural curator and preserver at the Zoological Society of London’s museum, he collaborated with artists to publish scientific illustrations. In 1838, he and his wife, Elizabeth, moved to Australia to begin working on The Birds of Australia, one of his key publications about the birdlife of diverse regions.

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John GOULD, author

(1804–1881)

Elizabeth GOULD, artist

(1804–1841)

The Birds of Australia: In Seven Volumes, vol. 3

London, the author, 1837

RARELTEF 598.2994 G73B

The collaboration between John and Elizabeth Gould can be noted in his publication The Birds of Australia, with John’s commentary from ornithological studies paired with Elizabeth’s lithographs. In John’s first publication, A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains, Elizabeth has been credited as the artist. In this publication, the illustrations have been signed with both John’s and Elizabeth’s names.

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Elizabeth GOULD, artist

(1804–1841)

Sombre-coloured Sericornis (Sericornis humilis) 1837–40

Watercolour and pencil

H83.224/1

Elizabeth produced more than 600 hand-coloured lithographic plates while working as the principal artist for her husband. Her skills in lithography owed much to the teachings of Edward Lear, the English artist, author and musician who spent time with the Goulds and contributed to John’s ambitions in ornithological publishing. This watercolour is the original preliminary drawing for Elizabeth’s lithograph published in John Gould’s The Birds of Australia, which can be seen in the case below.

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Recording the Past

Books enable us to journey into the past. Like time capsules, they hold the stories, images and dreams of worlds gone by.

Both the Greeks and the Romans recorded knowledge of past cultures in scrolls and, later, codices. The Library of Alexandria (founded in Greek-ruled Egypt during the 3rd century BCE) was renowned for its collections of historical texts. With the library's destruction in the first centuries of the common era, knowledge of the past declined; it was not until the European Renaissance that much of this information was retrieved, as the philosophies, histories and arts of classical Greece and Rome were ‘reborn’.

French and British Enlightenment-era political leaders, scholars and artists continued this fascination with history, undertaking major archaeological investigations of sites in Egypt, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Such expeditions coincided with a golden age in book production, and there was a strong market for deluxe, lavishly illustrated volumes detailing the wonders of the past.

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Michel Étienne TURGOT

(1690–1751)

Plan de Paris

Paris, 1739

In 1734, Michel Turgot, then provost of the Parisian merchants, commissioned Louis Bretez, a professor of perspective, to draw up a new map of Paris. The Turgot map, as it came to be known, comprises 20 overlapping maps depicting a bird’s-eye, or isometric, view of the first 11 arrondissements of modern Paris. Bretez was given permission, over a two-year period, to enter any building or household to draw up accurate measurements. The maps, engraved by Claude Lucas, provide a detailed record of Paris before its transformation in the 19th century.

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Atlas des anciens plans de Paris (Atlas of Ancient Plans of Paris)

Paris, Imprimerie nationale, 1880

RARESXEF 912.4436 AT6E

Private collection

This volume contains numerous maps of Paris, arranged chronologically, showing the development of the city from earliest times through to the construction of the great boulevards carried out under the direction of Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann between 1853 and 1870. It was one of many volumes about Paris brought to Melbourne and exhibited at the French Court at the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880-81. This significant collection of works, including this volume of maps, was generously donated to this Library by the Government of France at the closure of the Exhibition.

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Charles MARVILLE

(1813–1879)

Rue du Jardinet (du passage Hautefeuille) c. 1853

Albumen silver photograph mounted on card from Photographic Views of Paris, c. 1853–70

H88.19/41

Arts et métiers (ancient modèle) no. 23 [1878]

Exhibition print of albumen silver photograph mounted on card

H2011.78/23

Photographer Charles Marville, whose real name was Charles François Bossu, was the official photographer for the city of Paris. As part of Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s transformation of the city, Marville was commissioned to make a visual record of Paris as it underwent massive urban renewal. During the 1860s, he produced some 425 photographs recording the old medieval streets of the city, along with the newly created grand boulevards that replaced them.

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Recording Nature

When I had hardly yet learned to walk … the productions of Nature that lay spread all around, were constantly pointed out to me
John James Audubon

The book has always accompanied the science of natural history. Illustration in particular has often proved the most effective means of communicating new information to diverse audiences, from professional scientists to interested amateurs. Wildlife art has become increasingly specialised, with ornithological illustration a major area of expertise.

The leaders in this field during the 18th and 19th centuries, the high point of natural history illustration, include Thomas Bewick, John James Audubon, John and Elizabeth Gould and Edward Lear. They are recognised for their achievements in meeting the greatest challenge: creating an image that is detailed and scientifically accurate and that captures the character or life of the creature.

