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World of the book

01 January 2021, 10:00am31 December 2021, 6:00pm
Location Online exhibition

About the exhibition

Explore a world of ideas and imagination in this one-of-a-kind exhibition showcasing the history of book design, production and illustration from the Middle Ages to today. World of the book celebrates the unique place books have in our hearts and minds. See rare medieval manuscripts and sacred texts, magnificent natural history and botanical illustration, stunning modern artist books and fine press editions, as well as pioneering Australian classics, children’s books, graphic novels and comics. 

From books that break the mould to books that changed the world, World of the book celebrates the unique place books have in our hearts and minds.

Thematic sections cover:

  • Books and ideas – medieval manuscripts and early printed books, sacred texts from around the world and from different religious traditions, key works of astronomy, and a special display exploring the historical ‘restricted books’ section of State Library Victoria
  • Books and imagination – famous works from the literary canon, including the Second Folio of William Shakespeare’s plays (1632), modernist masterpieces by Virginia Woolf, countercultural classics from the New Journalism group of American writers, the writings of Australian author Gerald Murnane, and 1960s Western pulp fiction
  • Exploring the world – atlases, maps and travel journals from European voyages of discovery from the 16th century onwards, with a special focus on mythical animals and costumes of the world; and richly illustrated works of natural history, including a special display called ‘The mystery of the missing beetles’, a detective story uniting the collections of this library and Museums Victoria
  • Art and nature – botanical art and landscape design from the 16th century to today, with a special focus on the work of female Australian botanical artists
  • Artist and books – including fine bindings from the John Emmerson Collection, Japanese woodblock printed books about textiles, glamorous Art Deco graphic design, contemporary Australian photobooks, and archival material from the Wayzgoose Press Archive, an Australian fine press.  

Main image captions

Clockwise from top left:

Aubrey Beardsley, The yellow book, vol. 1 (London, Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1894), Rare Books Collection, State Library Victoria

Chester Gould, The original Dick Tracy comic album no. 2: The origin of the two-way wrist radio (Prescott, Arizona, Gladstone Publishing, 1990 reprint), Rare Books Collection, State Library Victoria. Used by Permission. Dick Tracy © Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Feuillets d’Art [Art Leaves], no. 1 (Paris, Condé Nast, October–November 1921), Rare Books Collection, State Library Victoria

Sarah Walker, Second sight (Melbourne, Perimeter Editions, 2018), Rare Books Collection, State Library Victoria. Reproduced by kind permission of Sarah Walker.

Louis Renard, Poissons, ecrevisses et crabes de diverses couleurs et figures extraordinaires [Fish, lobsters and crabs of diverse colours and extraordinary shapes] (Amsterdam, Reiner & Josué Ottens, 1754), Rare Books Collection, State Library Victoria