Special collections

Collection name Description Collection contents available in
Anderson Collection
Private library of John Anderson (1893-1962), Scottish born philosopher and educator. Anderson was Challis Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney from 1927 until 1958.  Many of his essays, papers and letters are available in the Australian Digital Collections. Online catalogue
Brennan Collection
Private library of Christopher Brennan (1870-1932), the Australian poet, author and scholar. Brennan was Associate Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Sydney from 1920 to 1925. The collection is on permanent loan from St John's College, University of Sydney. Some of Brennan's papers and correspondence are also held in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library's Manuscript Collections. Special Collections Database
Chadwick Collection
Research collection of Norse and Celtic studies material from the library of Professor Nora Chadwick (1891-1972), University of Cambridge, a leading mid-twentieth century scholar in the field of Celtic Studies. The collection is particularly strong in scholarly monographs and facsimiles of medieval manuscripts. Card catalogue
Comics Collection
Part of the Science Fiction Collection. It contains over 1500 titles from the 1930s to the present and includes publications from the United States, Australia, Canada and England as well as a limited number of French publications. Printed guide in the Rare Books office
Dalley Scarlett Collection
Private library of Robert Dalley-Scarlett (1887-1959), the Australian composer and scholar of music. It contains more than 24,800 items and includes early editions of Handel operas and oratorios, early editions of works by Lully and Anne, Henry Purcell's collection, Orpheus Britannicus, and wartime Russian editions of works by Khachaturian, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Along with the Edward Richardson collection of early editions of Handel the Rare Books and Special Collections Library's Handel collection is the largest outside the United Kingdom. Card catalogue and online catalogue. Some material is still uncatalogued.
De La Mare Collection
Collection of materials by and about Walter De La Mare (1873-1953), the English poet and author. Originally formed by De La Mare's bibliographer, Leonard Clark, the collection also includes 31 letters to the poet Clive Sansom covering the period 1938-1955. Special Collections Database
Deane Collection
Collection of William H. Deane, the Rare Books and Special Collection Library's largest benefactor. The collection comprises the remainder of Deane's private library after part of the original collection was destroyed by fire, and materials purchased from the Deane funds to supplement the collection. Its strengths are material on the history and philosophy of science, witchcraft, demonology and significant Australiana. The Deane collection also includes a large collection of erotica as well as the Deane business archives. Card catalogue and online catalogue

Deane Erotica Collection is listed separately in the Special Collections Database
Detective Fiction Collection

The Detective Fiction Collection began informally in the 1960’s when the Library was given the books of a Sydney journalist. Among them were crime paperbacks (including many of the green series from Penguin) and other mystery stories. More titles (extracted from later donations) were added until, twelve years later, the collection had grown by many thousands of volumes. In 1974 the Library bought a major American collection of 3,500 detective fiction titles, many of them valuable first editions. This purchase so pleased Frederick May (then the University of Sydney’s Professor of Italian) that he donated 1,200 of his own books, with the Library purchasing another 800 titles from his estate in 1978. Other donations have since increased our holdings by several thousand volumes. At this time, the collection grows by donation, a little purchasing, and by the addition of NSW titles received on legal deposit.

Every Kind of Crime (Fiction) - The Holdings
The Detective Fiction Collection is the biggest in Australia and, despite recent growth restrictions, is a major research resource for students of the genre and of Australian literature, social studies and popular culture. Although called 'detective fiction', 'crime fiction' would be a better description of the works held in the collection. Holdings range the gamut of the genre, from murder and detective stories to spy fiction, psychological thrillers and police procedurals. All publishing formats are included, including variant editions, covers and multi-media. True crime material is not collected.

Holdings includes novels, short stories, plays, classic children’s books (such as Emil and the Detectives), and periodicals (including a set of the Strand Magazine in which Sherlock Holmes made his first appearance). The collection is strongest in English material, with Australian, English and American titles predominant. However, there are also non-English language works held (such as those by Vidocq and Simenon in French), as well as English translations. In addition, critical works about the genre are collected.

Australian Authors
There is a sizeable Australian component to the collection ranging from major 19th century authors such as John Lang, Ellen Davitt, Marcus Clarke and Fergus Hume; through the 20th century with, for example, writers such as Arthur Upfield, Pat Flower, Margot Neville and Jon Cleary through to the recent flowering of Australian crime writers, including Peter Corris, Barry Maitland, Clair McNab et al.
Card catalogue and online catalogue

Some material acquired before 1992 is still uncatalogued
Elkin Collection
Private reference library of A.P. Elkin (1891-1979), the noted Australian anthropologist and ethnographer and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sydney from 1934 to 1956. Elkin's original typed list of the contents of the collection is available. Elkin's personal archives are held in the University of Sydney Archives. Special Collections Database
Heymanson Collection
Collection of Sir Randolph Heymanson (1903-1984), journalist and editor of the Australian Newspapers Service, New York, from 1940 to 1969. The collection consists of erotica, including novels and illustrated books, mostly published prior to 1980. Special Collections Database
Jacobs Collection
Research material relating to the Pacific Islands up to 1914 from the British Foreign Office and the Deutsches Zentralarchiv, Potsdam, donated by Emeritus Professor Marjorie Jacobs. Printed guide in the Rare Books office
Kipling Collection
Collection of the works of Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), the English novelist, short story writer and poet, compiled by the collector Frederick Storch and donated to the Rare Books and Special Collections Library. It includes many first editions, American copyright editions and other limited issues of Kipling's works. Online catalogue
Lawson Collection
Collection of printed first editions and manuscripts of the works of Henry Lawson (1867-1922), the Australian short story writer and poet, compiled by the collector Harry Chaplin. Special Collections Database
Leaver Collection
Harry Leaver Memorial Collection of Celtic Studies research material, compiled by Dr Harry Leaver and donated to the Rare Books and Special Collections Library. It includes some major journal runs. Leaver's original list of the contents of the collection is available. Special Collections Database