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John James AUDUBON

(1785–1851)

The Birds of America

London, the author, 1827–38

RARESEF 598.2973 Au2

Born in Haiti and raised in France, John James Audubon immigrated to America at age 18. After a failed business venture, he devoted himself to his passion: an ornithological survey of North American birds, funded by subscribers and published in London. His life-size paintings, based on his observations and specimens, were transferred to copperplate, printed and then hand-coloured by a team of artists. A complete edition comprises 435 ‘double-elephant’ folio plates, issued in 87 parts over 11 years.

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John WILKES, editor

(1750–1810)

‘The mountain Kestrel, and crested Fisher Falcon’

‘The Golden Eagle’

‘The Parasite, and furcated Kite of Africa’

From Encyclopedia Londinensis

London, printed for the proprietor by J. Adlard, Duke-Street, sold by J. White, 1796–1829

RARESEF 508 En192

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Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius published the first realistically illustrated description of the Moon in 1647: Selenographia (RARESF 523.3H48), after the Greek goddess of the Moon, Selene. He is pictured in this engraving with one of his telescopes, which he made himself.

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John Johnston’s multi-volume Historiae naturalis (RARESF 599 J64), published in 1657, comes from a period of history when legend, hearsay and scientific observation coexisted in humankind’s knowledge of the natural world. This volume about quadrupeds includes both real and imagined creatures.

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John Gould and Henry Richter worked together on Mammals of Australia, published 1845–63 (RARELTEF 599.0994 G73M) after Gould’s previous artistic partner, his wife Elizabeth, died in 1841. This beautiful illustration depicts the grey-headed flying fox (or vampire bat, in Gould’s day), native to the Australian east coast.

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This magnificent grey-chested bird of paradise comes from John Gould’s last great work, The Birds of New Guinea and the Adjacent Papuan Islands Including Many New Species Recently Discovered in Australia, published 1875–88 (RARELTEF 598.0995 G73B). Also known as Goldie’s bird of paradise, it is native to Papua New Guinea.

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ART AND NATURE

‘The flower painter fails if a work lacks beauty, the botanical artist fails if it lacks accuracy.’

Wilfred Blunt and William Stearn

Botanical illustration unites the scientific with the artistic. Since ancient times, text and image have been used to record observations of nature. The earliest were made in order to discover the medicinal properties of plants.

Thousands of years ago, numerous medicinal plants had already been identified in India, China and Mexico; many are still used today. The Greek physician Dioscorides’ De materia medica (c. 50–70 CE) was the first ‘herbal’, or manual of medicinal information relating to plants, and was a key botanical reference for over 1500 years. With the Renaissance came the first printed herbals, followed over succeeding centuries by the works of the great botanical artists: Ehret, Redouté, Bauer.

Even with today’s photography and digital imaging, botanical drawing remains the finest means of understanding and representing plant life.

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Johann VOLKAMER

(1662–1744)

Nürnbergische Hesperides (Nuremberg Hesperides)

Nuremberg, the author, 1708–14

RARESF 634.3 V88

By the 17th century, it was highly fashionable among the aristocracy in Europe to grow citrus fruits. During winter, the plants were housed in specially built glasshouses, or ‘orangeries’, and then moved outdoors during summer. The term ‘Hesperides’ was often used to refer to citrus at this time. Drawn from Greek mythology, it alluded to the golden apples guarded by the Nymphs of the Sunset Hesperides. Volkamer also depicted the formal gardens of the European estates and houses where such exotic fruits were grown.

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John REA

(Died 1681)

Flora, seu, De florum cultura, or, a Complete Florilege, Furnished with All Requisites Belonging to a Florist

London, printed by J.G. for Richard Marriott, 1665

RARESF 716.2 R22

John Rea’s Flora is considered the most important English horticultural work of the later 17th century, and was reissued a number of times. It was dedicated to Digby Gerard, the son of Baron Charles Gerard, for whom Rea had designed the formal gardens at Gerard’s Bromley Hall, the family’s ancestral seat in Staffordshire. The imposition of symmetrical patterns onto landscapes has long been a symbol for humankind’s control over untamed nature, and the triumph of reason over passion.

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Johannes KIP

(1653–1722)

Britannia Illustrata, or Views of Several of the Queen’s Palaces, as also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility and Gentry of Great Britain

London, David Mortier, 1707–09

RARESF 728.8K62

The Dutch draughtsman Johannes Kip is renowned for his detailed engravings of English palaces and country mansions during the reign of Queen Anne. He worked in collaboration with fellow countryman and artist Leonard Knyff, and they created some of the most important English topographical and architectural publications of the 18th century. Their bird’s-eye views delineate entire estates, including buildings, gardens, orchards and water features, as well as the surrounding countryside. Kip’s enormous body of work provides a record of baroque architecture and the formal English garden, very few of which survive today.

