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.

  • 12,569 music scores which were used in Australian cinemas in the silent film era

  • Papers of Christina Stead including diaries, manuscripts of her works, correspondence, personal documents, cuttings and photographs. Also papers of her biographers

  • Manuscripts of poems and stories and letters that Stephens assembled in the years in which he was editing the ‘Red Page’ of the Bulletin and later the Bookfellow. Over 70 writers are represented in the collection

  • About 280 paintings and drawings by William Strutt dating from 1837-1900, produced in France, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and England. Also two typescripts of stories by Strutt.

  • 108 oral history interviews recorded by Sturgess between 1976 and 1986 while writing his two books and working on various ABC productions

  • Large collection of music scores and parts, most of them unpublished, written between 1910 and 1970 which were used by the orchestras of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The music was written or arranged by Australian composers.

  • About 3000 books and pamphlets, mostly published in Britain, the majority on astronomy but also some works on geology, physics and chemistry. Also a small group of Tanock's personal papers.

  • 431 books. The strength is Russian works published in countries other than the Soviet Union, including China, the United States, and Australia, in the years after 1917

  • Over 1000 photographs documenting the history of boxing in Australia from the 1870s to the 1990s. Also some ephemera such as souvenir programs, match day cards and flyers

  • About 200 books and serials mostly relating to Chinese art but also including some works on Chinese history, language and literature and reprints of early travels. Also extensive personal papers of Thomas