Sir Brian William Hone (1907–1978) was born in Adelaide and educated at Prince Alfred College, the University of Adelaide, and New College, Oxford. He taught English at Marlborough College from 1933 to 1939. In 1940 he returned to Australia to be Headmaster of Cranbrook School, Sydney. He was appointed Headmaster of Melbourne Grammar School in 1950 and held the post until his retirement in 1970. Hone was Chairman of the Headmasters Conference of Australia in 1954–57. He was knighted in 1970.

As an undergraduate in Adelaide and Oxford, Hone took a keen interest in fine printing and private presses, and he retained a passion for beautiful books all his life. In 1934 he founded the Marlborough College Press that ‘was not intended for domestic convenience or the publication of opinions, but for the study of the art of printing’. Hone left Marlborough in 1940, but the press remained in operation until 1984, producing 54 major pieces of printing. Hone was a lifelong book collector and acquired books published from the fifteenth century until the 1970s. He concentrated on the productions of private presses, both in Australia and overseas.


In 1981 the personal papers of Hone were donated to the Library by Lady Hone under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme. She added further papers in 1989. Lady Hone presented his collection of rare books in 1986–89, again using the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme.


Printed Materials

The Hone Collection comprises 148 books illustrating the history of printing in Europe and Australia. Among the early works are:

Appianus, of Alexandria, P. Candidi in libros Appiani sophiste Alexandrini ad Nicolaum quintu summu pontificem, Bernadus pictorem & Erhardum, Venetijs, 1477

Virgil, [Opera] Anton Koberger, Nuremburg, 1492

Burgo, Joannes de, Pupilla oculi oib sacerdotibus, François Regnault, Paris, 1521

Whitney, Geoffrey, A Choice of Emblems and Deuises for the Moste Parte Gathered out of Sundrie Writers, Christopher Plantyn, Leyden, 1586

The Text of the New Testament of Jesus Christ, Christopher Barker, London, 1589

Horace, [Opera] Ex Officia Elzeviriana, Leyden, 1629

Brown, Edward, An Account of Several Travels Through a Great Part of Germany, Benjamin Tooke, London, 1677

Solleysel, Jacques de,  Le parfait mareschal qui enseigne à connoistre la beauté, Henry van Bulderen, The Hague, 1691

Pope, Alexander, Mr Pope’s Literary Correspondence, E. Curll, London, 1735

Catullus, Catulli, Tibulli at Propertii: Opera, John Baskerville, Birmingham, 1772.

Modern English private presses represented in the collection include Astolat, Chiswick, Golden Cockerel, Fanfrolico, Gregynog, Kelmscott, Nonesuch and Peter Pauper. There are 18 productions of the Marlborough College Press, including its first publication, The Adderley Times (1934). Australian presses include the Australian Limited Editions Society, Frensham Press, Hassell Press, Juniper Press and Sydney Technical College. There are also a number of commercial books on the history of printing.


The collection contains a medieval manuscript, a choirbook, written on vellum with music and text on alternate lines. It was probably written in Florence in the late fifteenth century.

Personal Papers

Among the personal papers are two scrapbooks containing cuttings, programs and ephemera relating to Oxford University and Marlborough College, some papers concerning Marlborough College Press, and lecture notes on early printing. The remainder of the papers mainly date from the last 20 years of Hone’s life. They include correspondence, financial papers, appointment diaries, agenda papers and reports. There are extensive files on Melbourne Grammar School, the Schools Commission, and the Commonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee, which Hone chaired in 1971–74.


The books in the Hone Collection are housed in the Rare Books Collection in either the RB MISC or RB MOD runs. They have been catalogued individually and the entries include a provenance statement. The manuscript and the personal papers are kept in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 6823. A nine-page finding aid is available online at


Bate, Weston, Hone, Sir Brian William (1907–1978), Australian Dictionary of Biography online

Harrison, Chris, Sir Brian Hone: The Scholar, His Press and His Books in the National Library, National Library of Australia News, vol. 1 (5), February 1991, pp. 11–13.

First posted 2008 (revised 2019)