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A leaf from Gart der Gesundheit (Garden of Health)

Augsburg, Hans Schönsperger, 1485

A leaf from Gart der Gesundheit (Garden of Health)

Mainz, Peter Schöffer, 1485

RARESEF 016.58163 N63

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André FÉLIBIEN

(1619–1695)

Description de la grotte de Versailles (Description of the Grottoes of Versailles)

Paris, De l’imprimerie royale, 1679

RARESEF 728.90944 F33D

André Félibien was an official court historian to Louis XIV of France. This work comprises engravings of the fountains and sculptures created for Louis’ gardens at Versailles. Many of the figures depicted are drawn from classical mythology. The Grotto of Thetis, for example, designed by Charles Perrault, was inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphosis and depicts Apollo, the sun, retiring at day’s end to the watery domain of the sea goddess, Thetis. Installed in 1675, it was demolished in 1684 to make way for the château’s expansion.

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Giovanni Giacomo de ROSSI

(1627–1691)

Nuoua racolta di fontane che si vedano nel alma citta di Roma, Tiuoli e Frascati (A New Collection of Fountains One Can See in the Old Cities of Rome, Tivoli and Frascati)

[Rome], Gio[vanni] Iacomo Rossi, [c. 1654–66]

RARESF 714 R73

Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi was a prominent Italian engraver and printer. His press in Rome, originally founded by his father, Giuseppe de Rossi, in 1633, printed etchings for many prominent artists, including Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione and Giovan Francesco Grimaldi. This work depicts some of the elaborate fountains found in Rome and the nearby towns of Tivoli and Frascati, via a striking series of engravings by 17th-century artists Giovanni Maggi, Dominique Barrière and Francesco Corduba.

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Antoine Joseph DEZALLIER D’ARGENVILLE

(1680–1765)

La theorie et la pratique du jardinage (The Theory and Practice of Gardening)

Paris, Charles-Antoine Jombert, 1760

RARES 712 D53

Dezailler d’Argenville was a leading 18th-century French connoisseur of gardening. His treatise on the subject, which covers both theoretical principles and practical applications, was first published anonymously in 1709. The book proved popular and was republished in a number of editions, as well as being translated into English and German. This fourth French edition has been greatly expanded, with the addition of new plates. Dezailler d’Argenville was also a famed collector of art, and later published works on natural history, including a finely illustrated work on seashells.

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André FÉLIBIEN

(1619–1695)

Exhibition print from Description de la grotte de Versailles (Description of the Grottoes of Versailles)

Paris, De l’imprimerie royale, 1679

RARESEF 728.90944 F33D

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Pierre-Joseph REDOUTÉ

(1759–1840)

Les Liliacées (The Lily Family)

Paris, the author, 1802–15

RARESEF 584.32 R24

Pierre-Joseph Redouté was born in Flanders and moved to Paris in 1782 to make his name as a flower painter. Just prior to the French Revolution, he was offered a court appointment to Queen Marie Antoinette. Under the reign of Napoleon, he was commissioned to make pictorial records of Empress Joséphine’s newly established garden of rare plants at Malmaison. Redouté is best known for his masterpiece on the lily family, published in only 200 copies under Joséphine’s patronage.

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John SIBTHORP

(1758–1796)

Flora Graeca (Greek Flowers)

London, printed by Richard Taylor and Co., 1806–40

RARESEF 581.9495SI1F

In 1786, botanical illustrator Ferdinand Bauer accompanied John Sibthorp, professor of botany at Oxford University, on a research trip to study the plants of the Mediterranean region. After producing more than 1500 sketches, Bauer returned to London, where he finished the drawings that formed the basis for Sibthorp’s ten-volume Flora Graeca. The work, completed by James Smith after Sibthorp’s death, contains almost 1000 engravings, mostly by the English artist James Sowerby, after Bauer’s illustrations.

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Susan HAMSON

(Birth date unknown)

Citrus spp. 2008

Watercolour

H2009.140/18

Stephanie GOSS

(Birth date unknown)

Fortunella japonica 2008

Watercolour

H2009.140/15

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Robert David FITZGERALD

(1830–1892)

Australian Orchids

Sydney, Thomas Richards, Government Printer, 1882–93

RARESEF 584.15 F57

Born in Ireland, Robert David FitzGerald immigrated to Sydney in 1856 and established himself as surveyor and naturalist. Published in 12 parts over 11 years, his landmark publication on Australian orchids features lithographic illustrations based on FitzGerald’s detailed dissections and drawings, which were then hand-coloured by a team of artists working to his instructions. It was praised by distinguished English botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker as ‘a work which would be an honour to any country and to any Botanist’, and it brought international fame to both its creator and Australia’s orchids.

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Susan FREBURG

(Birth date unknown)

Anigozanthos 2008

Watercolour

H2009.140/14

Florence MCIVER-JACQUET

(Birth date unknown)

Stenocarpus sinuatus 2008

H2009.140/30

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Wallpaper design by William Morris (1834–1896), from a book of samples acquired by the Library in 1902, RARESEF 745.3 M83.

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THE ARTIST AND THE BOOK

‘The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance’.

