University of Sydney Library Newsletter

Issue Nº 45 - November 2002 - Sesquicentenary Edition

ISSN 1326-2785
Previous issues - May 2002, and archives

Expired URLs removed.
(on printed newsletter given as Issue no 44)

In this Issue

The University Library: a short history

In 1851, the Senate allocated money for the purchase of the first books, which were to form the foundation of a collection, which now numbers over five million items. The first books and a bookcase were purchased in 1852. They were in place prior to the arrival of the first professors and students.

The momentum, however, was hard to maintain. Frederic Hale Forshall was appointed Librarian in 1852 but he resigned after 15 months. The position of Librarian then lapsed for sixty years, during which time the Library was under the general direction of the Registrar, aided by an Assistant Librarian.

The University was housed initially in College St until the Quadrangle building was erected on the new site at Camperdown. The Library relocated in 1857 and was to have occupied a grand room where the Great Hall is now located. Ceremony beat function and the Library was relegated room on the first floor which later became the Senate Room.

By 1879, the Library had outgrown the space allotted to it and the collection was distributed in rooms all over the Quad. In that year, the Chancellor made an appeal for a benefactor to endow a new library building. Local resident, Thomas Fisher, heard the call and altered his will to the benefit of the University. When he died in 1884, Fisher left 30,000 pounds for a library.

After many reversals and delays the NSW government agreed to fund the full cost of a new library building and the Fisher capital was preserved as an endowed book fund. Plans were drawn up by the Government Architect and construction took eight years. The Fisher Library opened in 1909.

The reading room was designed in the Gothic tradition with a magnificent cedar roof. The adjoining multi-tier book stack was of advanced design, including two electric book lifts and glass floors. The reading room is now the MacLaurin Hall.

From 1882 to 1914 Henry Barff was both Registrar and Librarian. His assistant librarian, Caleb Hardy, pioneered the use of the new Dewey decimal classification in Australia and printed catalogues were published in 1885, 1893 and 1900. A second staff member was appointed in 1894 and a third in 1898.

In 1902 John Le Gay Brereton was selected for the position of Assistant Librarian and was promoted to Librarian in 1914. Brereton was responsible for creating a card catalogue and introduced a professional approach to organization and service. By the time of his resignation in 1921 to take up the Chair of English Literature, the staff had increased to 11 including two in a Law Library in the city.

He was succeeded by Henry Green who guided the Library for a quarter of a century. During the years of the Great Depression, only the income from the Fisher fund saved the Library from complete stagnation.

1914 - 1946

  • two additional positions approved 1922 and first women appointed as library assistants
  • extension to the book stack commenced in 1924.
  • 1935 the staff grown to 16, including 3 in Law, and one in the Medical School.
  • new Medical School opened in the Blackburn Building in 1935, it included an octagonal Medical Library

Green was succeeded in 1946 by his deputy, Edward (Ted) Steel, a member of the staff since 1911. The twelve years of Steel's incumbency coincided with an escalation in student numbers, which outpaced the Library's ability to provide adequate resources or services.

In 1959 Andrew Osborn became Librarian and led the Library into a new era of collection building and service provision. In less than four years he doubled the size of the collection and planned a new library building.

Osborn had left by the time the new Fisher Library opened in 1963. The first stage of the building was a five storey undergraduate wing, to which a nine storey stack was added four years later.

The undergraduate wing was constructed to a very high standard and many components were specially imported. The rubber tiles used as flooring were so soft that they were easily marked. Shoes with stiletto heels had to be removed on entry to the building.

Harrison Bryan succeeded Osborn in 1963. The Bryan years coincided with a period of expansion in tertiary education and the adoption of new technology to improve services.

1963 - 1980

  • 1964 the first coin-operated copier was installed for student use
  • punched card system was introduced for loans
  • 1975 circulation process fully automated
  • 1971 computer input of current cataloguing
  • 1972 electronic book detection system was installed in the Medical Library
  • over 200 staff
  • incorporation of departmental libraries
  • 1981 - 10 branches and 5 department libraries

Harrison Bryan resigned to become Director-General of the National Library of Australia in 1980 and Neil Radford was appointed Librarian.

1980 - 1996

  • 1983 construction of a large storage facility in Darlington.
  • microfiche catalogue produced
  • 1987 by an online catalogue listing all items acquired since 1971
  • integrated library system implemented for cataloguing, circulation and Special Reserve in Fisher
  • Institutes of Education and Nursing of the Sydney College of Advanced Education joined the University Library
  • total staff numbers grew to 271
  • collections exceed 4.2 million
  • loans automated in four branch libraries by 1992
  • 1993 first library web site
  • three department libraries and the Cumberland College of Health Sciences joined the library system in 1996 - 22 libraries in total

From 1995, the Library began to embrace information technology as a means of extending and improving its services. Implementation of a new automated system occurred in that year as a consequence of a review of the Library held in 1993. This transformed the Library into a full network, offering automated services at all sites.

