International Museum Day

On Wednesday 18 May, the University’s Museums and Collections celebrated International Museum Day, an occasion to raise awareness of how important museums are in the development of sociey. Recently, International Museum Day has experienced burgeoning popularity with almost 30,000 museums organising activities in more than 120 countries. At the University of Melbourne tours were offered by the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne Archives, the Grainger Museum, Tiegs Zoology Museum, Baillieu Library Rare Books, Baillieu Library Rare Music Collection, the VCA and TV Archives, the Law Rare Books Collection and the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology. The tours were followed by a presentation by Fiona Moore on the new Arts West building and the role that it will play in facilitating wider access to, and use of, the University’s vast cultural collection.


Staff from the University’s Musuems and Collections manned a table in the Baillieu Library foyer with brochures and publications available and spoke to a number of University staff, students and the general public about their knowledge of some of the campus’ cultural gems. Students were particularly interested in finding our more about our Cultural Collections Student Projects Program and the opportunities for practical experience in the collection management field. More information about the program can be found here.

For further information about the current and upcoming exhibitions and events across the University’s 32 cultural collections go to the Museums and Collections website.

Chelsea Harris

Exhibitions Marketing and Events Coordinator

Special Collections and the Grainger Museum


Thousands of sea miles and water as metaphor

My love for the sea is so strong that life feels to me only half-lived on land. 1

Images of water and maritime culture are strong themes in Percy Grainger’s art collection. John Harry Grainger, Percy’s father, was an architect and a fine watercolour painter who produced seascapes and maritime scenes for pleasure. The paintings he gifted his son demonstrate an innate understanding of the tensions and energies that combine to create wind-powered sea travel—an interest he passed on to his child. He was his son’s first art teacher. Among Percy Grainger’s juvenilia are numerous paintings and drawings of watercraft.


John Harry Grainger (1854-1917), French fishing boats entering Boulogne harbour, 1892. Watercolour on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

It is easy to comprehend Grainger’s love of maritime imagery. As a touring concert pianist he spent many thousands of hours at sea, starting his lifetime of sea voyages when he sailed from Australia at the age of 13 to take up his formal studies in music in Frankfurt.

Three years after graduation he was touring South Africa and Australasia with the renowned Australian contralto, Ada Crossley—again, covering many sea miles—and he joined a second tour with her four years later.

Grainger became an obsessive tall ship enthusiast. As a child he experienced the last days of sailing cargo vessels undertaking coastal trade in Australia. He also saw windjammers docking in Melbourne and made sketches of these vessels, as well as their steam-powered competitors.

At 51, Grainger had an opportunity to experience what would have been a dream to lovers of square-rigged ships. He and his wife Ella spent 101 days on a sea voyage to Australia (1933/34) on the Finnish Barque, L’Avenir. It was a profound experience for him, which he recorded in paintings and drawings. He made visual notes of passing ships, landscape profiles from the sea and the minutiae of deck and rigging structures. He later had a scale model of the vessel fabricated.


Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1961), Sail-awning, used to hinder deck tennis quoits falling overboard (mended and kept going by P.G.). L’Avenir, December 1933. Ink on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne


Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1961), Pomern, Archibald Russell, Viking, Passat and Ponape, seen from L’Avenir, Port Victoria, S. Australia, January 1934. Watercolour on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

Grainger painted and sketched throughout his life. The deftly drawn pen and ink of a two mast sailing vessel in port at Farsund in Norway was executed on Hotel letterhead—another example of Grainger’s habit of visual note making as he travelled.


Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1961), Farsund, 23 August 1913. Ink on letterhead. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

For a man who documented his life with extraordinarily copious notes, there is limited provenance to some of the works in the exhibition Water, marks and countenances: works on paper from the Grainger Museum collection . Little is recorded of the Californian watercolourist, Hugh Nevill-Smith, whose confidently executed seascape is on display.


Hugh Nevill-Smith, Sailboat on a lake, n.d. Watercolour on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

The crisp etching of Strandvägen and Nordic Museum (in Sweden) signed ‘Knorr’ may have been by a relation of Grainger’s Frankfurt composition lecturer, Iwan Knorr. And whether Grainger met the New Zealand artist, Cranleigh Barton, is unknown. The artist’s watercolour of London Bridge is a spare, luminous image in the impressionist style.


Cranleigh Harper Barton, London Bridge, n.d. Watercolour on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

By contrast, some of the works are by friends and were gifted to Grainger. Flora M. Pilkington, known for her watercolours of gardens, produced an image of Edvard Greig’s lakeside home, Troldhaugen, in the year of the composer’s death. Eight years later she gave it to Grainger with a note telling him of the difficulties of finding an appropriate view point.



Flora M. Pilkington, Autumn sketch at Troldhaugen, c.1907. Watercolour on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

Old junks in Shanghai harbour is by Grainger’s friend and early mentor, Mortimer Menpes. Norman Lindsay’s Little Mermaid and his melange of nudes (in and out of water), boats, castles and sheep dogs, titled Capriccio, are two works from a small group of prints Lindsay gave Grainger. As well as sharing a love of erotica, the two artists were fond of model ships.



Norman Lindsay (1879-1969), The little mermaid, 1934. Etching and aquatint on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

The inclusion of detailed watercolours of Grainger’s experimental music-making machines in the exhibition has a less obvious, yet still pertinent connection with the theme of water— here water is metaphor.


Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1961), “Hills and dales” air-blown-reeds tone-tool no.2 (snowshoe), October 1951. Watercolour, ink and graphite on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

The last musical adventure of Grainger’s life was his experimental ‘Free Music’. He likened the new sonic forms he was generating to the movement of water. His vision was of a music unconstrained by western conventions of pitch and rhythm. Gone would be the incremental movements of melody, harmony and rhythm. The sounds in his head were of gliding tones or Glissandi, and irregular rhythms: multiple voices threading through each other like the lapping of waves breaking on the side of a moving boat.

My impression is that this world of tonal freedom was suggested to me by wave movements in the sea that I first observed as a young child at Brighton, Victoria, and Albert Park, Melbourne.2

By Brian Allison

Exhibitions Coordinator, Special Collections and Grainger Museum


  1. Percy Grainger to Douglas Charles (D.C.) Parker, 28 August, 1916
  2. Percy Grainger, ‘Free Music 1938’, in Gillies and Clunies Ross, Grainger on Music, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999

A Medieval Beetle in the Rare Books Collection

Eight-legged flying beetle with antlers While much is known about the cultural depiction of beetles in the Classical period and during the Renaissance, much less is known about the cultural representation and meaning of beetles during the Middle Ages. This may be beginning to change with the contemporary digitisation of illuminated manuscripts, books and artworks, and the development of online translators, translations and dictionaries, which are providing new methodologies for analysis and interpretation.

Recently I came across a drawing of an eight-legged flying beetle with antlers in the Baillieu Library’s Hortus Sanitatis (1491)[1], or Garden of Health, which I was able to compare with digitised copies located in other international collections[2]. The beetle is categorised in the section ‘Tractatus De Avibus’ (Treatise on Birds) and is displayed alongside other fantastic drawings like that of a man lying naked in a field being attacked by hornets and that of a myrmecoleon or ant-lion.

A man being attacked by hornetsOn close inspection the drawing in the Hortus appears to be a rudimentary sketch of the European stag beetle (Lucanus cervus). Stag beetles are named after their large antler-like mandibles. Only the males possess these horns and use them to joust with other males in territorial disputes. Stag beetles live in forests, woodlands, hedges and gardens, but they are currently listed as a protected species in the United Kingdom and are thought to have disappeared from certain parts of Western Europe on account of environmental changes and habitat destruction.

A myrmecoleon or ant-lionBy modern standards the beetle-drawing in the Hortus is anatomically incorrect in a number of respects. The beetle has no antennae. It lacks a meso-thorax. It has eight legs rather than six, which technically makes it an arachnid, and its feet are cloven rather than clawed or hooked with tarsi. Having noted these anatomical errors, the stag beetle is identifiable with regards to its brown colouring, spectacular antlers, and general shape. Together with the accompanying textual description, it offers invaluable insights into how Europeans thought about insects towards the end of the Middle Ages:

‘A flying beetle is similar in style to the cricket. They fly towards night and make a waspish noise. He has long horns that are medicinal, [and] those horns be bright and branched like teeth. The head may be taken off yet it [moves not] long without the body. The body without the head [moves] but not so long as the head’[5].

Text describing the stag beetleChristopher Harrington

PhD candidate

School of Communication

University of Melbourne

Interested in finding out more?

Read about the Baillieu Library’s copy of Hortus Sanitatis in the University of Melbourne Collections magazine.

Browse the digitised version online


[1] Hortus sanitatis. [Mainz : Jacob Meydenbach, 23 June 1491].  UniM Bail SpC/RB MTC/20 Incunabula

[2] These include the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri, one of the world’s pre-eminent science and technology libraries.

[3] Lister, Martin. Historiae Animalum Angliae. Londini : Apud Joh. Martyn Regiæ societatis typographum, 1678.  Digital version available at

[4] Merian, Maria Sibylla. Metamorphasibus Insectorum Surinamensium. Tot Amsterdam, Voor den auteur…, als ook by Gerarde Valck, [1705].  Digital version available at

[5] Hortus sanitatis.

Full page image from the 'Tractacus de Avibus'

Ballooning, steam and Victorian fantasies


The month of May marks the 150th anniversary of The Great Exhibition of 1851 that took place in Hyde Park, London from 1 May to 11 October. The Victorian-era Great Exhibitions were platforms that launched countless inventions. The newly developed ‘cast plate glass,’ for example, made possible the construction, to a design by Joseph Paxton, of the very building that housed the exhibition, dubbed ‘The Crystal Palace.’ Paxton, also a gardener of renown, based the Crystal Palace on a greenhouse he designed for the recently discovered giant Victoria amazonica waterlily. The Crystal Palace embodied both the Victorian imagination and the greatest offerings of industrial manufacturing. Another new technique promoted at the Exhibition – steel plate engraving – resulted in prints which commemorate the event.

(Above) Samuel Read, The Crystal Palace international exhibition of 1851, (c.1851), etching and engraving, gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton 1959, Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne.


Joseph Paxton, The Crystal Palace and Park, 1854, engraving,  Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne.


At this time the industrial revolution was buoyed both by balloon ascensions and the marvel of steam power. Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1838 ushering in a distinctive era of art and culture. Manufacturing was not the only thing to be transformed; this was also a time of lofty ambitions and wafting imaginations.