Aristotle

Books are valued not only for their content, but as objects of beauty and craft. Since the invention of the codex, artists in cultures around the world have been intimately involved in their production. They have determined the look and shape of books, from papermaking and illustration to design and binding.

In the West, the Industrial Revolution facilitated the mass production of books and a subsequent decline in their quality. In response, artists such as William Morris revived traditional bookmaking crafts, laying the foundations for the fine press movement. Artists today continue to challenge and question the nature of books by working with them as art objects.

At a time when digital forms of information dissemination are presenting alternatives, the book’s future is ensured by its nature as an ever-changing object to be admired, read, desired and owned.

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Dante 700: The Divine Comedy at State Library Victoria

‘Nel mezzo cammin di nostra vita, mi ritrovai per una selva oscura …’ (Midway through this walk of life, I found myself in a dark wood …). These ominous lines open one of the world’s greatest works of literature, a profound meditation on human nature and experience: the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri’s La Commedia (c. 1308–20), known in English as The Divine Comedy.

The poem’s three sections tell of Dante’s journey down through the subterranean circles of Hell, up the mountain of Purgatory and ultimately into the celestial realm of Paradise. With the help of his guides, the ancient Roman poet Virgil and his platonic love Beatrice, he learns about the dark consequences and heavenly rewards of the moral choices we make during our lives.

The world is commemorating the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death in 1321. Artists have been inspired by the rich visual possibilities of Dante’s text since it first appeared; more than 400 illustrated manuscript copies of the poem survive from the 14th century. Join us for a special journey through the afterlife of this iconic poem via the imaginations of artists from around the world from the 16th century to today, exploring the vibrant Dante collection at State Library Victoria.

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VIRGIL

(70–19 BCE)

Opera (Works)

Venice, Augustinum de Zannis de Portesio, 1519

RARESF 873.1b

Virgil, Dante’s guide through Hell and Purgatory, was a Roman poet best known for his epic the Aeneid, which took as its model Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The Aeneid, in 12 books, tells the story of Aeneas the Trojan and his men, who travel to Italy after the fall of Troy, becoming ancestors of the Romans. The illustrations in this 1519 edition of Virgil’s Works, printed in Venice, use the same woodblocks as were used in the 1502 Strasbourg edition of Virgil's Works.

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Dante ALIGHIERI

(1265–1321)

Commedia di Dante … (Dante’s Comedy)

Florence, Filippo Giunti, 1506

RARES 851.15D

Some 700 years since it was written, La divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy) remains one of the touchstones of European literature. It recounts, in vernacular Italian, Dante’s imagined journey through Hell and Purgatory, guided by Roman poet Virgil, and then through Heaven, guided by his dead love Beatrice. As well as a Christian humanist exploration of morality, free will and faith, La Commedia divina was added in a 1555 Venetian edition) is a scathing assessment of the political culture of Florence, Dante’s birthplace, from which he was exiled for political reasons in 1302.

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Dante ALIGHIERI

(1265–1321)

Comento di Christophoro Landino Fiorentino sopra la comedia di Danthe Alighieri poeta Fiorentino (The Commentary of Christopher Landino, Florentine, on the Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Florentine Poet)

Venice, Jacob del Burgofraco, 1529

RARESF 851.15D1

Dante’s epic poem was written between 1308 and 1320, the year before his death. It circulated in manuscript form throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, to both acclaim and controversy; some of the individuals named in the poem (found variously in Hell, Purgatory or Heaven) were Dante’s contemporaries, very much alive at the time he wrote of their fates. The first printed version was published in Foligno in 1472, beginning the proliferation of printed editions that continues today.

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Francesco ALUNNO

(c. 1485–1556)

Title page of La fabrica del mondo… (The Fabric of the World)

Venice, appresso Paolo Gherardo alla libraria dall'Aquila, 1557

RARESEF Sticht Coll. (Italy) 350

The title page of this work about the Italian language by the Ferrarese grammarian Francesco Alunno features a portrait of Dante Alighieri.

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Dante ALIGHIERI

(1265–1321)

Sandro BOTTICELLI, artist

(1445–1510)

La divina commedia, or, the Divine Vision; In Ital[ian] and Engl[ish]; The Ital[ian] text ed[ited] by M. Casella, with the Engl[ish] version of H.F. Cary

London, Nonesuch Press, 1921

RARESF 851.15 DC

The renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli, best known today for his painting The Birth of Venus (c. 1484–86), was the first to design illustrations for a printed edition of The Divine Comedy. These drawings were the basis of engravings by Baccio Baldini, published in 1481 by Niccolò della Magna in Florence. Those drawings have not survived, but a dispersed manuscript of the poem featuring another set of Botticelli’s drawings created around 1480–1505 was identified in the 19th century in several European collections. These later drawings have been reproduced in several modern editions.