The Scholarly Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS) was established in 1996 to provide a platform for full-text databases and to facilitate textual studies at the University. SETIS was the first service of its kind in Australia and has developed as a national platform for innovative electronic publishing and digital library conversion projects.

SETIS is a key participant and host in collaborative projects such as the AustLit database, the Australian Federation Full Text Database and the Australian Digital Theses Program. More than 200 Australian electronic texts have been created.

Neil Radford retired in 1996. John Shipp, who had been Librarian at the University of Wollongong and a member of the 1993 Library review team, followed him in 1997.

1997 - 2002

  • Sydney College of the Arts and the Orange Agricultural College libraries were added in 1998 - 22 libraries
  • staff numbers grew to over 300
  • restructuring process was begun, driven by a funding shortfall and the need to meet a changing environment
  • number of libraries reduced by amalgamations - 20 libraries
  • 1999 the Library instituted a policy of acquiring networked electronic resources in preference to print when equivalent versions were available
  • by the turn of the century the Library's web site had become the primary access to library resources and services
  • SETIS, revived the Sydney University Press by creating electronic editions of three titles from the backlist in 2002
  • Library joins the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership

At the end of its first 150 years, the University of Sydney Library has a print collection of more than five million items, subscribes to in excess of 29,000 electronic journals and provides services at 20 locations on nine campuses.

Collection Highlights
1852 first book purchased from Rev Dr Mackaen - Lexicon Græco-Latinum compiled by Joannis Scapulae and printed in Basle, 1615.
1878 collection of late Nichol Stenhouse (4,000 volumes) donated by Thomas Walker
1900 50,000 volumes.
1921 100,000 + volumes
1934 200,000+ volumes
1967 1 millionth book - Short Stories in Prose and Verse by Henry Lawson - presented by the Friends of the Library
1972 2 millionth book -John le Gay Brereton's Sea and Sky manuscript - presented by the bibliophile, Walter Stone.
1976 Medline first online database
1983 three millionth item - Daphnis and Chloe printed by Bodoni in 1786. Limited edition of 56 copies was first presented to the King of Turin and later acquired by Walter Stone. Presented by Friends of the Library
1989 first CD-ROM purchased
1990 4 millionth item - Experiments and Observations on Electricity by Benjamin Franklin, 1769 - donated by Professor Walter Moore
2002 5 millionth acquisition - Early English Books Online (EEBO) - funding from Richard Hanly, Barbara Browning, Paul Cocks and University's research infrastructure grant.

Images included in the print edition of Library news:

Old Fisher Library
New Fisher: Cladding of Stack, 1971
Library Sesquicentenary function, 17 October 2002
University Librarians 1963-2002, John Shipp, Harrison Bryan and Neil Radford

Friends of the Library

The Friends of the University of Sydney Library was launched in March 1962. The association assists the Library to buy more books - particularly the expensive older books, manuscripts, or new limited editions, which the Library could normally not afford.

Over the years the Friends have raised more than $250,000 to support the Library, have presented 400 special volumes and assisted the acquisition of major collections. The Friends present the one millionth acquisition, Short Stories in Prose and Verse by Henry Lawson in 1967.

The focus of the Friends has always been, and remains, to support in tangible ways the development and promotion of the scholarly resources of the Library. Meetings are held throughout the year and new members are always welcome.

Secretary of the Friends, Ross Coleman
(02 93512990;

Giving to the Library

"This generation will soon pass away but the torch of learning will be handed down by the influence of this great library to generation after generation of Australian scholars."
Sir Normand MacLaurin, Chancellor, on the opening of the 'old' Fisher Library in 1909

The support of the Friends, of benefactors and by the community have, over the years, contributed immeasurably to the richness and significance of the Library's collections and resources. This tradition of private support is a vital supplement to the Library's income.

The Library has benefited particularly through the generosity of bequests that provide substantial and perpetual endowments for the acquisition of significant resources essential for a great research library.

