This report offers a review of recent significant acquisitions by the Library and of collecting activities. It does not describe the large volume of acquisitions of both Australian and overseas materials that are routinely acquired through deposit, purchase or donation.

Australian Books and Journals

  • The Library continues to work with large publishing houses in transitioning from print to digital legal deposit. In March, HarperCollins deposited 1,967 ebook titles including the digital backlist. Publications include a wide range of Australian authors such as Jackie French, James Moloney, Bill Marsh, Janette Turner Hospital and Sara Douglass. In June the romantic fiction publisher Harlequin, owned by HarperCollins, deposited 564 Australian imprints.
  • Children’s books are well represented in Australian publishing in both digital and print formats. Recent print titles include Ninja Kid by Anh Do, Mem Fox’s I'm Australian too, illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh, nominated for the Children’s Book Council of Australia 2018 Book of the Year and So Wrong 2 published by Billy Goat Books, a title which appeals to children’s enjoyment of the revolting.
  • Australian book publishing is highly diverse, characterised by many different aims and motivations. This was well illustrated by Maiva's Island Home and eight other ebook titles received from Library for All, a Queensland-based non-profit organisation with a mission to source, create and deliver affordable, accessible educational material for communities around the world. All titles were the result of a 2018 writer’s workshop held in Papua New Guinea to produce culturally relevant early literacy books so that children can learn to read using stories that reflect their life experiences. The publisher agreed to the Library making the digital titles freely available through Trove and creating an even greater channel for this Non-Government Organisation’s creative activity.
  • Zine publishing is another demonstration of the ingenuity and creativity of a niche Australian publishing subculture. Zines, short for magazine or fanzine, are a small but important aspect of the Library’s contemporary printed collection. They are unconventional, self-published works expressing political, social or irreverent views of marginalised groups not represented in traditional publishing forms. The graphic style of zine publishing has links with early 20th century Modernism, while its roots go back to radicalism, pamphleteering and the dissident press. Zines are not often available in bookshops, so Library staff regularly visit zine ‘fairs’ to beg, buy and trade new works with the zinesters themselves. The Museum of Contemporary Art’s Zine Fair in May yielded Magical queersGnome summerCoffee kitSwept under the rug and Inside the minds of plants and fungi. Interestingly some zinesters are amenable to the idea of legal deposit, with the Library usually regarded as an ally offering recognition of their work and preservation of their creative output rather than an instrument of the Establishment.
  • Publications with Indigenous content are a valuable record of lived Indigenous experience in Australia. Examples include Kanhi-ka da i murrinh ngarra kardu Thamarrurr numi da pubemkardurdu, by Theresa Ward, about the countries and languages of the Aboriginal clans of the Wadeye region of the Northern Territory. Drawing other voices together, Growing up Aboriginal in Australia, an anthology compiled by award-winning author (and Library Ambassador) Anita Heiss highlights many diverse experiences and stories. Accounts from well-known authors and high-profile identities sit alongside those from newly discovered writers of all ages.
  • The first digital newspaper was deposited, fittingly a title from the Canberra region. The Monaro post: the independent newspaper of the Snowy Monaro Region is a fully digital newspaper published by the independent newspaper publisher Monaro Media Group. This is an important first, not least because the shift of newspaper receipts from print to digital represents a saving of the staff time previously spent recording every issue on arrival.
  • The Library continued to work to fill 18th and 19th century gaps and provide insight into our convict history. We were pleased to acquire a rare 1820 chapbook The live and adventures of John Rhodes, alias Richard Dugdale : late of Whalley, near Clithero, who was executed at Lancaster, for highway robbery: taken down at his own particular request, on the 10th of September, 1801, two days prior to his executionIt details the exploits of John Rhodes, who was born at Whalley in northern England and sentenced to transportation at Botany Bay. Rhodes was removed from the convict ship Rear Admiral after he became ill, subsequently escaped and re-offended many times before finally being caught and executed on 12 September 1801. No other copy is known to exist.
  • Similarly,a number of Australian families may well now find their convict ancestors in Montgomeryshire : a calendar of the criminal and misdemeanor prisoners : now in the custody of John Davies, keeper of His Majesty's gaol for the said county : the 30th day of March, 1811. A broadside listing the names of prisoners held in county prisons at Court of Great Sessions, at Pool in Montgomeryshire, Wales (renamed Welshpool from 1835).
  • Nineteenth century business history is still a relatively untold story in Australia, with sources of information tending to be disparate and ephemeral. The Library was fortunate to acquire Photographic advertising directory and pastime album, a large and very rare collection of business announcements, address cards and advertisements from the principal trades, professions and business houses of Sydney and the northern New South Wales districts from 1886. The advertisements surround what are mainly contemporary scenic photographs: the yellow pages and websites of the era.
  • The Library was thrilled to acquire The Ghost, 1903 by Rosa Praed. Born in 1851 in Queensland, Praed and her husband left for England in 1876, where Praed would spend the rest of her days. Writing as Mrs Campbell Praed, she produced more than forty-five books over the next four decades, approximately half of which deal with Australian subject matter. The title has long been on our desiderata list, with only two more of Praed’s publications now left to acquire.