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Giovanni BOCCACCIO

(1313–1375)

The Life of Dante

San Francisco, John Henry Nash, 1929

RARESF 851.1 D235N

Gift of Chris Arnold AM and Margot Costanzo, 2021

Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio is regarded as one of the ‘Three Crowns’ of Italian literature, alongside his role model Dante Alighieri and his contemporary and friend Francesco Petrarca (1304–74). Boccaccio studied, lectured and wrote about The Divine Comedy and also Dante’s important texts about vernacular language and poetic structure. His Trattatello in laude di Dante (Treatise in Praise of Dante) – published here in a modern translation as The Life of Dante – is considered historically unreliable in biographical terms but stands as a testament to Dante’s enduring significance.

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Dante ALIGHIERI

(1265–1321)

Sandro BOTTICELLI, artist

(1445–1510)

The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri; The Prose Translation by Charles Eliot Norton

New York, Bruce Rogers & the Press of A. Colish, 1955

RARESF 851.15 DN

Although Botticelli’s first drawings for The Divine Comedy, made for a printed edition of 1481, do not survive, their legacy lives on; editions such as that of 1529, displayed in the showcase behind you, show knowledge of the 1481 engravings. Botticelli’s second set of drawings, part of a manuscript made around 1480–1505, have been reproduced a number of times since their discovery in the 19th century, and have a crucial place in the modern global tradition of artistic interpretations of Dante’s poem.

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John FLAXMAN

(1755–1826)

Compositions from the Divine Poem of Dante Alighieri

London, Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1807

RARESEF 735 F61

The English neoclassical sculptor and draughtsman John Flaxman spent a formative period of his artistic career in Italy, where he eagerly absorbed the influences of medieval and renaissance art and literature. The 107 illustrations he created for Dante’s The Divine Comedy, seen here in their first edition, were both popular with the wider public and influential on his artistic contemporaries, including William Blake and Francisco Goya. The spare, linear quality of the drawings owes much to his interest in classical relief sculpture.

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William BLAKE

(1757–1827)

The Circle of the Thieves. Agnello dei Brunelleschi Attacked by a Six-Footed Serpent

Print taken in 1968 from a plate engraved in 1824–27

Engraving on Japanese paper: ed. 21/25, 4th of 4 states

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Gift of Lessing J. Rosenwald, 1968, 1835.4-5

The English artist, poet, publisher and visionary William Blake was deeply inspired by Dante’s The Divine Comedy, teaching himself Italian so that he could read it in its original language. In 1824, Blake’s friend John Linnell commissioned him to illustrate the poem, and, over the following three years, he made 102 watercolours. These were intended as the basis for engravings, but only seven plates were completed before his death, in 1827. Blake’s illustrations are now some of the most iconic visualisations of the poem, exerting an ongoing influence on subsequent generations of artists.

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William BLAKE

(1757–1827)

The Circle of the Lustful. Paolo and Francesca

Print taken in 1968 from a plate engraved in 1824–27

Engraving on Japanese paper: d. 21/25, 4th of 4 states

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Gift of Lessing J. Rosenwald, 1968, 1835.1-5

The English artist, poet, publisher and visionary William Blake was deeply inspired by Dante’s The Divine Comedy, teaching himself Italian so that he could read it in its original language. In 1824, Blake’s friend John Linnell commissioned him to illustrate the poem, and, over the following three years, he made 102 watercolours. These were intended as the basis for engravings, but only seven plates were completed before his death, in 1827. Blake’s illustrations are now some of the most iconic visualisations of the poem, exerting an ongoing influence on subsequent generations of artists.

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Dante ALIGHIERI

(1265–1321)

Gustave DORÉ, illustrator

(1832–1883)

The Vision of Hell

London, Cassell Petter & Galpin, [1868]

Rare Books Collection

The Divine Comedy’s appeal waned outside Italy during the Enlightenment, as intellectuals distanced themselves from the religious medieval past. But translations into Spanish and French in the late 18th and early 19th centuries revived Dante’s work for a new audience of readers and artists. Henry Francis Cary published the first English translation in 1802; this edition of Hell uses his 1804 translation. French artist Gustave Doré’s dramatic engraving uses the texture of the woodblock to evoke the smoky horrors endured by those guilty of simony – profiting from spiritual matters.

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Dante ALIGHIERI

(1265–1321)

Gustave DORÉ, illustrator

(1832–1883)

The Vision of Purgatory and Paradise

London, Cassell Petter & Galpin, [1868]

Rare Books Collection

In this atmospheric wood engraving, Doré depicts souls ascending through the purifying flames of Mount Purgatory, ‘purgatory’ meaning ‘cleansing’. According to medieval Christian belief, Purgatory was the place to which the souls of those who had committed forgivable sins (such as lying) would go after death, rather than Hell, the place for the souls of those who committed the mortal sins (pride, covetousness, lust, gluttony, envy, anger and sloth). Through penitence, punishment and the prayers of the living, the souls in Purgatory could eventually be released into Heaven. Dante’s poem played a significant role in popularising belief in Purgatory.

