Laurence Frederic Fitzhardinge (1908–1993) was born in Sydney and educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School, the University of Sydney and New College, Oxford. He was trained as a classicist and retained a strong interest in classics all his life. His book The Spartans was published in 1980. His career, however, was to be mostly spent in writing and teaching Australian history. In 1934 he joined the staff of the Commonwealth National Library and for 10 years he was in charge of the Australian collections. He was director of the School of Diplomatic Studies at Canberra University College in 1944 before returning to Sydney University as a lecturer in classics. In 1950 he became Reader in History at the Research School of Social Sciences in The Australian National University. He retained this position until his retirement in 1973.
Fitzhardinge was involved in the acquisition of the Groom papers by the Library and was a major contributor to Nation Building in Australia: The Life and Work of Sir Ernest Littleton Groom (1941). In 1951 he began work on his magnum opus, the life of the Australian Prime Minister William Morris Hughes. It took over 25 years to complete. The first volume, That Fiery Particle, 1862–1914, was published in 1964 and the second and larger volume, The Little Digger 1914–1942, appeared in 1979. He wrote a number of smaller works, including several studies of early Canberra history.
Fitzhardinge inherited a valuable collection of books from his father, James (Eric) Fitzhardinge (1877–1951), a solicitor with a strong interest in English literature. He himself collected books all his life, assisted by his wife Verity Hewitt, who was a well-known Canberra bookseller.
Fitzhardinge’s association with the Library extended over 60 years. Not long before his death, he stated that he wished the Library to receive part of his collection, the books that illustrated the history of printing. Geoffrey and Charles Fitzhardinge, the sons of Fitzhardinge, donated the Fitzhardinge Collection under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme in 1994–95.
The J.L. and L.F. Fitzhardinge Collection of about 300 books can be divided into two parts. There are a number of incunabula and other early editions of classical texts, poetry and religious works. They include:
Chrysostomus, Johannes, Sermones XXV e Graeco e Lat. versi a Christoph Persona, Rome, 1470
Caracciolo, Roberto, Sermones clarissimi in sacra theologia, Venice, 1475
Pergaminus, Nicolaus, Dialogus creaturarum moralisatus , Gouda, 1480
Saint Jerome, Incipit p[ro]logus Santi Hieronimi ... : in libros Vitaspatrum sancto[rum] Egiptioru[m] : etia[s] ero[rum] qui in Scithia Thebaida : atq[ue] Mesopotamia morati sunt
[Vitae partum], Nuremburg, 1483
Gerson, Jean, Secunda pars operum Johannis Gerson, Nuremburg, 1489
Ovid, De arte amandi, Venice, 1494
Savonarola, Girolamo, Operetta molto diuota composta da frate Hieronymo da Ferrara, Florence, 1495
Theocritus et Hesiod, Ta'de enesti en tede biblio ..., Venice, 1495
Petrach, [Li Sonetti, Canzone & Triumphi de Petrarcha : con li commenti ...], Venice, 1503
Livy, Titi Liuii patauini Decades cum figuris nouiter impresse, Venice, 1511
Livy, Romische historie Titi Liuij meniglich kurtzweilich vund dienstlich zu lesen, Mainz, 1514
Aristotle, Ton en te'de te biblio : perie chomenon, onomata kai taxis. Aristotelous peri zoon historias ..., Florence, 1527
Lucretius, Titi Lucretii Cari De rerum natura libri sex, Birmingham, 1772
Pope, Alexander, Poetical Works, Glasgow, 1785
The second group consists of limited edition reprints, some of private presses, of celebrated English writers, mostly published in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. The writers include Edmund Blunden, Geoffrey Chaucer, W.H. Davies, Henry Fielding, Robert Herrick, John Keats, Christopher Marlowe, John Milton, Sir Thomas More, William Morris, Christina Rossetti, William Shakespeare, Algernon Swinburne, Lord Tennyson, Anthony Trollope, Edward Thomas, Izaak Walton and W.B. Yeats. Presses include Kelmscott, Gregynog, Ashendene, Golden Hours, Halcyon and Golden Cockerell.
The Fitzhardinge Collection has been kept together within the Rare Books Collection. The call numbers have the prefix RB FITZ (also RBf FITZ and RBRS FITZ). There is a presentation bookplate in each book.
After Fitzhardinge’s death, the large part of his collection that did not come to the Library was sold and dispersed. It included a fragment of a fifteenth-century manuscript of Petrarch’s Epistolae Seniles, which Eric Fitzhardinge had acquired in 1934. It is described in K.V. Sinclair, Descriptive Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Western Manuscripts in Australia (1969, pp. 42–3). The manuscript was acquired by the Schǿyen Collection, a private collection in Oslo and London.
Dent, Margaret, A Man and His Books: The Library of L.F. Fitzhardinge, National Library of Australia News, vol. 5 (9), June 1995, pp. 6–9.