Ephemera and posters

  • Aerial flight: England to Australia, 1919, a souvenir fan issued to celebrate the winning flight of Ross Smith and Keith Smith from London to Darwin in the £10,000 1919 England to Australia Air Race. The object was also an advertisement for the department store, John Martin (later John Martin's) of Rundle Street, Adelaide.
  • Four early twentieth century posters vividly demonstrate that Australia’s trading links with the region have a lively and competitive history. The 1920s poster images promoting the Australian flour trade in Southeast Asia advertise: Guan Swee Moh / Flamingo Mark best Australian flour for sale in Penang, Malaysia; Ajax Brand Finest Flour from W.C. Thomas, Warracknabeal, Victoria for sale by Reiss & Co, Samarang (now Semarang, Java, Indonesia); Panda Brand best Australian flour milled by Howard Jackett & Co., Melbourne, for sale in Thailand; and Butterfly bakers flour from Gillespie Brothers, Sydney, for sale in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia.


Website and Online Database Publications

  • The 2018 Australian domain harvest conducted in March captured approximately 1 billion files or 78 terabytes of online Australian web content.
  • A bulk harvest of Commonwealth Government websites conducted in June collected 2.5 terabytes of content or more than 19 million files.
  • Selective web archiving highlights include a collection of around 50 websites for Australian comedians, television comedy show and comedy websites. Other highlights include the websites of renowned music group The Seekers and author and cartoonist Kaz Cooke.

Overseas Publications

  • A rare Chinese 1956 Melbourne Olympics posterGo and attend the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, featuring gold statue-like figures of a male and a female Chinese athletes marching forward with calm resolute expressions and the national flag of the People's Republic of China. The poster is a rare historical document showing China's effort and desire to participate in the Games in 1956.
  • Two Japanese detective novels Nagare no akatsuki and Gentō : tantei shōsetsupublished in the 1890s by an Australian entertainer Henry James Black. Black was born in Adelaide and arrived in Japan in 1865 with his family at the age seven. He became a kabuki actor and Japan's first foreign-born rakugoka (storyteller) performing under the name Kairakutei Black I.
  • A recent gift by the Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus highlights one of the Library’s regular contributions to Australia’s diplomatic relationships. The Ambassador generously donated a facsimile edition of the complete works of Francysk Skaryna (1486-1551), a Belarusian humanist, physician, translator and one of the first book printers in Eastern Europe. The 21 volumes are the result of a project begun in 2014 by the National Library of Belarus to mark 500 years of book printing in Belarus, when Skaryna laid the groundwork for the development of the Belarusian language.