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Dante ALIGHIERI

(1265–1321)

Tutte le opere di Dante Alighieri fiorentino … (All the Works of Dante Alighieri, Florentine …)

Chelsea, London, Ashendene Press, 1909

Rare Books, Archives and Special Collections, University of Melbourne; donated by Tony and Margaret Pagone

This volume by the Ashendene Press is one of the most famous and sumptuous of all the fine-press editions of Dante’s writings. In its design, illustrative style and production methods, it emulated the highest quality early printed books of the 15th century. The text in Subiaco type, woodcut images by Charles M. Gere and initials designed by Graily Hewitt were printed in red and black on specially produced handmade paper, in a process that took three years to complete.

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Dante ALIGHIERI

(1265–1321)

Inferno: The Comedy of Dante Alighieri of Florence Commonly Called the Divine Comedy: A Line-for-line Translation in the Rime-form of the Original, by Melville Best Anderson

San Francisco, John Henry Nash, 1929

RARESF 686.2 N17I

John Henry Nash (1871–1947) was a Canadian printer who specialised in fine-press work, crafting books by hand during the age of industrialisation and mechanisation. His highly regarded work helped establish San Francisco as a centre of fine-press work in North America. In this edition of Dante’s Inferno, Nash has adopted a page layout reminiscent of books produced in the 15th and 16th centuries, with formal ruled borders and space for a commentary, which itself originated in the page design of handwritten medieval manuscripts.

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Dante ALIGHIERI

(1265–1321)

The Flowery Meadow

Melbourne, Electio Editions, 2005

RARELT 851.1 D23PW

The Flowery Meadow presents Melbourne poet Chris Wallace-Crabbe’s translation of Canto 28 of Dante’s Purgatory. It has been illustrated by artist Bruno Leti, who drew upon walking and drawing trips in China and in the Daintree Forest, Queensland, to recreate the winding ascent of Mount Purgatory, which ‘straightens souls whom the world has made crooked’. The book was designed and printed in an edition of 26 copies by Alan Loney, a New Zealand–born poet and printer who currently resides in Melbourne.

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Monika BEISNER, artist

(Born 1942)

Robert HOLLANDER, translator

(Born 1933)

Jean HOLLANDER, translator

(1928–2019)

Comedy

Verona, Edizioni Valdonega, 2007

RARESF 851.1 D23DH

Incredible as it seems, Monika Beisner is credited as the first woman to have illustrated Dante’s The Divine Comedy in its entirety. For this three-volume edition, she completed 100 detailed miniature paintings, which have been reproduced in life size. Beisner was born in Germany, but later lived in New York and London. Historian Marina Warner has said of her work: ‘Monika Beisner has been scrupulously loyal to Dante’s text, rendering gesture and position as described in the poem as well as its unsurpassed precision of spatial, geographical and temporal coordinates’.

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Udo SELLBACH, artist

(1927–2006)

Margaret PLANT, translator

(Born 1940)

And Still I See It

Canberra, ACT, CSA Artist Book Studio, 1995

RARELTEF 702.81 SE4A

Artist and printmaker Udo Sellbach was born in Cologne, Germany, and immigrated to Australia in 1955. And Still I See It, produced in a limited edition of 20 copies, comprises 40 of his etchings, accompanied by Professor Margaret Plant’s translation of Canto 28 from Dante’s Inferno, and her original poem ‘After Dante’. Artist Petr Herel designed the book, and Dianne Fogwell printed the etchings. The book’s title is drawn from Dante’s text: ‘I saw it in all certainty—and still I see it— / A headless body advancing / Moving with the sad crowd’.

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Udo SELLBACH, artist

(1927–2006)

Margaret PLANT, translator

(Born 1940)

Proof sheet from And Still I See It

Canberra, ACT, CSA Artist Book Studio, 1995

RARELTEF 702.81 SE4A

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Angela CAVALIERI

(Born 1962)

Peter LYSSIOTIS

(Born 1949)

Paradise, from –1316

Melbourne, Masterthief Enterprises, 2004

RARELTEF 702.81 C31T

Fewer artists have been inspired to interpret the Paradise section of The Divine Comedy than Purgatory and Hell because its calm content provides little opportunity for dramatic figural compositions. This is no drawback for the abstract response to the poem created by Cavalieri and Lyssiotis. In keeping with the cosmography of his day, Dante conceived of Heaven as nine airy celestial spheres capped by the Empyrean, the fiery residence of God and the origin of all creation. Cavalieri and Lyssiotis use the celestial blue and golden fire of Paradise as a motif in this volume.

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Angela CAVALIERI

(Born 1962)

Peter LYSSIOTIS

(Born 1949)

Hell, from –1316

Melbourne, Masterthief Enterprises, 2004

RARELTEF 702.81 C31T

The work –1316 is a response by two Melbourne artists to The Divine Comedy. It takes its title from the year Dante is believed to have completed Hell. The circles of Hell are here used as the starting point for an investigation into the circle as a geometric form, similar in intent to the investigations by Russian artist Kazimir Malevich into the square. Cavalieri and Lyssiotis have described how they ‘aimed for those things in Dante’s vision that echoed through to our own times’.

