Book Lover, George McArthur, and His Bequest to the University

George McArthur (1842-1903) was born in Scotland and immigrated to Victoria with his family in 1852, moving to Maldon two years later at the height of the Gold Rush. Bookish from an early age and later a  keen traveller, he collected widely, including early printed books, religious texts and Scottish poetry, as well as material from Australia’s early colonial times such as newspapers, handbills, miner’s licences and artefacts.

Being friendly with, and impressed by one John Walter Gregory, Professor of Geology at the University of Melbourne, McArthur decided to leave his book collection to the University. His bequest, which at the time in 1903, represented nearly ten percent of the Library’s total book stock, later became the basis for the Library’s Special Collections. An exhibition, ‘The Baker of Maldon’, commemorating 100 years since this significant bequest, was held in 2003. The catalogue essay describing McArthur’s interesting life can be read in the Special Collections reading room, 3rd floor, Baillieu Library. See http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/search/t?SEARCH=baker+of+Maldon.

Pictured: Title page of Sir Walter Raleigh, History of the World, London: Printed for Walter Burre, 1614. From the George McArthur Bequest, 1903. Special Collections, University of Melbourne Library.


Drawing Our History

To celebrate Naidoc Week, we’ve found an artwork by Tommy McRae, a Kwatkwat man. Tommy was born c.1836 near Wahgunyah on the eve of white settlement and Aboriginal dispossession. When young, he worked stock for settlers such as John Ford as well as doing seasonal work, fishing and hunting for family and trading purposes. Presumed to be the same stockman known in neighbouring parts as Yakaduna or Tommy Barnes, he also possessed a valuable artistic talent.

Observed drawing with a stick on the Murray mudflats, McRae was provided with pen, ink and paper by Wahgunyah postmaster Roderick Kilborn and other settlers, who were said to pay ten shillings for a filled sketchbook. McRae achieved some standing through his talent and his ability to make a partial living from it.

Working from memory or oral tradition, McRae executed his ink silhouettes lying propped on one elbow, drawing from the foot of his subject matter upwards, often arranging the narrative drawing in several tiers. Accomplished in draftsmanship and animation, he invested his compositions with great verve, drama and not a little humour, often lampooning an upstart squattocracy.

By the 1880s the McRae family had established camp at Lake Moodemere, periodically ‘going bush’ in a wagonette, but when it became an Aboriginal protection reserve in 1891, they moved across the river to avoid seizure of their children. Circumstances forced a return and the loss of the children, and McRae died within a few years.

More info: www.lib.unimelb.edu.au/collections/archives/exhibitions/50th/stories/mcrae.html

Above: Tommy McRae, ‘Corroboree’, c.1890, ink on paper, Foord Family Collection (1961.0008), University of Melbourne Archives.


Beautiful Manuscripts from the Rare Music Collection

The Rare Collections of the Louise Hanson-Dyer Music Library consist of manuscripts (mainly works by Australian composers from the colonial period to the present day) and printed scores and parts from the 17th century onwards, which are the major part of the collection, including many early and rare editions of European composers. For more information see www.lib.unimelb.edu.au/collections/music/rare/index.html.

Pictured: Arcangelo Corelli, Trio Sonatas, Op.3 (partbook, 1689), title page and p. 7, Louise Hanson-Dyer Music Library, University of Melbourne.


Fine Private Presses of the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

The Eragny Press, one of the fine private presses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is held by the University Library and is the only complete holding of the Press in the southern hemisphere. Created by Lucien Pissarro (son of the French Impressionist painter Camille) and his wife Esther, the Eragny Press was very influential on book design and typography. Its 32 publications are a significant addition to the University’s research material on the Arts and Crafts movement, and, uniquely, it combined elements of that movement with those of the French Impressionists. For more information on the Press, see www.unimelb.edu.au/culturalcollections/research/collections2/fleming.pdf.

Pictured: Gerard de Nerval, Histoire de la reine du matin & de Soliman prince des genies, frontispiece, Hammersmith: Eragny Press, 1909, Special Collections, University of Melbourne.


Arthur Purnell, Architect

Arthur W. Purnell (1878-1964) was a Geelong-born architect who built a thriving practice in Melbourne. He designed hundreds of buildings, including the Olympic Stand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Rosebud Yacht Club, and many factories, offices, shops and warehouses. Many of these still exist, including Melbourne landmark Michael’s Corner on Elizabeth Street. Purnell had a close client-architect relationship with Alexander George (‘Alec’) Barlow (1880–1937), a trailblazing Melbourne car dealer. Car show rooms, racing stables and this house were amongst the work completed by Purnell for Barlow.

The University of Melbourne Archives is the custodian of Purnell’s architectural drawings, which provide a unique view of architecture and life in Melbourne during the first half of the 20th century. The University Library recently partnered with Arts Victoria to provide information on the Purnell collection on its Culture Victoria website. See www.cv.vic.gov.au/stories/the-architecture-of-arthur-purnell.

Above: Arthur W. Purnell, Residence at Punt Road South Yarra for A.G. Barlow esq. (construction drawing), 28 November 1924. Arthur Purnell Collection, University of Melbourne Archives.


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