05 March 2015

'The Book Beautiful' at the Alexander Turnbull Library

[Guest post by Ruth Lightbourne, Curator of Rare Books and Fine Printing, Alexander Turnbull Library]

A new exhibition 'The Book Beautiful' opens in the Turnbull Gallery on Monday 2nd March. This promises to be a feast for the eyes and is something not to be missed: http://natlib.govt.nz/visiting/wellington/the-turnbull-gallery.

A number of events are hosted in conjunction with the exhibition.

The first related events:
On Tuesday 3rd March 5.30-6.30pm in the Te Ahumairangi rooms on the Ground Floor at the National Library, Dr Claire Bolton will give a talk 'Imperfect impressions: clues to 15th century printing practices'. Her talk will be accompanied by colourful slides. All are welcome. Dr Bolton, who teaches printing and this year tutored a course on 15th century books at the London Rare Book School, also ran the Alembric Press in Oxford, England, for over 45 years. For more information, see http://natlib.govt.nz/events/imperfect-impressions.

On Saturday 7th March 2-3pm, Alison Furminger will be giving a class in beginners calligraphy in the Te Ahumairangi rooms on the Ground Floor at the National Library. This event is limited to 20 participants, and booking is required. See the National Library website for details on how to book http://natlib.govt.nz/events/beginners-calligraphy-mar-7. The class will be repeated on Saturday 21 March. 

Other events:
~ Visit to the Waiteata Press (a working hand press) http://natlib.govt.nz/events/letterpress-rules-mar-13
~ Trip to the printing department at Massey to observe printmaking
~ A visit to the National Library conservation lab to watch the Library's conservators at work http://natlib.govt.nz/events/conservation-and-the-book-beautiful
~ Readings from old and middle English by Emeritus Professor Robert Easting http://natlib.govt.nz/events/some-changes-in-the-english-language-chaucer-in-the-middle

Several talks on the arts of the book will be held over the course of the next few months. Some of these events are limited in numbers and booking will be required. Keep an eye out for new additions as there are other events still being finalised http://natlib.govt.nz/events.

28 February 2015

ILAB Pop Up Book Fair + Shakespeare Folios

Will you be in Sydney on 23 April 2015?

If so, be sure to stop by the wonderful State Library of New South Wales for what will be the first in a series of world-wide pop up book fairs organised by the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers celebrating UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day.

Visitors will not only have the chance to browse and buy from some of Australia's leading antiquarian booksellers, but also have the opportunity to make a donation to help raise money for the UNESCO literacy programme.

For the event, which coincides with William Shakespeare's birthday, the library will be displaying all four of its Shakespeare Folios, which includes the only known copy of the 1623 First Folio in Australia.

An antiquarian book fair. The Shakespeare Folios. Advancing literacy. Really, what could be better?

Further details can be found on the ILAB website (http://goo.gl/2x4Lso) and the ANZAAB homepage (http://www.anzaab.com/index.cfm), which notes two other Australian pop up fairs being held in Dunkeld and Hamilton (both in the state of Victoria).

The fairs and exhibition are free and open to the public.

13 January 2015

The Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Inc. Annual Conference 2015

Turning the Page: Bibliographical Innovation and the Legacy of Aldus Manutius

The University of Melbourne, Australia
Date: 26 and 27 November 2015

2015 marks the quincentenary of the death of the great printer and publisher Aldus Manutius (c. 1451–1515). Aldus was an innovator in a number of ways, from his development and use of the first italic typeface and publishing of small octavo editions, to printing many first editions of classical Greek authors and the production of one of the most beautifully designed and illustrated books of the fifteenth century, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.

To honour Aldus’s life and afterlife, the Society invites papers exploring innovation or design in the printed book in any period from the time of Aldus to the modern day. Possible topics can cover any aspect of the history of the book, from bibliography and publishing, to the reading experience and the transition from print to digital format.

Enquiries and proposals of 250 words for papers of 20 to 25 minutes should be sent to Anthony Tedeschi (atedeschi[@]unimelb.edu.au), Special Collections, Baillieu Library, The University of Melbourne. The deadline for paper proposals is Monday 29 June 2015. Students undertaking higher degree research are encouraged to submit offers of ‘work in progress’ papers; some travel bursaries will be available.

