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Melbourne Rare Book Week reaches a milestone

Book Talk

Melbourne Rare Book Week reaches a milestone

Book Talk

Australian Womens Weekly CookbooksIn 2024, Melbourne Rare Book Week celebrates its tenth anniversary. The brainchild of antiquarian bookseller Kay Craddock, it was founded in 2012, in part to evolve and educate a new generation of book lovers; but also to support Melbourne’s then recent designation as a City of Literature.

The idea was simple but effective: to harness Melbourne’s many institutions – libraries, galleries, museums, universities – which house collections of rare books, and to partner with them to create a dedicated ten-day program of events in the lead-up to the Melbourne’s annual Rare Book Fair.

In its earliest incarnation, Rare Book Week comprised ten partners, who presented eighteen events in various venues throughout Melbourne. Since that first year – and discounting a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic – Rare Book Week has grown considerably, with this year’s program the largest to date, offering more than forty events hosted by thirty-two partnering institutions and associated societies.

The 2024 program, which runs from 18 to 27 July, reflects the breadth of this city’s book culture. Offerings include:

  • Dr Lauen Samuelsson speaking on the influence on Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks on Australian food culture
  • Curators Cathy Leahy and Maggie Finch on early twentieth-century avant-garde artist books held by the National Gallery of Victoria
  • Mark Rubbo in conversation with literary journalist Jane Sullivan, discussing his nearly half-century career managing Readings bookshops
  • Museum Victoria curators offering a viewing of rare and illustrated bird books held in the Museum’s collection
  • A panel discussion, including Gideon Haigh, Cheryl Critchley, and Kasey Symons, looking at highlights from the Melbourne Cricket Club library
  • Honorary Associate Professor Frances Devlin-Glass speaking on the impact of censorship and the obscenity trial on Joyce’s revisions of Ulysses
  • Shane Carmody talking about the State Library Victoria’s significant collection of printings by England’s first printer William Caxton, to mark the 550th anniversary of the first book in English printed with moveable type
  • A panel discussion on the collaborative artist book Foirades/Fizzles, created by Samuel Beckett and Jasper Johns, a copy of which is held in the Baillieu Library collection, University of Melbourne
  • Self-professed cultural archaeologist Sean Reynold’s unveiling his long-running project to tell the hidden stories behind the ghost signs of North Melbourne

From the outset, a key founding principle of Melbourne Rare Book Week was that all events were to be offered free to the public, a principle adhered to during its first ten years.

While founded as a uniquely Melbourne event, the concept of a Rare Book Week has since been emulated in other cities, most notably with the Sydney Rare Book Week, established in 2019.

Above all, Melbourne Rare Book Week seeks to celebrate the rich and diverse collections held in this city, unlocking their potential for stories and storytelling.

The full program for Melbourne Rare Book Week 2024 can be found at:

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