University of Newcastle Library

Rare books and special collections:  Introduction

A listing of the rare book and other special collections held in the Auchmuty Library.

Special Collections

Rare Books and Special Collections

At present, the University's Rare Book and Special Collections comprise more than 32,000 volumes, many of which are extremely valuable and unique to Australian libraries. The existence of these Collections is largely due to the generosity of a number of benefactors as most of the items have been acquired by donation, or purchased from bequest funds. Collectively, they not only form a major resource in their own right, but also enrich our capacity to support a multitude of research programmes. Major strengths of the Collections include early modern or pre-1800 material, 19th century Australian literature and especially poetry, and 19th century Australian History with particular emphasis on the period prior to 1860, and James Joyce. In recent years, the availability of the Light Trust Fund, a bequest of $1,000,000 made to the Library by former Newcastle identity Reta Light has enabled us to build on and enhance these strengths.

The Auchmuty Library Rare Book Collection had its genesis in a series of donations to the Library to mark its opening in February 1968. Since then a great number of private collections, as well as one-off donations from organisations, academic staff and members of the community, have enabled the Collection to swell to well over 32,000 items. It has only been since 1996, with the amalgamation of Archives and Rare Books, that the Collection has been consolidated in one area. Until then it was housed in two locations, with a number of private collections being scattered amongst the general collection. During 1993 a concerted effort was made on behalf of the then Rare Book Librarian, Elizabeth Guilford, to bring together these private collections, which included the private libraries of the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, J.J. Auchmuty, and Kelver Hartley, Foundation Professor in French. There are over 40 separate collections of rare books held in the Special Collections Unit.

The General Rare Book Collection

Many of the treasures of the Rare Book Collection were acquired as single items and did not form part of a major collection. Some of these are of significance because of their subject matter, others for their design or production, and some for their provenance. The Library has a small but significant collection of books printed by private presses. These presses, following the example of William Morris of the Kelmscott Press, are dedicated to reviving skills which had all but been lost with the development of the machine age. Hand made paper is used, printing and type setting done by hand, as well as a return to illustrative wood engravings. The editions are usually small owing to the costs involved. Some of the private presses represented in the Collection include the Kelmscott Press, the Nonesuch Press, the Golden Cockerill and the Fanfrolico. The Library also has a large collection of limited edition facsimiles such as those issued for the Bicentenary, notably William Bligh's Log of the HMS Bounty and the Log of the HMS Providence 1791-1793.

The Auchmuty Collection (Personal Library)

These books are from the personal library of the University's first Vice-Chancellor, Professor James Auchmuty. His entire collection was handed over to the Library on his death. Professor Auchmuty's special interest in Irish history and biography is reflected in the Collection.

The Auchmuty Collection

(Early English Books and Irish State Papers in the Special Collections foyer)

This Collection was donated by Convocation in honour of Professor Auchmuty and consists of two segments relating to the pre-1800 period. The first is a major reprint series named the English Experience and comprising facsimile editions of some 964 works printed in England between 1475 and 1640. The second is a reprint series entitled Calendar of the State Papers of the Public Record Office of Great Britain covering the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward, Mary, Elizabeth, James I and Charles II. Click here for a listing of the English Experience items in the Collection.

The Aurousseau Collection

This Aurousseau Collection is particularly strong in pre-1860 material and was donated between the years 1964 and 1969. Marcel Aurousseau was a geographer and noted for his edition of Leichhardt's letters. He donated some 240 volumes comprising First Fleet material, first editions of the foremost Australian explorers by land and sea, as well as other significant late 18th century and early 19th century Australiana.

The Bishop's Library

The Library of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland and Newcastle is a collection of books dating from 1584 and was established by the second Bishop of Maitland, Dr. James Murray (1865-1909) and substantially augmented by his successor, Dr. P.V. Dwyer (1909-1931).

The Champion Collection

This is the personal library of local identity Ben Champion, dentist and local historian.The Champion Collection is mainly of local historical interest and includes a manuscript copy of the history of Newcastle Hospital.

The Coleborne Collection

The personal library of William Coleborne, author of the first Ph.D thesis at the University of Newcastle October 1965.

Commemorative Books

This small but significant collection of books marks the major turning points in the history of University of Newcastle. To commemorate the opening of the Auchmuty Library in 1968, Laurie and Heath Architects presented the University with Gatherings of a naturalist in Australia by George Bennett, London 1860. In honour of The University's first Vice-Chancellor, the late Professor J.J.Auchmuty, the Ambassador for Ireland presented a facsimile edition of The Book of Kells. M.H.Ellis and his wife Gwendoline donated a copy of Journal of a voyage to New South Wales, 1790, by John White, to commemorate the first conferring of degrees by the University of Newcastle, and a copy of Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry into the State of the Colony of New South Wales, 19th June 1822, commonly known as the Bigge Report, in honour of the installation of the University's first Chancellor, Sir Alister McMullin. The Friends of the University donated the 500,000th Book in the University Library, The History of New Holland by William Eden, 1787 on the 10th August 1984 as well as a handsome facsimile edition of Drawings by Holbein - The Queen's Collection at Windsor Castle to celebrate the event.