Further information and the full conference programme will be posted on the BSANZ Inc. website:

02 December 2014

Dunedin, NZ : UNESCO City of Literature

While not rare book specific, I could not resist posting the fantastic news that my previous home for six and a half years has been designated a UNESCO City of Literature!

Here is the write-up by Eileen Goodwin in today's Otago Daily Times:

Dunedin has stepped on to the international literary stage, late last night being named a Unesco Creative City of Literature.

The designation puts the city on the world map as a first-class literary centre, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said.It would help the city attract cultural tourism, tertiary students and new residents, he said.

One of Dunedin's first steps as a City of Literature will be to organise an international conference related to literary culture.

Dunedin was one of four newly designated Cities of Literature - the others were Granada, in Spain, Heidelberg, in Germany, and Prague, in the Czech Republic.

They join existing Cities of Literature Edinburgh, Melbourne, Iowa City, Dublin, Reykjavik, Norwich and Krakow. A country can only have one Unesco City of Literature.

The designation showed the city was ''up there'' with other culturally significant cities, and was not a ''colonial outpost'', Mr Cull said.

Coming soon after the city was named the first Gigatown, the designation was further evidence that Dunedin was moving forward, he said.

Dunedin's application highlighted its literary heritage, literary events, institutions and organisations, and its community or writers, playwrights and lyricists.

''It gives us another point of difference,'' Mr Cull said.

''At a local and national level, this announcement will have cultural and economic benefits.

''The value of having a rich culture is evidenced by events such as this year's inaugural Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival, which had an unexpected number of soldout events, and attracted authors with an international profile.

''Being a City of Literature is a great brand and a very fitting one, given that Robbie Burns' statue presides over our central city.''

Dunedin City Council arts and culture group manager Bernie Hawke said six of the existing Cities of Literature backed the bid, and Dunedin was particularly grateful for the support of its sister city, Edinburgh.

''We have been wonderfully supported internationally and locally by writers' groups and trusts, and national writing and publishing associations, as well as the University of Otago.''


For more on Dunedin's efforts and literary city profile, see its City of Literature website and Facebook page:



Hats off to the steering committee - Liz Knowles, Noel Waite, Bernie Hawke and Annie Villiers - for all their hard work and a job well done!

10 November 2014

Turnbull Library Rare Books on Tumblr

The Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, New Zealand, has launched a Tumblr page for its Rare Books & Fine Printing Collection:


The page is off to a fun start, with topics ranging from medieval manuscripts and an eighteenth-century geometric binding, to decorative endpapers and the title-page of one of the Turnbull's copies of Aurora Australis, the first book published in Antarctica created by Ernest Shackleton.

A personal favourite is a closeup image of the pigments used on the illuminated title-page of a Persian manuscript:

If you like what you see and have a Tumblr account, do consider following and help build the library's follower base. Enjoy!

24 September 2014

Memorialised in Manuscript: A Unique First World War Honour Roll

[First posted on University of Melbourne Library Collections blog]

Memorial lists recording the names of people who have died in service to their country or local community are a tragic, but important, part of library and institutional collections worldwide. For the First World War alone, Special Collections holds seventeen separate registers published between 1919 and 1926. There is, however, one further register in the collection that was neither printed nor published, but artfully crafted by a member of university staff.

Opening page.
Opening page.


This manuscript Honour Roll was created by Vincent J. Hearnes, who was chief mechanic in the Department of Metallurgy workshop during the early 1930s.[1] According to an index card enclosed in the book, one of Hearnes’ hobbies was the production of books and decorative texts using coloured inks he prepared. This Honour Roll is one surviving example of his work.

The book consists of 34 hand-decorated leaves recording in a calligraphic script the names of 102 graduates killed on active service between 1914 and 1918.[2] Hearnes was clearly influenced by medieval manuscript decoration and Celtic art, but added an Australian touch by using eccentrically stylised kangaroos and emus to form his knotwork patterns as exemplified in the previous images.

