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.

  • Around 186 Chinese newspapers and serials, mostly published 1949-84, plus a small number of government documents of the 1969–77 period, monographs, pamphlets, mimeographed works, and some works published during the Japanese occupation of China.

  • 1066 Japanese books, nearly all published in the twentieth century. They mostly relate to Japanese literature and include a large number of novels and also poetry, plays, essays, biographies of writers, literary history and critical works

  • Recordings of folk songs and dance music from Queensland and also stories, legends and recollections of customs and immigrant settlement, particularly German and Scandanavian in rural Queensland

  • Recordings of folk music, dance music, folklore and oral history from New South Wales and Queensland recorded during the period 1955-1990

  • Personal papers, manuscript scores, literary manuscripts, sound recordings and family photographs of Peter Sculthorpe, plus videos of films for which he wrote the music and television interviews

  • About 19,000 prints and 52,000 negatives and transparencies taken by Sievers from 1938-1991. An extraordinary record of Australian architecture, mining and industry. Also Sievers family papers, including portraits and photographs, extending from the late seventeenth to mid-twentieth century

  •  3300 books and serial issues. About half in Chinese, 500 Japanese, several in Manchu and the rest in European languages. Includes Greek and Latin classics, Chinese language, Chinese history, philosophy and contemporary politics, Confucianism, Buddhism, Tibetan language, Indian literature, Sanskrit, Mongolian, Japanese literature, French literature

  • A comprehensive collection of manuscript pencil scores, drafts of compositions, and fair copies of Sitsky's music dating from 1958 onwards, plus composition diaries and transcriptions of works by other composers, and personal papers. Also about 200 scores of Russian composers purchased by Sitsky

  • About 15,500 items of sheet music and about 700 music albums from the late eighteenth century to the 1980s, mostly Australian and British but including some European and American. Also personal papers of Snell consisting largely of his research material on composers and Australian music history

  • Microfilm of 78 manuscripts copied by the Commission, written by missionaries, anthropologists, and linguists between 1900 and 1956 consisting mostly of dictionaries and grammars of Pacific Islands peoples. Personal papers of William Forsyth relating to the Commission and also publications produced by the Commission