  • In June, donor John Dobes transferred the papers of his late father to the Library. Michael Dobes, a Slovakian immigrant, designed and manufactured the light fittings featured on the inside of the external marble columns of the National Library building. John recalls when he was 12 years old, his father went to Canberra with an assistant to install the light fittings. Dobes' business, Progress Lamps, was one of the suppliers of luminaries to the National Library mentioned in a Meritorious Award by the Illuminating Engineering Society of Australia in 1969.  The Michael Dobes collection will be on display in the Library's Special Collections Reading Room as part of the Open Day in August with John Dobes visiting to see his father's papers on display.
  • In recent years, and with the 40th anniversary of her death, there has been a renewed interest in the works of artist, Eirene Mort, with the Canberra Museum and Gallery's recent exhibition, Eirene Mort, a livelihood playing a part in reviving her work and life. While the Library had already held a substantial amount of Mort's artistic works, its manuscript holdings were slim. It was therefore a joy for Library staff to acquire, from one of Mort's heirs, 14 boxes of Mort's papers. Consisting of sketches, correspondence, early family papers, research notes, photographs, book plates and prints from the exhibition, her archive will now offer researchers a glimpse into Mort's life and work. Her beautiful illustrations to accompany children's books document the types of work she undertook for an income; and her small collection of annotated postcards from Germany and Holland in July 1914, just before the beginning of the First World War, tells us a lot about her interests and character.
  • Growing academic interest in the study of reader responses to children's literature contribute to the research importance of Nadia Wheatley's fifth instalment of papers, recently purchased by the Library. The instalment consist of drafts and proofs of books, talks, reviews, articles, research and publicity material as well as correspondence relating to her books, My place (c., 1987) Playground: listening to stories from country and from inside the heart (2011) Australians all: a history of growing up, from the ice age to the apology (2013) and Flight (2015). A significant component of this instalment consists of correspondence from school children who write to Wheatley, and her husband and collaborator, Ken Searle; a wonderful resource and indication of the role of reading, books and authors in children's lives.
  • Jill Jolliffe's latest addition to her archive completes 40 years of her collecting and assembling papers relating to women journalists working in the international arena. Working as a freelance investigative journalist from September 1975 until her diagnosis with Alzheimer's in 2016, Jolliffe was an eyewitness to significant events in East Timor. She made an audio recording of the historic declaration of independence by the Timorese Fretlin movement in November 1975, witnessed the first incursions of Indonesian regular troops into East Timor, reported on the death of her five colleagues at Balibo, and was evacuated from Dili four days before Indonesian paratroopers attacked the capital in 1975. In 1978 Jolliffe moved to Portugal, where she continued to follow the East Timor story and to work as a correspondent for The GuardianThe Sunday TimesThe AgeThe Sydney Morning Herald and the BBC, among others. At over 72 boxes, the archive consists of working files, video and audio material, notebooks, journals, personal and professional correspondence, and a small number of published books by other authors. For media and journalist scholars, her archive documents the working methods of an investigative journalist; for scholars of East Timor and Indonesia, her archive, with roughly two-thirds of its focus on East Timor, contains unique source material on the period of Timore Leste’s and Indonesia’s modern history and shows Jolliffe's authoritative position on the Indonesian occupation, as well as the difficulty, complexity and importance of Australia's relationship with Indonesia.


  • An original drawing used in the engraving of the Blaeu wall map of New Holland was acquired by the Library after protracted discussions with a private collector in the Netherlands. Very few design drawings for early Dutch wall maps survive, and in 2014 the Library was made aware of the existence of the drawing for the main title cartouche, created in 1659 by master craftsman Pieter Jansz, in 2014. The wall map itself was acquired by the Library in 2013; the first large scale depiction of the Dutch mapping of Australia, including the voyage findings of Abel Tasman in the 1640s. The richly symbolic and elegant cartouche drawing for the title block of the map, epitomises Dutch trading wealth and influence in the region. The acquisition brings these two objects together for the first time in 350 years, and both will be displayed in the Treasures Gallery later in 2018.
  • The great-grand-daughter of ACT surveyor Charles Robert Scrivener arrived unannounced at the Library to donate his personal copy of the 1913 map Rough topographical map of part of Federal Capital Territory for military purposes, printed on satin fabric. The Library already holds three copies of the map on paper, but the provenance of Scrivener's own cloth copy in near-pristine condition, make it a wonderful addition to the Library's collection of Canberra material.
  • The Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris for the year 1769, published in London for the Commissioners of Longitude. Prepared under the supervision of Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne, it includes ‘Instructions relative to the observation of the ensuing transit of the planet Venus over the Sun's disk, on the 3d of June 1769’. For inclusion in the forthcoming Cook and the Pacific exhibition, this is the edition of the Almanac used by Cook to make observations at Tahiti. The volume includes a handwritten dedication from Maskelyne.