The first manned hot air balloon ascension had taken place in the previous century at the Palace of Versailles in 1783. Jean-Pierre Blanchard’s flight to cross the English Channel soon followed in 1785. Blanchard’s balloon was propelled by the balloonist flapping a pair of oars back and forth, which can be seen depicted in the distant background of the stipple engraving by William Birch. In literature, Jules Verne’s popular novel Five weeks in a balloon (1863) expanded the ambitions of the adventurous to every cloud, mountain and ocean. The Victorians saw in the balloon a vehicle for turning an inflated idea into an innovation. It is interesting note that the first model of propelled balloon was designed by Australian aviator David Bland and was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851.


William Birch after Thomas Rowlandson, Dover Castle, 1789, stipple engraving,  Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959, Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne.

Another vehicle traversing the sky was the airship. These curious leviathans of the air enabled improved travel, and they began taking over the skies of London during the World Wars. Scotland’s Forth Bridge, itself a monument to the wonder of Victorian engineering, in Lumsden’s etching, is partnered by airships and also the steam train, both elevated into the stratosphere.



 Ernest Stephen Lumsden, Forth Bridge, (1940-46), etching, Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne.

The individual who dramatically advanced transport on land was engineer George Stephenson, who enabled the public to travel by steam locomotive for the first time in 1825. The invention of the railways evolved, surprisingly, alongside the sewing machine, which transformed the textile industry and factory work. One memento in the Print Collection capturing these historic developments is an unusual transport souvenir. This piece of textile immortalises Stephenson and his innovations through the medium of machine embroidery; the image was probably adapted from an engraved image.

Unknown artist, Robert Stephenson and rocket locomotive, (19th century), Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959. Baillieu Library Print Collection, Uinveristy of Melbourne.

Unknown artist, Robert Stephenson and rocket locomotive, (19th century), Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959. Baillieu Library Print Collection, Uinveristy of Melbourne.

The contraptions for ballooning, locomotion and manufacture let fly numerous Victorian fantasies which were captured in print media. These often aerial ambitions enabled the Victorians, at the same time, to soar through industrial advancements.


Kerrianne Stone (Curator, Prints)


A tale of two Luciles and two composers: Grétry père et fille

Celebrated musicians … a collection of portraits (London, 1883; 780.922 FLA)

Early print editions of French music of the 17th and 18th centuries, especially opera, are a collection-strength of Rare Music at The University of Melbourne. One of the composers best represented is André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry (1741–1813; born Liège, Belgium) who was supremely successful in Paris as a composer of opéras comiques and recitative comedies in the decades before the French Revolution. Rare Music has early imprints of fifteen of Grétry’s stage works.

A casual glance at two particular Grétry light operas from the collection can cause confusion. There is A-E-M Grétry’s “comédie” Lucile, first performed in 1769, and Lucile Grétry’s Le mariage d’Antonio of 1786. Lucile is both the fictitious (and eponymous) heroine of Grétry’s comic opera (with libretto by Jean-François Marmontel) and the name his daughter—also a composer—was known by. Her given names were Angélique-Dorothée-Louise. The stories of the fictitious Lucile and the young Lucile Grétry are, in different ways, remarkable.

Opening of Grétry’s Lucile (Paris, 1769; LHD 052)
Opening of Grétry’s Lucile (Paris, 1769; LHD 052)

Fundamental to the fictitious Lucile’s story in the opera is the trope of the swapped baby. [1] When the daughter of a wealthy family, the original baby Lucile, dies in the care of a wet nurse, the servant substitutes her own daughter. With the action set on the substitute Lucile’s wedding day, her humble origins are revealed to her by her birth father (Blaise) and it seems that marriage is now out of the question. By the opera’s end Lucile’s personal qualities transcend her “class” and the happy pair marry after all.

Printed parts for Lucile Grétry’s opera Le marriage d’Antonio (Paris, 1786; LHD 059)
Printed parts for Lucile Grétry’s opera (Paris, 1786; LHD 059)

Lucile Grétry, sadly, was denied the happy ending of her namesake. Her own brief marriage was unsuccessful and she died of tuberculosis at the age of 17.

As a young child Lucile received training in composition both from her father (in counterpoint and declamation) and other musicians. She began Le marriage d’Antonio when she was only 13 years old, writing all the vocal parts and, to accompany, a part for harp and a bass line. Lucile’s choice of the harp is emblematic as “for feminine decency, no instrument could compete with the harp” in Paris at the time. [2] Her father’s contribution to the opera was to arrange the harp part for full orchestra, making theatrical performance possible. He also made some alterations to the ensemble numbers. Le mariage was very well received by critics and audiences and stayed in the repertory for 5 years and 47 performances.

The man behind these two Luciles, A-E-M Grétry, was himself exceptional for his day in his attitude to women. Grétry took only 4 music pupils during his life and 3 were women. Through his copious writings, [3] he championed the creativity of women proclaiming that they could possess genius in any sphere. A musical career was singled out as achievable for many women and one that would offer them a welcome path to independence. Grétry characterised his daughter Lucile as an “image of feminine sensitivity and genius, coupled with a strong will to compose”. [4]

Quartet from Grétry’s Lucile, p. 34 (vocal parts only)
Quartet from Grétry’s Lucile, p. 34 (vocal parts only)

Grétry believed in the centrality of family life, [5] and this was celebrated in the greatest success of his opera Lucile, the quartet from scene 4, “Où peut-on être mieux qu’au sein de sa famille” (Where can one be so happy as with one’s family).  Though suffused with sentimentality, it takes on poignancy in the knowledge that not only Lucile but Grétry’s other two daughters died young from tuberculosis.


