Special Collections holds a cornucopia of rare books, historic journals and other printed formats. The wonderfully varied collection comprises 10,000 plus rare books from the late fifteenth century through to the present, including splendidly bound and engraved late eighteenth and nineteenth-century works, significant twentieth-century literary first editions and historic military manuals, tactical pamphlets and trench maps.
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The subject range is surprising and encompasses a wide diversity of topics. Holdings include Dame Mary Gilmore’s first volume of published poetry, a nineteenth-century illustrated guide to Australian snakes, hand-coloured engravings of historic French military costumes, a manual on how to escape from a POW camp, and an edition of Russian socialist-realist art prints from the 1920s. We also hold books from the Duke of Wellington’s and Napoleon Bonaparte’s personal libraries.
There are also several formed collections such as the collection of H.M. Green and Dorothy Green, pioneering scholars in Australian literature and influential bibliographers, and substantial groupings of Patrick White, D.H. Lawrence and Christina Stead rare editions, many of latter annotated in the writer’s own hand.
What Makes a Rare Book Rare
A book can be considered ‘rare’ for many reasons, including its age, scarcity, market value, if it is a limited or important edition, has special features (such as bindings and plates), or associations with particular individuals or events (such as signed and annotated copies, or a work owned by an important figure).