Chaplin Collection

Harry F. Chaplin (1895–1988) was the proprietor of the Chaplin-Elliott Dental Company in Sydney. He was a passionate collector of Australian books, printed ephemera, manuscripts and letters. In 1944 he was elected the foundation president of the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia. In his later years he pursued relentlessly individuals such as the poet James Devaney, the artist Hal Gye and the writer Jack Lindsay and in the process assembled large collections of their correspondence.

Chaplin’s collecting interests are documented in the detailed catalogues that he compiled and which were published by the Wentworth Press: John Shaw Neilson (1964), Christopher Brennan (1966), McCrae family (1967), Norman Lindsay (1969), Henry Lawson (1974), Fanfrolico Press (1976), Lindsay family (1978) and Jack Lindsay (1983).

Several of Chaplin’s collections eventually passed into the hands of notable private collectors such as Geoffrey Cains and Patrick Corrigan.


The Library purchased the Neilson Collection from Chaplin in 1964, followed by the Brennan Collection in 1967. The C.J. Dennis–Hal Gye Collection was bought from Chaplin in 1981.


MS 1145

John Shaw Neilson (1844–1922). Collection of manuscripts including the autobiography of Neilson in the form of letters to James Devaney, manuscripts and typescripts of poems, notebook, letters received by Neilson, and inscribed or signed copies of published items (79 volumes).

MS 1871

Christopher Brennan (1870–1932). Manuscript poems by Brennan, inscribed and association copies of his books, commentaries on Brennan by other writers, letters and portraits (97 volumes).

MS 6480

C.J. Dennis (1876-1938) and Hal Gye (1888–1967). Manuscript and typescript drafts of The Glugs of Gosh, note by Gye, letters and photographs relating to Dennis’ early life, photographs and drawings of Dennis and Gye, letters of Dennis and correspondence between Gye and Chaplin.

MS 7647

William Moore (1868–1937). Manuscripts of ‘Black and White’ and ‘The Spoken Word’, other manuscripts, letters, photographs (three volumes).

MS 8672

E.J. Brady (1869–1952). Manuscript biography of J.F. Archibald by Brady (1944), correspondence between Brady and other writers about Archibald and memorabilia collected by Chaplin about Brady (three volumes).

MS 8965

Elioth Gruner (1882–1939). Material about the landscape artist Eliot Gruner, including letters from writers and artists, articles about Gruner and photographs of Gruner and Norman Lindsay (one volume).

MS 9307

Jack Lindsay (1900–1990). Correspondence between Lindsay and Chaplin, 1856–1983 (four folders).


The various collections are held in the Manuscripts Collection. The John Shaw Neilson and Christopher Brennan collections are arranged in accordance with Chaplin’s published catalogues:

A Neilson collection (1964)

A Brennan collection (1966)

Related Collections

The Mitchell Library at the State Library of New South Wales holds a number of Chaplin’s collections, as well as some of his papers. They include Arthur Bayldon (one volume), Louis Becke (one volume), Zora Cross (one volume), John Farrell (one volume), Eve Langley (one volume), and Louisa and Henry Lawson (one volume).

The Fisher Library at the University of Sydney holds the McCrae family collection assembled by Chaplin.

The James Hardie Library of Fine Arts at the State Library of Queensland holds the Lindsay family collection assembled by Chaplin (35 volumes).

The La Trobe Library at the State Library of Victoria holds the following collections assembled by Chaplin: E.J. Brady (three volumes), Joseph Furphy (one volume), Nettie Palmer (one volume), and Bernard O’Dowd (one volume).