Jennifer Hill, Music Curator

[1] For a synopsis see Robert Ignatius Letellier, Opera-comique: A sourcebook (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010) p. 368–369.

[2] Jacqueline Letzter and Robert Adelson, Women writing opera: Creativity and controversy in the age of the French Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 49.

[3] See, for example, Grétry’s Mémoires, ou Essais sur la musique, written first as one volume in 1789, then enlarged to three.

[4] Letzter and Adelson, p. 25, 55–56.

[5] David Charlton, “Grétry, André-Ernest-Modeste” in Oxford Music Online, accessed 21 April 2016.

Reading with the young Charlotte: celebrating the 200th birthday of Charlotte Brontë with some books from an unconventional childhood

Cover image of Charlotte Brontë, Rare Books Collection
Cover image of Charlotte Brontë, Rare Books Collection

This month marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë, the third-born and longest lived of the six children of Patrick and Maria Brontë, and the author of the classic novels Jane Eyre (1847), Shirley (1849), Villette (1853) and The Professor (1857).  Much has been written about Charlotte and her famous 19th century literary family, and the mystique of their lives and legacy has been the subject of continuing interpretation and reinterpretation.  The Baillieu Library is very fortunate to hold some important early Brontë editions, together with copies of several titles which they are known to have read, if not devoured, as children.

The timeworn autobiographical themes of the Brontë story are familiar to most readers of English literature: the isolated parsonage on the edge of the Yorkshire moor; the bleak childhoods of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, overshadowed by the premature death of their mother and two elder sisters, and misfortunes of brother Branwell; and the untimely deaths of Emily and Anne by the age of 30, and Charlotte at 38.  Like most legends, the Brontë one is part myth, part truth, and it seems that despite their many adversities, the Brontë home was a warm and happy one, and Haworth was a small bustling town, where the Brontës lived in a manner that was no worse, and often better, than their neighbours.

Engraving of Haworth Church and Parsonage, Rare Books Collection
Engraving of Haworth Church and Parsonage, Rare Books Collection

An unconventional childhood and the Brontë’s book interests

Less prominent in the popular imagination, and what set the young family apart from their village counterparts, was the children’s unconventional upbringing and education.  A precocious curiosity was encouraged by their Rousseau-like father, Reverend Patrick Brontë, who had taken up the perpetual curacy of St Michael and All Angels’ Church in 1820.  A Cambridge-educated scholar from a poor Irish background, Patrick included his children in adult conversations and his business affairs and encouraged them to read and discuss the books, journals and newspapers which he added to his library [1].  The children consumed omnivorously, the only recorded restriction to their literary diet being the popular gossipy women’s paper, the Lady’s Magazine; or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex (1770-1847), as it contained ‘foolish love stories’ [2].

A glimpse of the parsonage bookshelves is provided by Charlotte’s first biographer, Elizabeth Gaskell:

‘the well-bound were ranged in the sanctuary of Mr B’s study…up and down [the house] were to be found many standard works of a standard kind’.  These were supplemented by some books from Maria Brontë’s side of the family – ‘mad Methodist Magazines full of miracles and apparitions…preternatural warnings, ominous dreams, and frenzied fanaticism; and the equally mad letters of Mrs Elizabeth Rowe, the popular 18th century author of Friendship in Death (1728)’ [3].

Some of the children’s favourites included natural history and geographical works – Bewick’s Book of Birds (1804),The Garden and Menagerie of the Zoological Society (1831), and Goldsmith’s Grammar of General Geography (1819), copies of all of which can be found in the Baillieu’s Rare Book Collection.  Their young imaginations were stirred by stories of The Arabian Knights (1706), the Romantic works of Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, and John Bunyan, and a volume containing dramatic scenes by engraver John Martin (1789-1954).

Title page of The Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society, Rare Books Collection
Title page of The Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society, Rare Books Collection

Reverend Brontë subscribed to several journals including the Leeds Intelligencer, Blackwood’s Magazine and Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country, all of which contained news and articles on contemporary events, people and places [4].  These were as an important influence on the children as the fictional stories that they read, with the children absorbing ‘information from every possible source, devouring newspapers, magazines, annuals, children’s books and their father’s library for their source material for their own creations’ [5].

Contents page from Blackwood's Magazine, August 1827, including an article on The Duke of Wellington, Rare Books Collection
Contents page from Blackwood’s Magazine, August 1827, including an article on The Duke of Wellington, Rare Books Collection

Imaginative influences and first writings

This rich literary environment provided inspiration for the young Brontës’ games, which became further animated when brother Branwell was given a set of toy soldiers as a gift from his father.  Sharing the soldiers with his sisters, the children began writing scripts of adventure, mimicking the adult publishing world in a series of tiny hand-manufactured books.  Charlotte’s first book was written in 1824 when she was nine as a present to her younger sister Anne.  It took the form of a manuscript about the size of a matchbox and penned in minuscule handwriting, now preserved with several other examples in the Brontë Museum in Haworth.  Other examples of Brontë juvenilia are held by the Houghton Library (Yale University), the British Library and the Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits in Paris.