Some material is still uncatalogued
Lindsay Collection
Printed editions and manuscripts of the work of the Lindsay Family, particularly Norman Lindsay (1879-1969), from the collection of Harry Chaplin. It is possibly the largest collection of Lindsay manuscript material in Australia. Card catalogue
Macdonald Collection
Private collection of Hugh Macdonald, the English scholar and bibliographer of Dryden, Hobbes and Locke. It contains 10,000 items and is the most important collection of sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth century English and European literature in Australia. It forms the basis of published bibliographies and of the Haslewood imprints series. It is one of the two or three most important collections of Dryden material in the world. The collection also has substantial holdings in romantic poetry, especially Byron, Shelley and Wordsworth, major twentieth century bibliographical works, eighteenth century French drama and seventeenth century English political history. Card catalogue and online catalogue
Moore Collection
Collection on the history of science, particularly physics and chemistry, donated by Emeritus Professor Walter Moore. It also contains some literary material. Online catalogue
Phrenology Collection
Formed collection of 101 titles on phrenology purchased in 1994 through the Edwards bequest. Special Collections Database
Richardson Collection
Collection of Handel material, mainly reference works as well as some early printings and fragments of manuscripts. It was donated by Edward Richardson to complement the Dalley-Scarlett Collection, held by the Rare Books and Special Collections Library. Card catalogue
Science Fiction and Fantasy Collections
Collection of over 80,000 titles which was begun in 1974 and enlarged by the acquisition in 1979 of the Ron Graham Science Fiction Collection, a private collection assembled by Mr Graham for over 50 years before his death in 1979. The Library’s collection is being added to continuously and is now one of the larger institutional collections of science fiction and fantasy in the world. It contains hardcovers and paperbacks, reference works, indexes, journals, fan material, art work, film posters and stills, manuscripts, memorabilia and a large collection of comics. Access to a major part of the collection is through the Library’s online catalogue.

The Ron Graham Collection contains almost complete holdings (up to 1979) of the commercially published American, English and Australian science fiction magazines, including such long-running titles titles as Amazing, Astounding/Analog, If and Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Also noteworthy is Graham’s collection of Donald Wollheim’s papers, fan magazines and ephemera. Wollheim (1914-1990) was a major American fan, writer, editor and publisher (DAW Books). His papers reflect the development of the Futurian Society (NewYork 1937-c.1945) and the early development of American science fiction fandom.

The Ron Graham Collection is largely uncatalogued, although the Rare Books and Special Collections Library holds the original card index compiled by Ron Graham and a number of annotated indexes to anthologies and magazines. It also hold a listing of the comic’s collection which was a major component of the Graham collection and has since been added to by other donations.

In 1984, the Collection received another major bequest from the estate of the late A. Bertram Chandler. Chandler was a merchant marine officer and science fiction writer, born in England, who emigated to Australia in 1956 and later became an Australian citizen. He was most famous for his Rim Worlds and John Grimes novels. The bequest contains the bulk of his novels and short stories, a number of corrected typescripts, correspondence and a small collection of memorabilia.

In 2004-2005 and again in 2010, Colin Steele donated his significant private collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror books and periodicals to the University Library. Built up over many years in England and Australia, this comprehensive collection includes complete works of leading overseas and Australian authors, anthologies, rare early journals and fanzines. It complements and adds substantially to the Graham Collection.

Other Australian writers who have donated to the collection include Ian Irvine, Traci Harding and Justine Larbalestier. Ian Irvine has contributed the drafts and papers for his novels published 1998-2006, including the View From the Mirror quartet and the Well of Echoes quartet.  Traci Harding’s donation included the author and editor’s drafts of her trilogies Ancient Future and Celestial Triad. Justine Larbalestier wrote her PH.D thesis using the collection and donated the research material, drafts and papers associated with this and the subsequent book of the same title, Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction.

These donations all add to and reaffirm the importance and strength of the Library's nationally and internationally recognised Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection - the best in Australian libraries and a prime resource for teaching and research.



Card catalogue and online catalogue


Journals in the Ron Graham Collection

Ron Graham Collection card index: ask at Rare Books & Special Collections office





Colin Steele Collection



Ian Irvine
Traci Harding
Justine Larbalestier
Slessor Collection
Books from the private library of the Australian poet, author and journalist, Kenneth Slessor (1901-1971). The collection of over 800 titles was donated to the Rare Books and Special Collections Library by the Journalists' Club in 1996. Special Collections Database
Tomkeieff Collection
Personal collection of research material on geology, petrology and geosciences, acquired from Professor Sergei Tomkeieff of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1970. The collection is noteworthy for its historical material and Russian language material both of which are now virtually unobtainable. Card catalogue
Three Decker Novel Collection
Collection of 1597 titles of fiction published in more than one volume between 1800 and 1900 in their first English edition. Most titles were published in three volumes and are therefore known as "three decker novels". Most of the collection is formed by minor and lesser known authors, although some major authors are included such as Wilkie Collins, Benjamin Disraeli, George Eliot, Sir Walter Scott, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Anthony Trollope. Online catalogue