Rather than design decorated initials for each individual name, Hearnes instead used either one large initial for all the names on a given page, such as in the first and third of the following three examples, or incorporated multiple initials into a single design element, e.g. the combination of ‘E’, ‘F’ and ‘G’ in the middle image.

Surnames Corbett and Creswell.
Surnames Corbett and Creswell.

Surnames Elliott to Garnett.
Surnames Elliott to Garnett.

Surnames Mathison to Miller.
Surnames Mathison to Miller.

Introduction by Professor Earnest Scott, 25.3.1932.
Professor Scott’s Introduction, 25.3.1932.
The work was also a collaborative production. The book was tastefully bound in blue (the university colour) pebble-grained morocco with ornamental gilt turn-ins and marbled endpapers by the prominent Melbourne binder Harry Green. There are brief contributions by Professors L. J. Wrigley (Department of Education) and J. Neill Greenwood (Department of Metallurgy), and an Introduction was provided by noted historian Professor (Sir) Ernest Scott.[3]

When and why did Hearnes compile the manuscript? Thanks to the colophon, we know he completed the Honour Roll in March 1932. The year is significant for two reasons. First, the twentieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I was just two years away. Second, Melbourne’s war memorial, the Shrine of Remembrance, was under construction and scheduled to open in time with the anniversary in 1934.

To create a record of the Victorians who served overseas between 1914 and 1918, the committee tasked with founding and constructing the Shrine opted to have the names inscribed in a series of Books of Remembrance.[4] To ensure the longevity of the books, they sought the advice of the Victorian Arts and Crafts Society, which specified: ‘The books will be made of the best Roman Vellum, and hand bound in Levant Morocco … The binding would be done by Mr Harry Green, one of the best craftsmen in Australia in the production of Edition de Luxe. The lettering would be done by [Jason] S. Forman and assistants’.[5]

Although Hearnes’ Honour Roll was also bound by Green, he was not among Forman’s assistants, though it seems evident that their work inspired Hearnes to create a similar Book of Remembrance focused on graduates of the university.[6]

The Honour Roll was not the only calligraphic work Hearnes wished to present to the library. In a letter to the Registrar dated 5 April 1933, he wrote: ‘As I mentioned some months ago, I intended having another manuscript book finished for presentation … this year, but owing to illness … I have been unable to do any considerable amount of drawing’.[7] The letter closed with an offer of a third manuscript, one comprised of prayers written alternately in Irish and Latin. Neither book mentioned, however, is held by Special Collections.

Eight months after writing to the Registrar, Hearnes was dismissed from the university due to conflict with other staff, which, it is safe to presume, also ended any inclination on his part to donate further books.[8] This makes the Honour Roll the sole example of his calligraphic work held by the library, and a fitting object to write about, as we enter the final months of the centennial year marking the start of the First World War and prepare to commemorate the centenary of the costly Gallipoli Campaign in 2015.

Colophon dated 28.3.1932.
Colophon dated 28.3.1932.

[1] Essington Lewis, Development and Activities of the Metallurgy School … Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1935, p. 7.

[2] For the official university Roll of Honour, see The Melbourne University Magazine: War Memorial Number … Compiled by Graduates and Undergraduates of the UniversityMelbourne: [Printed by Ford & Son for Melbourne University Magazine], 1920.

[3] Scott was knighted in 1939. The School of Historical and Philosophical Studies maintains a chair in his honour, and the university awards an annual prize in Scott’s name, which was established by his widow, Lady Emily Scott (1882–1957).

[4] The books, which number forty in total, are housed in individual bronze caskets displayed in the Ambulatory.

[5] J.B. Forman to Philip Hudson, 10 October 1929; quoted in Bruce Scates, A Place to Remember: A History of the Shrine of Remembrance. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 129. Fine vellum proved cost prohibitive, so parchment, cheaper but no less durable, was used.

[6] My thanks to Leigh Gilburt at the Shrine of Remembrance for confirming Hearnes was not among the calligraphers.

[7] V. J. Hearnes to the University Registrar, 5 April 1933; the letter is enclosed with the Honour Roll.

[8] File ‘H. V. [sic] Hearnes Termination of Employment’; University of Melbourne Archives, Office of the Registrar Collection, UM 312, 1933/ 206.