Prominent amongst Charlotte’s childhood heroes was the Duke of Wellington, a passion she shared with her father Patrick Brontë, and she named her toy soldier after him.  The Blackwood’s reports in turn provided models for many of her juvenile stories, infusing a cast of ‘important aristocratic figures engaged in struggles over power…with the addition of many tangled love affairs’ [6].  One story involved an attempted poisoning, and in another his sons, Arthur and Charles were the subject of a bid to kidnap them.

Page opening from an example of Charlotte Bronte's juvenilia, Houghton Library, Yale University
Page opening from an example of Charlotte Bronte’s juvenilia, Houghton Library, Yale University

On 200th anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birthday it is intriguing to pause and reflect on the many books which fostered her highly imaginative inner life as a child.  By revisiting this rich source material, modern researchers can continue to obtain privileged insights into the early influences and lasting literary legacy of this gifted writer and those of her remarkable family.

Susan Thomas (Rare Books Curator)

George Dawe's Portrait of the Duke of Wellington, 1829, The Hermitage, St Petersburg
George Dawe’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington, 1829, The Hermitage, St Petersburg


[1] Wilks, B. The Brontës: an illustrated biography. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1986, p. 63

[2] Ingham, P. The Brontës. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 70

[3] Elizabeth Gaskell in Lane, M. The Brontë story. [London]: Fontana, 1973, pp. 108-109

[4] Ingham, P. Op cit, p. 72.

[5] Wilks, B. Op cit, p. 54

[6] Ingham, Op cit, p. 72

Interested in learning more?

Select bibliography

Bentley, P. The Brontës. London: Pan, 1973.

Hughes, G. ‘The Brontës and Yorkshire’ in The Oxford guide to literary Britain & Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 233-234.

Ingham, P. The Brontës. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Lane, M. The Brontë story. [London]: Fontana, 1973.

Wilks, B. The Brontës: an illustrated biography. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1986.

Wollaston, E. Little book of the Brontë sisters. [Swindon], UK: Green Umbrella, 2008.

“The countenance is the portrait of the soul and the eyes mark its intentions”

Percy Grainger was well-pleased with a likeness the celebrated Danish academician Knud Larsen (1865-1922) made of him during a visit to Jutland in 1909—and the Museum’s collection includes not just the finished watercolour painting but the preparatory drawings as well. With pencil, Larsen familiarised himself with Grainger’s features and captured contrasts of expression.  One sketch of the musician in profile freezes a wistful, unselfconscious expression, seemingly executed seconds before the posed finished work, which exudes self-confidence—the two appearing almost filmic in sequence.

‘Fancy, Knud Larsen did a not ½ bad drawing of me yesterday, which he has given me. And his elder girl Gerda…draws simply ravishingly. She said to him, “have you ever seen anyone so beautiful as he” meaning me, so he tells me.’ [2]

Knud Larsen 1865-1922), Percy Grainger, 1909. Watercolour and graphite on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

Knud Larsen 1865-1922), Percy Grainger, 1909. Watercolour and graphite on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

The Grainger Museum collection holds more than 600 works of art, a significant proportion of which are portraits or representations of people engaged in some kind of activity. Many of these, naturally, depict Percy Grainger himself, but family, friends, acquaintances, fellow musical personalities, admirers and people who influenced Grainger are also represented. The stylistic approaches of the artists whose works are represented in the exhibition Water, marks and countenances: works on paper from the Grainger Museum collection range vividly from the formal commissioned work straight out of the halls of the academy—to the irreverent and light-hearted barrack-room caricature.

Up until the late 19th/early 20th century the two primary expectations people had of a portrait were that it provide a physical resemblance, and disclose something about the sitter: an indication of their character, their social standing or perhaps occupation.

There are an abundance of early portraits of Percy Grainger in the Grainger Museum’s collection, for example, that depict him golden-haired, youthfully serious and impeccably dressed, seated at a piano or holding an instrument or a sheet of music—thus announcing to all those viewing the picture that they are looking at a portrait of a musician, and probably a famous one at that. The most iconic of these of course is Rupert Bunny’s large scale oil painting of 1902—but the drawings and sketches from the same period in this exhibition present a rather more personal quality.

The famous British actor Ernest Thesiger (1879-1961) made several appealingly gentle pastel portraits of Grainger during their years of friendship in London. Thesiger, who was himself an amateur musician, had studied painting and drawing at the Slade School of Art.

‘Never have I had, never will I have, a portrait of me more like, more true, more characteristic, more satisfying than yours. Only a real real [sic] sensitive artist could produce a work so full of insights, so apt, so sweetly done.’ [3]

Ernst Thesiger(1879-1961), Percy Grainger, 1903. Pastel on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

Ernst Thesiger(1879-1961), Percy Grainger, 1903. Pastel on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

In 1901, South Australian-born artist Mortimer Menpes (1855-1938) invited Grainger to perform in his palatial London studio to a very select group of potential patrons. Menpes had been making portraits of wealthy aristocrats and cultural luminaries.  His formal portrait of the irascible artist, James McNeill Whistler, included in this exhibition, was one of a series he executed of his friend and one-time mentor, before the two men had a cataclysmic falling out.

