Ernst Julian Walter Simon (1893–1981), known as Walter Simon, was born in Berlin and educated at the University of Berlin. From 1919 to 1935 he was on the staff of the University of Berlin Library and he spent a year on exchange at the National Library of China, where he catalogued Manchu books. He began studying Chinese in 1920 and became a lecturer in Chinese in 1926. As a Jewish scholar, he was forced to leave both the Library and the University in 1934–35. In 1936 he and his family migrated to England where he found a job in the School of Oriental Studies in London. He was appointed Reader in Chinese at London University in 1938 and he was Professor of Chinese from 1947 until his retirement in 1960.

Simon was the author of numerous books and articles in German and English relating to Chinese, Manchu and Tibetan grammar, vocabularies and etymology.


The collection was acquired in instalments. The first part, consisting mostly of Chinese and Japanese books and serials, was purchased in 1971 from Simon’s son, Professor Harry Simon of the University of Melbourne. Walter Simon sold 234 Manchu books and 13 manuscripts to the Library in 1972, followed by 850 works in European languages in 1974. Following his death, his family donated about 600 books under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme. They cover Tibetan, Manchu, Mongolian and related languages and philology.


Printed Materials

The collection contains about 3300 volumes, of which about half are Chinese books and serials. There are about 500 Japanese books and serials, 234 Manchu books (17 titles) and a little over 1000 works in European languages. Most of the books were published in the 1900–70 period, but there are a number of nineteenth-century works as well. The Manchu books are older, with two titles dating from the seventeenth century, seven titles from the eighteenth century, and the remainder from the nineteenth century.

The subject matter of the collection is very broad. It includes Greek and Latin classics, Chinese language and dialects, Chinese history, contemporary Chinese politics, Chinese philosophy and literature, Confucianism, Buddhism, Tibetan language and texts, Indian literature, Sanskrit, Mongolian, Japanese literature, French literature, linguistics and libraries.


The collection contains 13 Manchu manuscripts (SIMON 1029–41). They are not all dated, but most appear to have been written in the first half of the nineteenth century. The oldest, a letter from Prince Sangsan to Wu Sangui, dates from the 1670s. Some of the manuscripts are written in Manchu only, others in Manchu and Chinese, and one in Manchu, Chinese and Mongolian. They include Emperor’s prayers in a temple, memorials to the Emperor in the Qianlong and Jiaqing eras (1736–1820), songs in veneration of the Amitabha Buddha, congratulatory messages to centenarians, correspondence between an elder and a younger brother, poems of the thousand poets, and a document on the administration of imperial tombs.

Personal Papers

A small group of personal papers of Simon was received with the last consignment of his books. They include a 1921–24 account book, Tibetan notes, papers of the Institute of Tibetan Studies, a draft report of a visit to Japan in 1970, and some correspondence (1964–76).


The books, serials and Manchu manuscripts are kept together as a collection in the Asian Collections. A little over half the works have been individually catalogued. The call numbers have the prefix SIMON. The small collection of personal papers is held in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 9106.


Bawden, C.R., Ernst Julius Walter Simon, Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. 67, 1981, pp. 459–77.

Gosling, Andrew, Walter Simon: A Scholar-librarian and his East Asian Collection, National Library of Australia News, vol. 11 (3), December 2000, pp. 3–6.

Walravens, Hartmut, Mandjurica in Australischen Bibliotheken, Zentralasiatische Studien, vol. 14 (2), 1980, pp. 221–35