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.

  • Photographs by Jeff Carter of Australian life dating from the 1950s onwards, plus oral history recordings with about 40 individuals living in rural towns or properties

  • Papers and a large collection of glass negatives and photographs dating mostly from 1904 to 1940 depicting many aspects of Australian life and architecture

  • Collections of papers from several significant Australian authors collected by Harry Chaplin

  • Small collection of books, pamphlets, catalogues and serials on angling ranging from the 17th to the 20th century collected by Gilbert Charles

  • Papers, maps and a large collection of photographs related to Papua New Guinea mainly from the period 1910-1940

  • Papers, books, pamphlets, maps and ephemera about Ceylon, with an emphasis on the tea industry but also including its history, politics, botany, ancient cities, and arts collected by Manfred Claasz

  • Papers and photographs related to Clark's life and work as an Australian historian of renown

  • Over 10 000 volumes and 1500 pamphlets in English, Latin, French, Italian, German and Spanish, with particular strength in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, covering a wide range of subjects

  • Books, pamphlets, reprints and single issues of serials, mainly in French, relating to the ancient history, archaeology and culture of Southeast Asia 

  • About 4700 photographs of ancient art, sculpture and archaeological sites in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia from the period 1955 to 1972