Mortimer Menpes(1855-1938), Whistler no. 11, 1912-1913. Etching and drypoint on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

Mortimer Menpes(1855-1938), Whistler no. 11, 1912-1913. Etching and drypoint on paper.  Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

The development of mechanised image-making in the nineteenth century brought with it a challenge to the whole notion of portraiture as an artform with the advent of the formal, posed photograph having a significant impact upon the style of images rendered by the artists’ hand. The latter started to take on different, more private or intimate functions. Artists began to feel able to explore series of ‘dashed off’ sketches of their friends or models (or strangers across the room) as a legitimate subject for exhibition.

Augustus John (1878-1961), for example, was particularly renowned for his spontaneous style of portraiture in which he produced simple line drawings that successfully managed to capture his sitter’s essence. The fragile, almost ethereal drawing of Grainger’s wife Ella, executed on washroom paper towelling, is indicative of this style. Ella met Augustus John while she was studying at the Slade School of Art in London in around 1914, more than a decade before she met Grainger.

Augustus John (1878-1961), Ella Viola Ström, n.d. Graphite on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

Augustus John (1878-1961), Ella Viola Ström, n.d. Graphite on paper.  Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

Jacques Emile Blanche’s idiosyncratic little sketches of Debussy dated 1902 in Dieppe are bare scratchings of pencil on rough paper, yet they capture perfectly the composer’s distinctively identifiable quiff. The drawings hint at a private occasion or conversation long hidden from the contemporary viewer.  Grainger credits Blanche with having introduced the music of Debussy to him. Perhaps Blanche made these drawings while talking with Grainger when the two were holidaying in Dieppe in 1902.

Jaques-Émile Blanche (1861-1942), Claude Debussy, 1902. Graphite on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

Jaques-Émile Blanche (1861-1942), Claude Debussy, 1902.  Graphite on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

A number of witty caricatures of Grainger and other significant musical personages of his time, such as the internationally acclaimed violin virtuoso Efrem Zimbalist, are also displayed in this exhibition.

Leonard Frank Reynolds (1837-1939), Caricature of violin virtuoso Efrem Zimbalist, 1927. Ink on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

Leonard Frank Reynolds (1837-1939), Caricature of violin virtuoso Efrem Zimbalist, 1927. Ink on paper. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

Prints by well-known (and not-so-well-known) artists include a beautifully executed and rarely exhibited lithograph by William Newzam Prior Nicholson (1872-1949) depicting a pensive Rudyard Kipling—who was one of Grainger’s major influences.

William Newzam Prior Nicholson (1872-1949), Rudyard Kipling, 1899. Lithograph. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

William Newzam Prior Nicholson (1872-1949), Rudyard Kipling, 1899. Lithograph.  Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

Also of significance is a series of delicate watercolours portraying women by Melbourne miniaturist Bess Norriss Tait (1878-1939). Viewed together, these ‘countenances’ span almost a century of styles and provide an interesting insight into the history of the portrait genre.

Bess Norriss Tait (1878-1939), Miss Helen Lempriere (aged 14 years), 1924. Ink and watercolour on paper

Bess Norriss Tait (1878-1939), Miss Helen Lempriere (aged 14 years), 1924. Ink and watercolour on paper

Astrid Britt Krautschneider (Curator, Grainger Museum)


[1] The title quote is from Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43BC).

[2] Letter from Percy Grainger to Rose Grainger, 13 September 1909.

[3] Letter from Percy Grainger to Ernest Thesiger, 25 December 1909.

Imprinting the spirit of Mexico

The international scope of the Baillieu Library Print Collection has been broadened by the acquisition of three works by José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913). Posada is regarded by many as the founder of Mexican printmaking, bringing the medium to the masses through popular news sheets and chapbooks. He worked at the publishing house of Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, which produced thousands of periodicals and broadsides. These ephemeral printed documents communicated caricatures of contemporary individuals, news, sensational stories and issues of the day. Posada trained as a lithographer in Mexico City and promoted the use of etching on zinc and photorelief techniques to Mexico.

Barata de Calaveras (1910) depicts a skeleton carrying off two female workers. It contains the imprint of Arroyo and was printed by him for distribution during the Day of the Dead Festival.  Posada is particularly renowned for his calaveras or skeletons, which his hand animated with distinctive character. Depictions of skeletons are an integral aspect of Mexican culture and many images and figurines of calaveras were produced for the annual Day of the Dead Festival.

José Guadalupe Posada, Barata de Calaveras, 1910

Posada was working during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), a time when news sheets were an important vehicle for political messages and the shaping of an independent Mexican cultural identity. Many of Posada’s images were used across multiple sheets; they recur in varied topics and are printed under numerous titles. The image in Gran Calavera Electricia (Grand Electric Skull) (c.1910) tells, in some instances, of the calavera at the 1910 centenary celebrations for Mexican Independence Day, which recognises Mexico’s liberation from Spain. The calavera is at the cemetery gathering together the citizens who will be joining him. The beams shooting out of his eyes express his hypnotising powers on the diminutive victims. A typical commentary below the image describes the people and misadventures that culminated in the pile of skulls depicted: disreputable tortilla and pulque vendors, for example, beaten by customers including those poisoned by bad meat or liquor. Other versions reflect another frequently discussed news topic: deaths caused by electric trams. The tram car seen in the background is arriving at the cemetery to deliver its now deceased passengers. [1]

José Guadalupe Posada, Gran Calavera Electricia, (c.1910)

A catrina is seen at the top left of La Gran Calavera del Chin Chun Chan (c. 1910), a sheet that was a collaboration with Manuel Manilla and J. Cortes, Posada’s contemporaries working at the Arroyo publishing house. Posada made famous the catrina, or tall affluently dressed female skeleton, which has since become a symbol in Mexican art. [2] Each stanza below the image is punctuated with the title of the popular Mexican musical, ‘Chin Chun Chan’, a phrase that was also used as a substitute for swearing. Many of the broadsheets would have come to life for their audience by being spoken or sung aloud. The Baillieu Library Print Collection is delighted to add this lively Mexican voice to its holdings and thereby enhance the telling of printmaking history.