15 September 2014

An Apothecary’s Annotations: Eighteenth-Century Medical Notes in a Seventeenth-Century Text

[First posted on University of Melbourne Library Collections blog]

Since 2009, the rare books collection of the Brownless Medical Library has been housed by Special Collections in the Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne. This collection, which numbers 1,850 volumes, is strongest in eighteenth and nineteenth-century material. Some earlier texts are also held, such as sixteenth-century editions of the Galeni librorum quarta classis and La farmacopea o’antidotario dell’eccellentissimo Collegio de’ signori medici di Bergomo (both published in Venice, 1597) and a copy of the 1698 edition of John Browne’s Myographia nova, or, a graphical description of all the muscles in the humane body.[1]
Plate 87. Engraving of a human skeleton in an allegorical pose, likely influenced by Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica (1543).
Plate 87. Engraving of a human skeleton in an allegorical pose, influenced by Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica (1543).
Another seventeenth-century anatomical text in the collection is William Cowper’s The anatomy of humane bodies, printed in Oxford for Samuel Smith and Benjamin Walford, printers to the Royal Society, and published the same year as Browne’s 1698 Myographia nova.[2] Cowper’s book is known for its folio-sized anatomical plates by Gérard de Lairesse previously published in Govard Bidloo's Anatomia humani corporis (Amsterdam, 1685), which caused a vitriolic exchange between the two anatomists after Bidloo accused Cowper of plagiarism.[3]

What makes the Melbourne copy of Cowper’s Anatomy particularly interesting are the copious notes written between 1724 and 1740 by an English apothecary, who compiled a combination pharmacopeia and prescription book on the blank versos of sixty-two plates.

The notes refer to treatments for thirty-four diseases or groups of diseases, such as rheumatism, asthma, dysentery, pulmonary tuberculosis, and cancer. In her 2008 study of the book, Dorothea Rowse (Honorary Fellow of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies and former Sciences Librarian) described the notes as consisting of ‘a comprehensive list of available remedies, evidence of remedies that had been used for named patients, a guide to the physicians recommended for particular medical conditions … and a record of patients who had been treated for serious medical illnesses’.[4]
Notes on breast cancer (verso of plate 19).
Notes on breast cancer treatment (verso of plate 19).
The inclusion of named physicians and patients, some of whom were children, add a very real, very human element. Rowse counted fifteen physicians whose names appear in the notes, along with the names of ninety-three identifiable patients who lived in the vicinity of the village of Hambledon in the county of Hampshire.[5] Her research suggests the author of the notes was Edward Hale, an apothecary and barber surgeon, resident in Hambledon from 1720, whose son (also Edward) continued the practice.[6]

All of the notes are available on the Special Collections Flickr page:[7]


Unfortunately, due to the book being rebound, some of the notes run into the inner margin. Anyone consulting them is welcome to contact Special Collections at special-collections[@]unimelb.edu.au for assistance.

Dorothea Rowse’s full account is available on-line as a PDF at the following URL:


[1] The Melbourne copy of Browne’s Myographia nova is from the Chatsworth House library of William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire (1640–1707). The text was first published in 1681. 

[2] Cowper's The amatomy of humane bodies (London, 1698) purchased with funds from the estate of F. M. Meyer. 

[3] Cowper mentioned neither Bidloo nor de Lairesse in his text. According to Cowper’s ODNB entry, Bidloo 'published a complaint in 1700 addressed to the Royal Society accusing Cowper of plagiarism … which included copies of letters to Cowper, most of which had gone unanswered, correspondence with his publishers, and a list of errors. The Royal Society, with some discomfort, declined to adjudicate on the matter’. 

[4] Dorothea Rowse, ‘The Hampshire Apothecary’s Book: An 18th Century Medical Manuscript in the Baillieu Library’. University of Melbourne Collections issue 3 (Dec. 2008), p. 13. 

[5] Ibid, p. 15. 

[6] Ibid, pp. 16-17. 

[7] To view the original or larger-sized images, single click on the ‘Download this photo’ icon towards the lower right, then select ‘View all sizes’ (‘Large 2048’ file size option is recommended).