The Cornell Collection

This Collection of French works are either the personal library - or, much more probably, a part of the personal library - of the late Emeritus Professor James Gladstone Cornell, M.A., Dip.Ed. (Melbourne), L.(Paris), F.A.C.E., Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques, who was Professor of French at the University of Adelaide for some twenty-five years (1944-1969).

The Cox Collection

There are several special family collections comprising libraries and/or surviving parts of libraries of early Hunter pioneering families. They include the collections of the Cox family, the Glennie and Wyndham family and the Windeyer and Traill families. The books in the Collections reflect what the well-to-do, well educated families were reading in the 19th century.

The Dessaix Collection

The well known Melbourne writer Robert Dessaix, following a visit to Newcastle in 2000, generously donated a significant collection of some eighty books of Australian gay and lesbian writing.

The Dove Collection

A small library of religious works belonging to the Dove family.

The Dyce Collection

The personal library of Miss Jess Dyce, teacher and author. She received the Newton-John Award in 1981 for her substantial contribution to teaching in New South Wales.

The Ellis Collection

In 1968, to commemorate the opening of the Library building, the historian Dr. Malcolm H. Ellis and his wife Gwendoline presented the University with a first edition of The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay, printed in England in 1789. Prior to this, in 1966, Dr. Ellis had donated copies of John White's Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales (1790) and The Bigge Report to mark the conferring of the first degrees and the inauguration of the first Chancellor. In 1969, he gave some 97 additional volumes mainly in the fields of Australian history, including First Fleet material, a 1773 edition of Hawkesworth's Voyages, and London and its environs, published in 1820.

On Exhibition in Display Cases

Books currently on display in our glass cases in the Reading Room include the works from the Renaissance Collection, Bishop's Library, Tanner Library, First Fleet Material and Commemorative Books.

Fitzgerald Law Library

A small collection comprising of 18 volumes that formed part of the law library of the Fitzgerald White Talbot Legal Practice of Muswellbrook established in 1879. It consists primarily of pre-1900 legal texts, from S. Toller's Law of Crimes and Misdemeanours (1827), through to Bythewood and Jarman's System of Conveyancing (1884-1890). Much of their value lies in their being a formed collection of an old country law practice - and as such are essential as a Collection for further research on Hunter Region legal and social history. Individually, moreover, many of the early texts are legal gems.

Framed Works

A collection of framed prints, posters and pictures.

The Gray Pamphlet Collection

This is a collection of some 2,200 pamphlets acquired from the late Nancy Gray of Scone. The Collection comprises mainly of regional material published in this century, although there are some items dating back to the mid-19th century of more general interest.

The Glennie and Wyndham Collection

There are several special family collections comprising libraries and/or surviving parts of libraries of early Hunter pioneering families. They include the collections of the Cox family, the Glennie and Wyndham family and the Windeyer and Traill families. The books in the Collections reflect what the well-to-do, well educated families were reading in the 19th century.

The Hartley Collection

This Collection comprises some 600 books donated to the Library by Professor Kelver Hartley, Foundation Professor of French. Kelver Hayward Hartley (1909-1988) was Foundation Professor of French in the University of Newcastle, holding the Chair from 1965 until his retirement at the beginning of 1969.

The James Joyce Collection

The University's collection of James Joyce material is perhaps the strongest in Australia. It was begun in the 1960s at the behest of the internationally distinguished James Joyce scholar, Professor Clive Hart.

The Lambton Mechanics Institute Library

The Library recently acquired part of this Institute Library, comprising some 640 volumes. The Institute was opened in 1867 and by 1893 had some 2,300 volumes. The books acquired by us date from this period. A printed catalogue of the time reveals that these books are a representative sample of what was available for members to read and borrow for three shillings a quarter!

The Leslie Collection

This Collection of books was donated by L.E. and E.G. Leslie of Waratah and contains a splendid copy of Louisa Meredith's volume on Tasmanian flora.

The Light Collection

This Collection comprises 130 items purchased with Light funding. Most are first editions printed in the nineteenth century and many of the items are very rare.

Microfilm/Microfiche Guides

Guides to the microform collection.

Microfilm/Microfiche Collection

These include the James Joyce Finnegan's Wake manuscripts, the Colonial Secretary's Papers 1788-1825 and the Colonial Microfiche - Australian Statistical Publications 1804-1901 which are a comprehensive collection of some 3,000 fiche reproducing all statistical publications and compilations produced by the six Australian statistical bureaux and their forerunners in the 19th century.

The Mills Collection

A small collection of biblical works belonging to the Mills family and relating to the Anglican faith.