José Guadalupe Posada, La Gran Calavera de Chin Chun Chan, (c. 1910)


Kerrianne Stone (Curator, Prints)

[1] Posada’s Mexico edited by Ron Tyler, Washington: Library of Congress: 1979, p. 237
[2] Revolution on paper: Mexican prints 1910-1960 by Dawn Adès and Alison McClean with the assistance of Laura Campbell; edited by Mark McDonald. Published Austin [Tex.]: University of Texas Press; [London]: In co-operation with the British Museum Press, 2009, p.54

Lost in translation? Madelon and “Somewhere in France”

For the “Somewhere in France” exhibition, which opened in the Baillieu Library’s Noel Shaw Gallery earlier this month, the Rare Music Collection was delighted to contribute several items for display: print music and programs for concerts held to raise money to assist Belgium and France. Featuring bright colours drawn from the national flags of France and Belgium, the framed covers make a striking display.

The one exception, with its shades of brown and black, is the cover of the sheet music to Madelon (known as Quand Madelon in the original French version of 1914), a march song that was to become one of the most popular for French and English-speaking soldiers fighting in France from 1916. It was also a hit in the music halls of Paris from 1917.[1] The music is by Camille Robert, with original lyrics by Louis Bousquet.

Cover of "Madelon" (Detroit: Jerome H. Remick, 1918)
Cover of “Madelon” (Detroit: Jerome H. Remick, 1918)

The lyrics of the English-language version of Madelon on display tell, in two verses and chorus, of a pretty young waitress in her father’s country tavern. Soldiers of various ranks flirt with her, but Madelon treats them all with grace and good humour as she works, serving their drinks, favouring none over the other. The song is skilfully encapsulated by French illustrator Clérice in the cover image. It shows a woman with wine bottle poised to fill empty glasses held out to her by men unseen. Only her head is inclined towards a French soldier with a pronounced moustache—probably a corporal—who leans in very close to her. Her posture and expression may be read as mildly flirtatious, but she continues with her task.

Click below to listen to a recording of this version of Madelon, made late last year, with the English-language lyrics by Alfred Bryan interpreted by Kiran Rajasingam (baritone) and Amir Farid (piano). Sung at a slower tempo than many French-language recordings of Madelon, here the lyrics can be heard with great clarity.

Madelon recording (English-language version, 1918)

The original French words, however, are different, with an extra verse and other layers of meaning. The last lines of the original verse one translates as “She’s only Madelon but, for us, she’s love [or romance]” and a middle verse opens with the lines “Well every soldier has at home his dearest  / the girl who waits and one day will be his” and ends with “We laugh and think of her who’s waiting over there”.[2] These sentiments, omitted from the version in the recording, shift the soldier’s romantic focus away from Madelon herself to what she represents and appeal instead to a soldier’s desire to return home to romance and domesticity.

In his book The French in Love and War, Charles Rearick reads Madelon as an “old fashioned woman”. He suggests that to rank and file French soldiers, the character of Madelon was “comfortable and cheering” as she served men in a traditional manner, unlike the “new woman” who relished the opportunity of jobs formerly restricted to men: in the métro or munitions factories, for instance. For civilians in the audience in the Paris music halls of 1917, where the song “took off”, Rearick believes the appeal lay also in the evocation of the soldier as playful, innocent and leisured, rather than as “war-sick mutineer [or] … sexual predator”. For soldier and civilian alike there was, by then, a relief that the song itself makes no direct reference to war.[3]

Many songs popular in World War I resurfaced when war returned and Madelon was no exception. Rare Music has a second English language version, copyrighted in 1939, that is different in many ways. The march rhythm is no longer notated within a time signature of 2/4 but a more lilting 6/8; and chord charts are supplied for the ukulele, an instrument also depicted on the cover.

 Cover (detail) of "Madelon" (J.R. Lafleur & Son, 1939)

Cover (detail) of “Madelon” (J.R. Lafleur & Son, 1939)

The “meta” quality of the lyrics is striking: while the French lyrics are reproduced unchanged from the American edition of 1918, when sung in English, the song is about Madelon, the song.[4]

They used to sing a good old chorus,
They learnt the words “somewhere in France” […]
The song is “MADELON”, we sang it with a will,
Now history repeats itself, we sing it still.

And the cover could scarcely be more different only 25 years on. Gone is the traditionally dressed rural woman attending to her duties in spite of male attention. Here Madelon, decidedly “fashion forward”, and sporting a borrowed army cap, sits on a table surrounded by soldiers and raises her wine glass with them.

Jennifer Hill, Curator, Music

[1] Charles Rearick, The French in love and war: popular culture in the era of the two World Wars, 1914–1945 (Yale University Press, 1997), 3, 18–19 and 27.
[2] Translation based on Frances C. Fay’s “faithful” singing translation of the original French lyrics reproduced in “The songs the soldiers sing”, World’s News (Sydney), 30 November 1918: 4.
[3] Rearick, 25–29.
[4] The new lyrics are by British writer and broadcaster Ray Sonin.

