On the wall behind my desk hangs a framed black-and-white photograph of a young artist. Holding her paint brush and palette, she stands in front of her easel, pondering the next stroke. Her hair is pulled back into a severe knot at the nape of her neck. Her loose smock reflects the folds in the dress of the woman she is painting.
In checking a rare book dealer's catalogue of offerings recently, I fell upon a wonderful riddle in the Library's copy of the 1783 (second) edition of William Wade Ellis’ An authentic narrative of a voyage performed by Captain Cook and Captain Clerke, in His Majesty's ships Resolution and Discovery… — lurking behind an understated catalogue note that our “SR3 copy …. has an acrostic tipped onto front inside cover”.
As Alan Bennett wrote in his play, The History Boys:
“History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.”
As we mark another International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017, and in the midst of #nastywomen hashtags and pink pussy hats, I decided to explore the Treasures Gallery to see who I might discover ‘following behind with the bucket’.
Before Masterchef, foodtrucks and celebrity chefs, the eating and cooking habits of Australians were limited to the knowledge of recipes passed down to them by their family or shared by their friends. Eating out was an infrequent activity and cooking to a certain degree was a means of providing fuel for the family rather than providing a ‘dining experience’. The influx of immigrants after the Second World War and increasing wealth meant that Australians had access to a wider range of food and more leisure time to cook new and interesting meals.
Having established a clear link between the City of Aberdeen and a London bookseller, sometime hosier and dealer in articles of natural history last year, the life of Alexander Shaw has continued to cause me to itch.
And so while in Scotland recently I was delighted to come face-to-face with records relating to Alexander Shaw's business dealings, his estate and the Alexander Shaw Hospital.
A curious, dry-humoured young French woman seems an unlikely figure to play a key role in the history of Pacific exploration. Yet 23-year-old Rose de Freycinet (1794-1832) fulfils this role in providing a unique insight into life at sea. Unwilling to be parted from her husband Louis (1779-1842) while his expedition circumnavigated the globe, she chose to accompany him on the long voyage rather than wait at home.
Artist Augustus Earle’s life was in many respects so remarkable that if it wasn’t true it would have had to be invented. Born in London in 1793, he exhibited at the Royal Academy from the age of 13 and is acknowledged as the first independent, professional artist to visit all continents. He documented his travels with candour and honesty. Loving travel and immersing himself in the worlds he encountered, he captured them in luminous watercolours.
Our Treasures Gallery volunteer, Christine Maher, has become so interested in the life of Richard Brooks, she has written his biography, Richard Brooks: From Convict Ship Captain to Pillar of Early Colonial Australia. The biography will be launched at the National Library Bookshop at 6pm, 11 May—book your tickets.
Today the term ‘Aussie battler’ sits easily in the Australian vernacular, is used nightly on current affairs television programs, and in popular culture in characters such as the Kerrigan family in the 1997 film The Castle. For the first half of the twentieth century the Rudd family were the quintessential Aussie battlers; the working class family who continued fighting against the odds, always embracing their challenges with humour and optimism.