The Morpeth Collection

This is a collection of some 2,700 volumes from St. John's College Morpeth, generously donated by the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, and includes editions of major theological and philosophical works printed in the 16th-18th centuries.

The Map Collection

A collection of maps and plans.

The Newcastle and District Historical Society

The Library of the Newcastle and Hunter District Historical Society established in 1936. The Collection is rich in local history resources.

Norman Talbot's William Morris Collection

The donation was made in November 2004 by Dr Jean Talbot, in memory of her husband who died earlier in the year. Norman Talbot was very much a scholar of the life and work of William Morris (1834-1896). William Morris was an author, poet, artist, manufacturer, and founder of the arts and crafts movement. The Collection consists of around two to three shelves of books, the substantial portion being two complete sets of William Morris' Collected Works; a limited edition set published between 1910 -1915 of The Collected Works of William Morris. With introductions by his daughter May Morris. London: Longmans Green and Company, 1910-1915. Limited to 1,050 numbered copies (of which 1,000 only are for sale) in twenty-four octavo volumes, and the 1966 edition.

The Library of Orpheus Island

This collection of books was donated by Mr Richard Salisbury in 1999 and consists of the personal library of a sea captain known as Captain Taylor who was stationed at Orpheus Island.Orpheus Island is one of a small group of Islands in the Great Barrier Reef about 80 kilometres north of Townsville. The island was named by Lieutenant G. E. Richards in 1887 after the Orpheus, a British naval vessel wrecked off the coast of New Zealand in 1863.

The Perkins Collection


The Pringle Collection

A leisure-type collection devoted to cricket.

The Print Collection

A collection of prints.

The Purdue Collection

This is the personal library of Alderman Frank Purdue former Lord Mayor of Newcastle and strong supporter of the University.The Purdue Collection comprises material presented to him when acting in his official capacity.

The Redemptorist Monastery Collection

The Collection of books formerly located at the Monastery in Mayfield.

Rare Book Reference

This is a collection of reference works, many of which are historical.

The Renaissance Collection

Our Renaissance Collection comprises of volumes drawn in part from the Morpeth Collection and from the existing Auchmuty Library collections, but the majority were purchased through the Reta Light Trust Fund.

The Seaward Collection

This Collection was donated to the University from the estate of the late Miss E.M. Seaward, whose father, W.T. Seaward was an Sydney Arts graduate (1892) and resident of Scone. The collection includes a number of interesting pamphlets relating to the First World War and its aftermath including the League of Nations. Some appear to be relatively unknown and quite scarce.

The Serial Collection

There are a number of important serial titles in the Collection including:The Annual Register, 1748-1809; Almanac de Gotha, 1811- 1941; The Naval Chronicle, vols 1-4, 22, 1799-1818; Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, vols 1-33, 1787-1907;The Art Journal, 1851-1910 and New South Wales Government Gazette.

The Sparke Collection

The collection comprises family books principally of Edward Sparke (1831-1902) and his familyfrom Maitland, including a Bible and accountancy reference aids.

The Staff Collection

This collection represents books written by members of staff of the University of Newcastle. The works are currently interfiled with the General Rare Book Collection.

The Tanner Library

The Tanner Library, the personal collection of some 6,000 works belonging to the late Professor Godfrey Tanner (1927-2002). Containing works on texts and commentaries on Latin and Greek classics, the Classical Tradition, the Christian tradition in antiquity, histories of the ancient world, its literature and ideas - religious, philosophical, social, political - studies in the form and development of ancient languages, commentaries on texts and so on in English, French and German and much more.

The Tomson Collection

This is the private library of Brian Tomson who died in 1986. He was a lecturer in the English Department teaching in the fields of Old and Middle English studies as well as being a fine chess player.

The Traill Collection

There are several special family collections comprising libraries and/or surviving parts of libraries of early Hunter pioneering families. They include the collections of the Cox family, the Glennie and Wyndham family and the Windeyer and Traill families. The books in the Collections reflect what the well-to-do, well educated families were reading in the 19th century.

The Turner Library

The personal library of the late Dr John Turner (1933 - 1998), local historian and lecturer. The library is rich in Australian history and local studies.

The Watkins Collection

This is the personal library of Mr Allan Watkins, author and journalist on the Newcastle Herald. The collection includes a complete collection of his articles and novels, and short stories written by him. Also included are his"Letters for Home" written in Darwin during the 1939-45 War.

The Windeyer and Traill Collection

There are several special family collections comprising libraries and/or surviving parts of libraries of early Hunter pioneering families. They include the collections of the Cox family, the Glennie and Wyndham family and the Windeyer and Traill families. The books in the Collections reflect what the well-to-do, well educated families were reading in the 19th century.

Cultural Collections

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Level 2, Auchmuty Library
Academic Division
University of Newcastle
Callaghan NSW 2308

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