A Tale of Two Ben Jonson Folios

In 2014, the Baillieu Library made a very special acquisition: a copy of the Second Folio of The workes of Ben Jonson (2 volumes, 1631-40). The University of Melbourne is fortunate to have Ian Donaldson as one of its Honorary Professorial Fellows: Prof. Donaldson is the author of a critically acclaimed biography of Jonson (Ben Jonson: a life. Oxford: OUP, 2011) and is one of the General Editors of the Cambridge edition of the works of Ben Jonson (Cambridge: CUP, 2012). The acquisition of this collection of Jonson plays and writings was thus a good fit for the University’s collections, and complemented other Rare Books holdings including the Second Folio of Shakespeare’s works (1632) and the First Folio of Beaumont and Fletcher’s works (1647). The Jonson volumes also feature the bookplates of Alfred Henry Littleton and Estelle Doheny, the latter already represented in Baillieu holdings through her copy of Eusebius.

But the printing of the Jonson Second Folio is an extremely complex case. It typically exists in two volumes. The first is a second edition of Jonson’s 1616 First Folio. The second comprises additional material that had been assembled from as early as 1631, but was not published in this form until 1640 (three years after Jonson had died). Moreover, this second volume consists of four ‘parts’, which are bound in different orders in different copies. (The Baillieu’s is in the order: part I, part iv, part iii, part ii).

One of the distinctive features of the Second Folio is the presence of an engraved portrait of Jonson by Robert Vaughan, who flourished throughout the 1620s. On the face of it then, the Baillieu’s volume 1 looks like a copy from the Second Folio:

Title page opening from the Baillieu Library’s The works of Beniamin Jonson. Volume I. London: Will Stansby, 1616-40.
Title page opening from the Baillieu Library’s The works of Beniamin Jonson. Volume I. London: Will Stansby, 1616-40.

The first volume of F2 was meant to be a second edition of F1, including the reproduction of William Hole’s elaborately engraved titlepage featuring the allegorical figures of “TRAGŒDIA”, “COMŒDIA”, “TRAGICOMŒDIA”, “SATYR” AND “PASTOR”. The only difference was the imprint, which was burnished and now read “LONDON. | Printed by | Richard Biſhop, | and are to be ſold by | Andrew Crooke, | in S t, Paules, | Church-yard. | Ano D. 1640”, where it had earlier been marked with the name of another stationer, William Stansby, and the 1616 date.

Although the Baillieu copy clearly includes the Vaughan portrait usually found in F2, the imprint of the titlepage bears the 1616 date and Stansby’s name, not the 1640 date and the names of Bishop and Crooke, which ought to be present if this were a genuine F2. So clearly, one of these two pages does not belong. Is it a Second Folio augmented by the introduction of an excised titlepage from F1? Or is it a First Folio augmented by the addition of the Vaughan portrait created in the 1620s?

Close up of publisher’s imprint from the Baillieu Library’s The works of Beniamin Jonson. Volume I. London: Will Stansby, 1616-40.
Close up of publisher’s imprint from the Baillieu Library’s The works of Beniamin Jonson. Volume I. London: Will Stansby, 1616-40.

The bibliographical definition of a new “edition” turns on the fact that, rather than a printer simply re-inking an existing galley of type which had been previously set (for the first printing), more work is involved: the pieces of type need to be reset from scratch (well, at least half of them, if we want to be technical) [1]. Resetting by hand in this manner typically means changes will be introduced, either inadvertently or deliberately. In the case of the Jonson F2, the printer was keen to economise, as David Gants explains in his textual essay for the Cambridge edition: “In designing the second edition of F1, Bishop retained the same general layout as the first, although the number of lines per page increased from 47 to 50, which, along with other minor revisions, reduced the total number of sheets from 257 to 227”.

Sure enough, a quick line count of various pages of the Baillieu volume shows that it is more generously spaced, in line with the features of a First Folio. Differences in the prefatory material clinches it: a comparison with a genuine Second Folio via Early English books online shows a number of differences in the dedicatory poems but an exact correspondence to the prefatory material of a First Folio.

Contents page from the Baillieu Library’s The works of Beniamin Jonson. Volume II. London: Richard Meighen, 1640.
Contents page from the Baillieu Library’s The works of Beniamin Jonson. Volume II. London: Richard Meighen, 1640.

So someone – perhaps because they already owned this First Folio – did not see any point in purchasing the second edition (volume 1 of F2) but did bother to source the Vaughan portrait, and had it added to their F1. They did then proceed to acquire volume 2 of F2, which contains the additional material not printed in 1616. This included such plays as Bartholomew Fair, The Staple of News, and The Devil is an Ass, as well as various masques and the fragment of a play called “Mortimer, His Fall” which the author left unfinished at his death. These two volumes were then beautifully bound by Francis Bedford in the nineteenth century.

Guest blogger: Dr David McInnis, Gerry Higgins Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies ( and curator of the forthcoming After Shakespeare exhibition, Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library, 14 July 2016-11 February 2017.

Explore this link for further information about the After Shakespeare exhibition.

[1] Philip Gaskell. A new introduction to bibliography. Oxford : OUP, 1979, p. 313.

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