Throughout its history the Library has attracted many thousands of donations of books and funds. Among the most significant are:

1878 Thomas Walker - library of Nicol Stenhouse
1884 Thomas Fisher - bequest "for establishing and maintaining a library"
1887 Sir Charles Nicholson - collection of books and early manuscripts
1959 William H Deane - collection of rare books and two endowment funds
1960 Andrew D Osborn - numerous collections of books and two endowment funds
1972 Kathleen Laurence - bequest for a biological sciences library
1977 Edward Richardson - Handel collection
1979 Anthony Gilbert - endowment fund
1979 Ronald Graham - science fiction collection
1979 Professor Walter Moore - collection of rare books in the history of science
1992 Dr Eric Edwards - bequest for the collection
1993 Charlotte McGuffog - bequest for the Library
1995 Barbara Browning - bequest for the collection
1996 Mollie Burns - endowment fund
1996 Selby Old Foundation - endowment fund
1997 Sir John Proud - bequest for rare books
1999 Ethel May Richmond - bequest to the Library
2000 Maurice Saxby - children's literature collection
2001 Leslie Edward John Lillie - bequest for the collection
2002 Richard Hanly - bequest for the humanities
Friends of the University of Sydney Library
Graduates of the University through the Annual Appeal and the Williams Fund

Gifts to the Library are tax deductible.

For further information about giving to the Library contact
The University Librarian, John Shipp
(02 9351 2990;
or the Collections Coordinator, Ross Coleman,
(02 9351 3352;

Sydney's First Librarian: Frederic Hale Forshall

Frederic Forshall had an excellent pedigree for the position of librarian at the University of Sydney. His father, the Rev. Josiah Forshall, was a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. In 1824 he was appointed assistant librarian in the manuscript department of the British Museum and became Keeper of the Manuscripts in 1827. He retired from that position in 1837 to devote himself to his duties as secretary to the Museum. The Rev Forshall was a man of ability and kindly disposition who was noted for his bibliographic and religious scholarship.

His son seems to have inherited his father's intellect but perhaps not his ability. Frederic attended the Westminster School in London where he was a Queen's Scholar. This provided him with support to continue his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge.

He left the following year without having taken his degree. Frederic made his way to Sydney where he worked as a private tutor. In 1852, Charles Nicholson appointed him to look after the fledgling library of the University of Sydney.

At the same time, he sought to resume his studies. Frederic was among the first matriculants of the University of Sydney and he was admitted ad eundem. Although he received the Chancellor's prize in 1853 for Greek iambics, Frederic ran foul of John Woolley, the Professor of Classics. Woolley was dissatisfied with Frederic's academic ability and advised him that his claim for advanced standing based on his time at Cambridge would not be supported.

Frederic resigned from his position as librarian and withdrew his candidature for a degree. He returned to England in 1855 where he supported himself by preparing candidates for university, army and civil examinations in English and the classics.

In 1884, Frederic published the somewhat anecdotal Westminster School: Past and Present, which included a partial autobiography. Perhaps as testimony of his unrecognised academic achievement, he also included his Greek translation for which he had been awarded the Chancellor's prize at the University of Sydney.

Remarks for the Library Sesquicentenary Function

17 0ctober 2002
by Neil A Radford
(University Librarian 1980-1996)

I have been amazed and delighted to see, and meet again, so many former members of the Library staff who were here in the "olden days", by which I mean the time when this room was the Library. I can't list them all, but I will just say that Ray Sowden is here. Ray joined the Library staff in 1941, 61 years ago. Ray joined the staff earlier than anyone else here today.

I began my career, in this room, as a Junior Library Assistant, in 1959, so compared to Ray and to a number of others here, I'm just a new boy. Unlike Ray and others I didn't spend my entire career here. I left after seven years and worked in other places, but in 1973 the then Librarian, Harrison Bryan, who is here tonight, persuaded me to return as Associate Librarian (Reader Services).

When Harry left in 1980 to become Director-General of the National Library I was appointed to succeed him as the 8th Librarian of the University. I thus became eligible to go to tedious meetings of the Library Committee, for example, and to be accosted in the Staff Club by professors who had received an overdue notice.

I think, modestly, that I achieved quite a lot in the 16 years I was University Librarian but I don't have time to list all of them. A substantial increase in the Library's endowment funds probably gives me the greatest satisfaction, because increasingly the Library must expect to have to rely on funding from outside the University's budget. In the context of the 5-millionth book, the establishment of the Scholarly Electronic Text & Image Service, the first in Australia, was also a proud achievement.

Whatever I achieved was due, first, to the strong support I received from the three Vice-Chancellors under whom I served, and the various Deputy and Pro-Vice-Chancellors to whom I reported. Sir Bruce Williams is here tonight and I particularly want to thank him for his part in that. It was very satisfying to work in a University that understood the importance of a first-rate Library.

And second, the achievements in my time were due in no small part to the strength and professionalism and hard work of the Library staff. The University has really been fortunate in the high quality of its Library staff over the years.

Until 1914 there was really no "Librarian" in charge of the Library. It was in the care of a series of "Assistant Librarians" who reported to the Registrar. The poet John Le Gay Brereton was appointed the first full-time Librarian 1914. He had been appointed Assistant Librarian in 1902, and it is interesting that the selection committee noted that "it was not desirable that a lady be appointed". The Library staff in those days was entirely male. Among Brereton's many achievements was the creation of the card catalog.