  • In a classic ‘treasures found in op shops’ story, the Jervis Bay Baptist Church  Op-Shop in New South Wales donated two signed watercolours by Ellis Rowan, Flowers on the banks of a lake and Ducks on a lake. One of the Library's volunteers and Rowan expert, Barrie Hadlow, verified their authenticity, and they have been added to the Library's extensive archive of Rowan works, the strongest in the world. The donation received national media attention in the Fairfax press, resulting in a welcome subsequent offer of a third related 'lost' Rowan work.
  • A photograph of the 1884 'Fourth Australians' cricket team was acquired, after research confirmed its rarity - not being held by the Library or in any other institution. The self-funded team represented Australia on the fourth official tour of England, and played in the second Ashes series. The team were unsupported by Australia's cricket associations. 1884 was the first English season to include more than one Test match. Playing a total of 32 matches, 31 of which held first-class status (three or more days), the Fourth Australians won eighteen matches, lost seven and drew seven.
  • A series of fifty photographs by Martin Mischkulnig, Smalltown, chronicles marginal settlements across the country during 2005-2007, documenting a recognisably rural Australian aesthetic. The images are beautiful yet unsentimental, informed by Mischkulnig's experience growing up in South Australia where his parents managed wayside country motels. Using a large-format camera, Mischkulnig has captured the empty interiors, stagnant structures and ugliness of human interventions within the vast Australian environment. The underlying subtext of the series addresses issues of isolation, neglect, and the devaluation of regional and rural townships.
  • Notable for its rarity, a nineteenth century 'chapbook' (a small, inexpensive booklet for popular entertainment) depicting the Tichborne trial was a recent acquisition. The infamous trial was a legal cause celebre, where the claimant, a butcher from Wagga Wagga, failed to prove he was the missing heir to the Tichborne fortune, and was convicted of perjury and jailed. The chapbook contains twenty-six illustrations depicting the case, and is unusual for its pro-claimant viewpoint. The only other copy known to be in a public institution is in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.
  • The Library was able to "re-unite" two iconic Australian cartoons with its acquisition of Stan Cross' Cripes, that was a narrow squeak! Tony Rafty OAM, a caricaturist and long-standing member of the Australian Cartoonists' Association, owned this original cartoon for many years, and wanted it housed with Cross' internationally famous cartoon For gorsake, stop laughing, this is serious!, widely referred to as ‘Australia's funniest cartoon’. Cripes, that was a narrow squeak! was the 1933 sequel to For gorsake and, after Rafty's death, his sons offered it to the Library for purchase. In spite of various unsuccessful media campaigns by black and white artists to find it over the years, For gorsake had remained ‘lost’ to research until it was offered to the Library in 2015 by the family of a colleague and friend of Stan Cross.

