Creative Lives presents short biographical essays on twenty-two Australian writers (two of whom are also notable artists); but it is just as much a book about the value and purpose of the National Library of Australia’s Manuscripts Collection. Ironically, the book offers little documentation of the process by which it came to be written. Hanley does tell us, however, that she ‘was asked to write a book on twenty of the writers whose papers are held in the Manuscripts Collection’ and eventually chose twenty-two.
The La Trobe Library Journal began life in 1968 as a modest, even dowdy sixteen-pager produced by the Friends of the (still very new) La Trobe Library. Its purpose was to publicise the Library and its holdings. For the first decade of its existence, the journal was edited by that quiet achiever of Australian letters, Geoffrey Serle. Over the following twenty years it was edited, and largely written, by a succession of librarians, high-lighting not only the riches of the Library’s collections but also the calibre of its staff.
There are many good reasons for destroying books. Not every act of destruction is an attempt to suppress ideas. Publishers pulp excess stocks of unsold titles; booksellers and libraries do it; even you and I do it. You don’t want to keep every school textbook you ever owned, and the nice people down at the Op Shop won’t thank you for dumping your discards on them. Our state and national libraries keep publishers’ deposit copies of every book produced in their jurisdictions – these are copies of last resort. If you attack them, you are attacking the cultural memory of human- kind; if you empty your own book- shelves onto a bonfire, you have merely gone overboard with spring cleaning.
The concluding volume to Raymond Howgego’s epic Encyclopedia of Exploration completes a remarkable undertaking by a small publisher. Hordern House, best known as one of Australia’s leading antiquarian booksellers, has a record of producing high-quality publications, and Howgego’s Encyclopedia – now totalling more than 3,500 pages – is by any standards a great reference work. Volume 1 (published in 2003) covers the whole of human history up to 1800CE; Volume 2 (2004), 1800–50; and Volumes 3 and 4 (subtitled The Oceans, Islands and Polar Regions and Continental Exploration, respectively), 1850–1940.
The World Of The Book is an offshoot of the State Library of Victoria’s permanent ‘Mirror of the World’ exhibition, which uses major works from the SLV’s collections to present a global history of books and ideas. The exhibition itself is a testament to the depth and diversity of the SLV’s collections, and the book is thus part exhibition catalogue, part ‘Treasures’ book.
When does an explorer become an adventurer, an adventurer a traveller, a traveller a tourist? This third volume of Raymond Howgego’s monumental Encyclopedia of Exploration moves into a period when the lines become increasingly blurred.
Volume One (2003) covered all of human history up to 1800. In that period, any traveller who left a written account of his or her journey could be counted as an ‘explorer’, and Howgego’s sheer stamina in seeking them all out made this one of the extraordinary books of our time. Most reference works of this scale are assembled by small armies of writers, researchers and editors, funded by major international publishers. The Encyclopedia of Exploration to 1800 was the work of one man, supported by the comparatively modest resources of Sydney antiquarian bookseller and boutique publisher, Hordern House.
When is a suburb not a suburb? When it is an inner-urban locale with a distinctive café culture, its own postcode and football team, but no town all. And here’s another: how did an Old English word meaning ‘churl’s farm’ come to be assigned to a swanky inner suburb of a major city in the southern hemisphere? These and numerous other questions are answered in Carlton: A History. This encyclopedic book tells a fascinating story that resonates way beyond its notional suburban boundaries.
As Melbourne grew, its suburbs became too vast for one local government body to administer, and areas were carved off to form separate municipalities: Richmond, Collingwood, Fitzroy, South Melbourne, North Melbourne. Carlton, however, despite periodic agitation from its residents, has remained within the boundaries of the Melbourne City Council.
I first encountered the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia long before I heard its name. Readers who were at primary school in the late 1960s or early 1970s will know what I’m talking about — those illustrated booklets (a treasure trove for school projects) on Australian history, put out by the Bank of New South Wales, with pompous, triumphalist titles such as ‘Endeavour and Achievement’.