Guide to selected collections

The National Library's collections range in date from the eleventh century to the present, take in every country in the world and are exceptionally broad in format and subject. They consist of books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, ephemera, maps, manuscripts, private archives, music scores, pictures, microform and digital materials.

A significant proportion of what the Library holds, including some of the rarest and most valuable material, was acquired as collections. Some were built up by individual collectors, families, booksellers and learned societies, often over a long period (formed collections). Other collections have been assembled from various sources by the Library itself in an effort to achieve great strength in particular subject areas (subject collections). Many of the collections have outstanding research value.

The following entries are for the most significant of these collections. The entries give details about the individuals, families or organisations that assembled the collections, describe the size, scope and strengths of each collection, and summarise how they have been acquired, organised, catalogued or listed by the Library. While the majority of the collections described consist largely of Australian materials, there are also entries for significant Asian, European and North American collections. These descriptions are intended to complement the Library's catalogue and other finding-aids.

Between 1974 and 1982 the Library published the Guide to the collections, edited by C.A. Burmester. A number of the collections recorded in that publication have been updated and are included in the following selection.

  • Recordings of Australian folk songs, dance music and recitations, which also include a great deal of oral history

  • Oral history interviews with prominent Australian women

  • Papers of Munro Ferguson, dating from 1914 to 1920, that form one of the finest personal archives of an Australian governor-general. They consist largely of correspondence with the King, generals, politicians, judges and state governors, plus speeches and diaries.

  • About 5000 books, pamphlets and periodicals, over 11,000 paintings, drawings and prints, around 800 maps and over 300 manuscripts mostly published 1770-1900. Largely relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific including Antarctica

  • Over 10 000 books, pamphlets and issues of periodicals, published between the late sixteenth and mid-twentieth century. The main strength is English literature, particularly of the eighteenth century

  • Recordings of Australian folk songs, some British folk songs, Greek and Turkish music, African songs, dance music, recitations, poetry, jokes, children’s rhymes, yarns, and recollections recorded in Victoria 1953-1969.

  • Pamphlets, newspapers, printed ephemera, transcripts from archives in Ireland and Australia, records of Irish organisations in Australia, and personal papers of Irish nationalists and Catholic clergy. Also about 1200 photographs of Australian places and people with an Irish connection.

  • 667 books and periodical issues in English relating to Japan published 1856-1942. The subject range is broad, including history, biography, religions, politics, finance and industry, law, language, literature, folklore, fine arts, customs, flower arrangement, gardening and sports.

  • 1534 children's books written by Australians, with significant Australian content, or with an Australian as one of the main characters, published between 1813 and 1981. They include novels, short stories, picture books, plays, poetry and non-fiction books

  • 3099 books & pamphlets, plus modern facsimile editions of medieval manuscripts. The strength is English philology, including English dialects. Also Greek, Roman and Anglo-Saxon literature, Old English, English poetry and novels, French and German literature, literary criticism, English grammar, English history, religion and botany