Oral History and Folklore 

  • Historian and journalist Gregg Borschmann has recorded a number of interviews for the Great Barrier Reef oral history project. In order to collect these crucial histories Gregg made the journey in January to the remote and beautiful Lizard Island, some 90 kilometres north of Cooktown, to interview scientists Professor David Bellwood, Dr Anne Hogget AM and Dr Lyle Vail AM at the Lizard Island Research Station. Part of Mr Borschmann’s multi-staged journey to the research station involved a chartered flight over a 200 kilometres stretch of the Great Barrier Reef, providing a stunning aerial view of the Reef’s unique and fragile ecosystem in all of its natural glory, and bringing into stark relief the purpose and the value of this oral history project, now and for future generations.
  • Dr Shirleene Robinson interviewed a number of prominent activists involved in the struggle for marriage equality in Australia, including Peter Black, Shannan Dodson, Patrick Batchelor and Francis Voon. This project began in January 2018 and Dr Robinson completed a remarkable 25 in-depth interviews in the intervening six months. These interviews will form part of a book that Dr Robinson has been commissioned to write, which tells the story of the campaign. The book is titled Yes yes yes: The inside story of the campaign for marriage equality in Australia and is scheduled for publication by NewSouth Books in November of 2018 to mark the first anniversary of the passing of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017.
  • Oral History and Folklore has been working closely with industry partners on an ARC project titled ‘Rural and farm women’, which aims to record the often overlooked stories of women working in agriculture. Dr Nikki Henningham has recorded a significant number of these interviews, such as with Northern Territory rancher Nicole Hayes, Queensland sugarcane farmer Anna Attard, South Australian hydroponic vegetable grower and business women Eleanora Marchioro, and Victorian politician and advocate Cathy McGowan AO MP.
  • Through this work Dr Henningham met and interviewed several women for the Oral History collection, who do not fit the parameters of this ARC project, but who nonetheless have powerful and important stories, such as Susan Alberti AC and Bev Ellis. Ms Alberti is a prominent businesswoman and philanthropist who, after experiencing the struggle and eventual death of her daughter due to type 1 diabetes, has become an advocate and sponsor for advancing research into better understanding and developing treatments for diabetes. Bev Ellis is an Alice Springs resident who has led a varied and vibrant life as a primary school teacher, arts promotor, community coordinator, bank employee, and currently, owner and manager of a Dymocks bookstore. Aussie Rules football has been a constant for Ms Ellis, and she has been a passionate advocate for AFL in Central Australia and was formerly Chair of AFL Central Australia. Her work has been crucial for developing men’s and women’s AFL and during the interview process Ms Ellis and Dr Henningham were able to attend the first AFL Premiership game ever played in Central Australia, Melbourne Demons Vs Adelaide Crows, an event that took place as a direct result of Ms Ellis’ ongoing work.
  • In mid-2017 folklorist Rob Willis travelled to the Northern Territory to record the Darwin Rondalla Stringband. Rob was so impressed with the band that they were invited to be the Library’s annual guest performer for the National Folk Festival. The band braved the cold Canberra weather for their first trip to the ACT, and for some their first trip outside of the Territory. They spent two days in the Oral History studios recording music, followed by a performance as part of the Australian Folklore Conference. This concert was the first ever to be livestreamed on the Library’s Facebook page and has been viewed by almost 5,000 people, including those from the band’s hometown of Darwin, all across Australia, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Darwin Rondalla also played to an appreciative and enthusiastic crowd on 28 March at a concert held by the Philippine Embassy, before concluding their whirlwind trip by playing at the 2018 National Folk Festival.
  • Interviewers Pat Lyons and Maps Curator Dr Martin Woods have been busy recording the last remaining interviews for the almost complete ‘History of Australian Geoscience’ oral history project, undertaken in partnership with Geoscience Australia. The nine interviews conducted for this project included some of Australia’s leading scientists, such as former Surveyor-General of the ACT Bill Hirst, geodesist and former University of Melbourne lecturer Dr Frank Leahy AM, and Dr Dennis Puniard, who was a Major in the Royal Australian Survey Corps as well as business lecturer at the University of Canberra.
  • Also interviewed were surveyor Bob Twilley and geophysicist Dr Charles Barton. Mr Twilley was responsible for the Sea Level Monitoring project and spent 15 years managing the installation of tidal gauges across the South Pacific. The data provided by these gauges has been crucial in understanding how the Pacific oceanographic and meteorological environment is changing, particularly with regard to climate change and rising sea levels. Dr Barton has also had a storied career, working in Africa for 10 years and later delving into research around the earth’s geomagnetic field and its relationship to climate. However, his most significant claim to fame is as the only person in history to have ever travelled to both the North and South Magnetic Poles, a feat that, due to difficult journey and fluctuating nature of the Poles, is likely never to be repeated.