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Architect, visual artist and poet Alex Selenitsch first began engaging with the Purgatorio, or Purgatory, from Dante’s The Divine Comedy as far back as the mid-1980s. Since that time, he has produced a wide-ranging body of work – comprising architectural projects, furniture, sculptures, drawings, and visual and concrete poems – exploring themes in Dante’s poem. More recently, Selenitsch completed a rewrite of Purgatorio, entitled Purgatorio Re-placed, in which he reinterprets Dante’s medieval epic through the lens of Australian history and geography. The book is scheduled for publication in 2021, in the 700th year since Dante’s death.

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Alex SELENITSCH

(Born 1946)

pride

envy

wrath

sloth

avarice

gluttony

lust

Seven Profiles of Mt. Purgatory 1995–2004

Pencil, water colour and ink on paper

Private collection

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These seven drawings were made as a representation of the seven sins or terraces of Dante’s Mount Purgatory. Each drawing has its own geometric setting, and the seven colours are applied in different ways to represent each sin. The bottom three sins (pride, envy, wrath) are coloured inside the mountain pyramid, the highest three (avarice, gluttony, lust) are coloured outside of the pyramid shape. The middle sin (sloth) was intended to be neither in nor out of the pyramid form.

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Alex SELENITSCH

(Born 1946)

Half Mountain Cast 2006

Various timbers

Private collection

This virtual mountain has been assembled cornice by cornice, using a different timber for each level. While there is no intended relationship between a timber and a particular sin, the mountain as a whole is intended to be visualised as an assemblage of all seven sins together.

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Alex SELENITSCH

(Born 1946)

‘n’ versions of the Southern Cross 1994

Drilled blank sketch book

No. 8/10

Private collection

This is a companion book to The Southern Cross in Dante drilled book, comprising a standard sketchbook of blank pages through which the same drilled holes have been made, representing the constellation.

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Alex SELENITSCH

(Born 1946)

The Southern Cross in Dante #2 1994/2021

Drilled found book, with artist’s pencil marks inside

Private collection

Dante and Virgil sight four stars in a constellation in the southern sky when they emerge from the Earth’s centre at the shores of Mount Purgatory. Unusually for a late-medieval work, Dante’s Purgatorio is set in the Southern Hemisphere. By drilling holes through the book, Selenitsch ensures the constellation is constantly present when the reader leafs through the book. This copy of The Southern Cross in Dante is a new version, made for this display, of an artwork initially created in 1994 and now held in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

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Tom Phillips’ Inferno

Tom Phillips is an English artist, writer and composer known for his method of using paint and collage to create new ‘found’ texts and images within a pre-existing original work. Phillips has a lifelong interest in Dante, with whom he shares a birth date, and has created a number of artistic responses to The Divine Comedy, including A TV Dante, with filmmaker Peter Greenaway. His translation and illustration of the first book of the poem, Inferno, is considered one of the key artist’s books of the 20th century.

This beautiful and significant book is a recent addition to the State Library Victoria collection, acquired with the generous support of Chris Arnold AM and Margot Costanzo.

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Tom PHILLIPS

(Born 1937)

Frontispiece and title page from Inferno

London, Talfourd Press, 1979–83

Rare Books Collection, acquired with the generous support of Chris Arnold AM and Margot Costanzo, 2021

Phillips’ work opens with a portrait of Dante in his study, which echoes a famous fresco painted by Luca Signorelli (1450–1553) on the walls of Orvieto’s cathedral (reproduced on the next label).

Fresco portrait of Dante in his study painted by Luca Signorelli (1450–1553) on the walls of Orvieto’s cathedral.

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Tom PHILLIPS

(Born 1937)

Canto 4 from Inferno

London, Talfourd Press, 1979–83

Rare Books Collection, acquired with the generous support of Chris Arnold AM and Margot Costanzo, 2021

The Divine Comedy is composed of three cantiche (singular cantica, ‘song’) – Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso – each of which contains 33 canti (singular canto). An introductory canto in Inferno brings the total to 100. In the first cantica, each canto describes a stage of Dante and Virgil’s descent through the nine ‘circles’ of Hell. In each circle, they meet sinners of a particular type who are receiving punishments befitting their crimes. In Canto 4, the poets enter the first circle, ‘Limbo’, wherein reside the souls of those who died unbaptised, including those born before Christ, like Virgil himself.

