This is a Guide to the Papers of Sir Edmund Barton held in the Manuscript Collection of the National Library of Australia. As well as using this guide to browse the content of the collection, you will also find links to online copies of collection items.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of correspondence, personal papers, press cuttings, photographs and papers relating to the Federation campaign and the first Parliament of the Commonwealth.

Correspondence 1827-1896 relates mainly to the business and family affairs of William Barton, and to Edmund's early legal and political work. Correspondence 1898-1905 concerns the Federation campaign, the London conference 1900 and Barton's Prime Ministership, 1901-1903. Correspondence 1906-1920 relates mainly to Barton's family and to his work in the High Court.

Correspondents include Alfred Deakin, Lord Forrest, Lord Hopetoun, Joseph Chamberlain, Sir Samuel Griffith, Sir William Lyne, Sir Henry Parkes, Lord Tennyson, Lord Jersey, George W.E. Russell, and Sir George Reid. There are also press cuttings relating to the Hastings-Macleay election, 1898, and to the activities of the Federation delegates in London, 1900; Commonwealth Constitution material, 1885-1901, some of it annotated in Barton's hand; family documents; commissions and honours.


1.12 m (5 boxes and 16 security binders) + 11 over sized items (over 5,000 digital images)


This collection was originally numbered in a single sequence from 1-1298. A later addition to Series 1 was numbered 1/949a-1702a on the items, although the a's were omitted from the correspondence index. Additions to other series have also been inserted and numbered with a, b, c. Thus, for example, readers should carefully distinguish MS 51/990a, a letter from Richard O'Connor to Edmund Barton located in series 1, from MS 51/990, MS 51/990a and MS 51/990b, copies of a draft bill to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia located in series 6.


The bulk of the collection was received from the co-executor of the Estate of Sir Edmund Barton, Sir David M. Maughan, who was also the husband of Barton's daughter, Jean Alice. The main Maughan consignment was transferred to the Commonwealth Library in June 1929, with subsequent transfers in April 1939, May 1940 and November 1955. Personal papers from the Barton Papers were separated from the pre-1955 consignments and sent to the Mitchell Library in Sydney. After Maughan's death, a consignment of papers held by the family was transferred by Maughan's son, David Wilfrid Barton Maughan in 1957. A final consignment was received from the family in 1996 (items 1703-1853). Small additions to the collection were also incorporated from other sources between 1933 and 1984.


Digital copies of the papers of Sir Edmund Barton are available through this guide. High resolution digital masters are also available on request to the Manuscript Librarian. This is a commercial service and a fee will be charged. The original papers may be consulted in the Manuscript Reading Room of the National Library. There are no access restrictions on the papers. The Reading Room is open from 9.00am to 5.00pm on weekdays.

The papers have been microfilmed. The microfilm can be used in the Newspaper/Microcopy Reading Room of the Library, which is open from 9.00am to 9.00pm from Monday to Thursday and from 9.00am to 5.00pm on Friday and Saturday. The microfilm can also be borrowed on interlibrary loan through the Document Supply Services of the Library.

Restrictions on Use

Although there are no restrictions on access to the Barton Papers, readers should be aware that under Australian law copyright subsists in nearly all the unpublished papers in the collection. The papers were digitised by the National Library with the permission of members of the Barton family. Copyright in the letters received by Barton is held by the heirs of the writers of the letters. In accordance with Copyright regulations, the Library placed a notice in the Government Gazette listing all the correspondents and announcing its intention to reproduce the letters on the World Wide Web.

Readers using the Barton Papers may make print-outs for research purposes. You may download, display, print and reproduce this content for your personal or non-commercial use but only in an unaltered form and with the copyright acknowledged. However, anyone wishing to publish manuscript items in the Barton Papers should in the first instance seek the permission of the Manuscript Librarian of the National Library. If necessary, the Library can then refer the request to the appropriate copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

To cite this collection use:

Papers of Sir Edmund Barton, National Library of Australia, MS 51. (nla.ms-ms51)

An example of the preferred style for a citation of a specific item in this collection:

Papers of Sir Edmund Barton
National Library of Australia, MS51
Series 2: Diaries, 1869, 1902-03
Item 949: Private diary recording daily social events and persons attending the functions. 1869-70
Part 1. (nla.ms-ms51-2-949-s1)

To link on-line to specific items in the collection use the web address located at the bottom of the display page, eg http://nla.gov.au/nla.ms-ms51-2-949-s1 links to the display page for the above example. The Library has adopted a naming scheme for persistent identifiers and has a resolver service for linking to digital material no matter where on the Library's website it is currently located. The persistent identifier replaces any other numbers annotated on the item and should be used in preference in citations.