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.

  • Extensive personal and family papers of Henry Handel Richardson. The collection also includes original manuscripts of the music composed by Richardson for many songs

  • Thousands of pamphlets, booklets, leaflets, speeches, brochures and other material from political parties, trade unions, pressure groups and other bodies concerned with the Australian labour movement from the 1890s to 1960s. Also personal papers of Riley related to his work in the labour movement

  • 387 books, mostly related to Australia, but also several works on New Zealand and the Pacific. It is strong in accounts of the exploration of Australia and Pacific voyages.

  • 1576 pamphlets, leaflets, speeches, newspaper and serial issues published 1892-1970. The strength is trade unionism, particularly the Australian Railways Union, socialism, left-wing parties in Australia and other economic and labour issues. Also the papers of Lloyd Ross and his father the socialist journalist R.S. Ross including correspondence, scrapbooks, minute books and photographs

  • 919 watercolours and gouaches of flowers and birds of Australia and Papua New Guinea painted 1870-1920, plus a small quantity of personal papers.

  • 99 first-issue charts and views of Australian coasts published by the Admiralty between 1814 and 1861.

  • 40 recordings of folk music, folklore and reminiscences from people in rural New South Wales recorded 1983-1988.

  • More than 400 Russian socialist pamphlets published mainly in the period 1900-1945, and two microfilm collections from Stanford and Harvard Universities of Russian revolutionary literature from 1898-1922.

  • More than 1,000 comics, mostly published in Australia and including some overseas titles reprinted in Australia, from the 1940s to 1970s. Also some fanzines published in the United States and Australia, plus personal papers

  • About 2600 books, mostly in Japanese from the period 1850-1940 but also some much earlier works. It is strong in military works, biographies of the Japanese Royal Family and leading figures in Japan and Western countries, Chinese and Japanese classics, works on Shintoism, shrines, Western philosophies and ethics, local histories and travel guides