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Tom PHILLIPS

(Born 1937)

Canto 9 from Inferno

London, Talfourd Press, 1979–83

Rare Books Collection, acquired with the generous support of Chris Arnold AM and Margot Costanzo, 2021

Canto 9 is set in the fifth circle of Hell, which focuses on the sin of wrath. Dante and Virgil enter the City of Dis, navigating its fiery moat (the river Styx) and its guards, who are mixture of Christian and ancient classical figures: fallen angels, the Furies and the Gorgon Medusa. ‘Pater dis’, ‘Father Dis’, was another name for Pluto, the Roman god of the underworld. In Virgil’s poem the Aeneid, a major influence on Dante, the hero Aeneas visits the city of Dis on his own journey through the underworld.

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Tom PHILLIPS

(Born 1937)

Sheet from Canto 1 of Inferno

London, Talfourd Press, 1979–83

Rare Books Collection, acquired with the generous support of Chris Arnold AM and Margot Costanzo, 2021

These illustrations accompany Canto 1 of the poem, in which Dante wanders into a dark wood and encounters three terrifying wild beasts – a leopard, a lion and a wolf – before meeting Virgil, his guide through the underworld and Purgatory. The beasts are often interpreted as allegories: the leopard for worldly pleasure, or Florence, the lion for pride, or the royal house of France, and the wolf for avarice, or the Papal See.

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Tom PHILLIPS

(Born 1937)

Sheet from Canto 2 of Inferno

London, Talfourd Press, 1979–83

Rare Books Collection, acquired with the generous support of Chris Arnold AM and Margot Costanzo, 2021

These prints accompany Canto 2 of the poem, in which Virgil convinces a hesitant Dante to descend into the underworld, assuring him that the journey has been requested and blessed by Beatrice, Dante’s idealised dead love, whom he will meet again in Paradise.

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Tom PHILLIPS

(Born 1937)

Canto 19 from Inferno

London, Talfourd Press, 1979–83

Rare Books Collection, acquired with the generous support of Chris Arnold AM and Margot Costanzo, 2021

Canto 18 and Canto 19 take place within the eighth circle of Hell, dedicated to the sin of fraud. This circle is made of malebolge, evil ditches or pouches. Canto 19 finds Dante and Virgil in the third ditch, which contains those guilty of simony, the sin of making profit out of sacred things. To illustrate this scene, Phillips has adopted a form eerily like a map of the Dome Reading Room in which you stand. A much more literal illustration of Dante’s text can be seen nearby in Gustav Doré’s illustration of this canto.

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Tom PHILLIPS

(Born 1937)

Canto 20 from Inferno

London, Talfourd Press, 1979–83

Rare Books Collection, acquired with the generous support of Chris Arnold AM and Margot Costanzo, 2021

In Canto 20, Dante and Virgil find themselves in the ditch (malebolge) of the sorcerers; that is, all those who seek to subvert God’s omniscience by seeing the future. Phillips’ illustration echoes the portrait of Dante that began the work, crucially removing the figure of the poet himself and his books, the symbols of his legitimate and praiseworthy learning. A revealed text drives home the poet’s condemnation of ‘necromancers’.

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Tom PHILLIPS

(Born 1937)

Canto 27 from Inferno

London, Talfourd Press, 1979–83

Rare Books Collection, acquired with the generous support of Chris Arnold AM and Margot Costanzo, 2021

In Canto 27, Dante and Virgil are in the last of the eight malebolge, or evil ditches, surrounded by the souls of those guilty of providing false counsel to others. They meet Guido da Montefeltro, a member of the Ghibelline faction that supported the Holy Roman emperor against the pope in the wars that ripped apart Italian society in the 13th and 14th centuries. Dante was a Guelph, supporting the pope, and for his politics was exiled from his home of Florence, a trauma from which he never really recovered.

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Tom PHILLIPS

(Born 1937)

Sheet from Canto 10 of Inferno

London, Talfourd Press, 1979–83

Rare Books Collection, acquired with the generous support of Chris Arnold AM and Margot Costanzo, 2021

These images accompany Canto 10 of the poem, in which Dante and Virgil enter the sixth circle of Hell, inhabited by heretics.

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Tom PHILLIPS

(Born 1937)

Sheet from Canto 15 of Inferno

London, Talfourd Press, 1979–83

Rare Books Collection, acquired with the generous support of Chris Arnold AM and Margot Costanzo, 2021

In Canto 15 of their journey through Hell, Dante and Virgil are in the third ring of the seventh circle, where those who have sinned against God, art and nature are punished. In Dante’s time, homosexuality was viewed as one such sin, but the poem is remarkable for the sympathy and respect with which Dante greets the soul of Brunetto Latini (c. 1220–94), a Florentine scholar and statesman. Latini had been Dante’s guardian and teacher, after the early death of his father.

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The graphics used here are drawn from the 1506 and 1529 editions of Dante Alighieri’s poem The Divine Comedy, both on display for the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death in 1321. The colours featured in the design are drawn from both medieval manuscript copies of the poem and the contemporary works on display. They evoke the three parts of the afterlife that Dante visits: blue for the icy depths of Hell, red for the purifying flames of Purgatory, and yellow for the golden divine light of Paradise.

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