Each month when I go upstairs to the Manuscripts Reading Room to get a new box of comics from the John Ryan collection to catalogue, it feels like Christmas to me. I am just so excited at finding out what’s in the box, and waking up all the titles that have been lying dormant for nigh on thirty years.
The war to end all wars. How everyone longed for this to be true in 1918, yet sadly how mistaken was this belief. Looking back from a distance of 100 years at the horror, the suffering, the unimaginable waste and futility of it all, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the statistics of lives lost or permanently shattered, and to focus instead on analysing the politics and the actions of the major players. There is a tendency to lose sight of what the war meant to so many individuals.
The John Ryan Comic Collection is a collection of Australian and overseas comics purchased from Mrs John Ryan back in June 1981. It has remained largely uncatalogued in the Library for over thirty years, and was represented in the catalogue by just one collection record.
Some comics become an instant success, enjoying great popular appeal and lasting for decades. Others may slowly develop a devoted cult following and inspire clubs, fanzines, and blogs. Sadly, there also comics that begin with high-hopes but last only a brief time and soon fade into obscurity. For the National Library of Australia, it is particularly important that this latter category is collected and preserved as there may be few copies retained elsewhere, and they provide an important insight into the culture and publishing history of the time.
Spring – “to leap, burst forth, fly up, spread, grow”. A name that in temperate climes we have come to apply to the season that emerges with freshness and new life from dormant winter’s cold, as well as to water rising forth unexpectedly from beneath the ground. An inspiration for artists, composers and writers throughout the ages, a source of beauty for everyone, and on a more prosaic level, sustenance for us all.
Many of the Library’s books are interesting not only because of their subject matter but more so because of their own special histories – who owned them and where they have been. One travel book in the Library’s collection called Travels amongst the great Andes of the equator by Edward Whymper tells the story of a journey through the Andes in Ecuador. However, it is the journey that this particular copy of the book undertook that makes it unique.
The National Library aims to comprehensively collect works published by Australians or about Australia. For items published in Australia, we have legal deposit to help us in this task. However we also undertake the even greater challenge of trying to track down those elusive Australian authors/illustrators (including expats) whose works have been published overseas, either in English or in translation. In addition, we search for works about Australia that are published by overseas authors. In our global hunt it is amazing what we find!