Brereton transferred to the Chair of English in 1921 and was succeeded by Henry Green, a journalist on the Daily Telegraph. It was Green who appointed the first women to the staff. The Public Library of NSW had had women staff since the turn of the century -- it took the University two decades to catch up. Green's great interest was in Australian literature, and as well as building up the collections in that field he compiled, in his retirement, his "History of Australian Literature", the standard work on the subject.

I must mention Andrew Osborn who was Librarian for only 3 1/2 years (1959-62) but in that brief time he doubled the size of the collection. He was determined to bring the Library into world class and was prepared to fight hard to achieve this. Unfortunately, one of those with whom he fought hard was the Vice-Chancellor, an error of judgment, which eventually led to his resignation. But this is a very much better library because of Osborn's brief tenure. We owe him more than most people realise.

The danger of concentrating on the head Librarians is that you fail to notice or acknowledge the enormous contribution of so many other members of staff who have made their mark here.

For example, Caleb Hardy, Assistant Librarian in the 1880s who pioneered the use in Australia of the Dewey Decimal Classification.

Beatrice Wines, who started her career here in the 1920s and retired in the late 1960s as Deputy Librarian. For generations of students Bea Wines was the public face of the Library.

Jean Whyte, who came from Adelaide in 1959 to take over responsibility for services to readers, and made this one of the outstanding University Libraries from a service point of view.

And there have been lots of others. A collection of books, no matter how impressive its size, is not a library without the people who organise it and make it available for use. Over the last 150 years many hundreds of people have shared in those tasks, and I'm proud to honour them all tonight.

East Asian Collection News

Magdalen Lee, East Asian Collection Librarian


Catalogue records for items in these languages have traditionally used romanisation schemes to represent the original characters used in the works. For some years the library has been able to add these characters to catalogue records and to display the native scripts in the online catalogue, thereby providing richer and more accurate information about the works. However this display required the installation of special CJK softwares, which meant that only some catalogue terminals, at the East Asian Collection, could be used in this way. Remote users of the catalogue also had to obtain and install such software to be able to view the scripts, a task beyond most users.

In early 2002, the East Asian Collection implemented a new solution that simplifies and improves catalogue access to CJK materials. Basically this involved using Internet Explorer and Windows 2000, which has inbuilt the capacity to support the input of CJK scripts when searching the catalogue. With this innovation library users are not only able to view the scripts in CJK records but also have the option of inputting CJK scripts for searching, without special front-end CJK software. They can also search for and display the full records for CJK materials from public terminals throughout the library system, as well from their offices and homes.

In the mid-year break, a member of the teaching staff from La Trobe University happily spent a week undertaking research at the East Asian Collection. He was very impressed that he had been able to access and search the East Asian Collection holdings in the online catalogue in scripts prior to his interstate visit, allowing him to make the best use of his time while visiting.


The East Asian Collection recently acquired Dunhuang bao zang, a 140 volume set of material published by Xin Wen Feng, Taipei, Taiwan. Dunhuang bao zang is an extensive collection of photographs and other data on the treasury found at Dunhuang, the Mogao Grottoes in the northwest of China. The Grottoes represent an unequalled treasury of Buddhist art in China as well as the world. In addition to the murals and statues, numerous archaeological objects and manuscripts were found there. The collection includes 200,000 photographs covering literary, historical, philosophical and medical items. Each photo has been closely examined and carefully catalogued and most of the materials appear in publication for the first time. The set is an exceptionally important source for research by scholars and students not just of Buddhism or Buddhist art, but also inter-disciplinary studies in Chinese antiquities, art history, folk literature and legends.

Dunhuang bao zan was purchased from three sources: donations received from family, friends and colleagues in memory of Mr Hans Moon Lin Chey, the Morrissey Bequest Fund and the Gilbert Bequest Fund. The Library is fortunate to have these valuable sources of funds for special purchases. Appreciation is extended in particular to Professor Jocelyn Chey, Visiting Professor, Department of Chinese Studies, University of Sydney, and her relatives and friends for their generous donations and continuous support of the Library. This significant purchase will be well used and appreciated by researchers.


Professor A.L Sadler, Chair, School of Oriental Studies, University of Sydney in 1929, donated to the Library more than fifty titles of rare Japanese books, published in the Edo Period of Japan (1600-1867). The materials cover a wide scope, ranging from Japanese fiction, calligraphy and painting, ikebana, dresses and costume, to the social custom of the day, especially on women. Due to the library staff's lack of expert knowledge in classical Japanese, the Library has not been able to catalogue these rare materials and make them accessible to scholars and researchers. Fortunately, with the expert help of Dr Yukiko Sato, Sugiyama Jogakuen University who has been the Visiting Scholar to Japanese Studies, University of Sydney, in August 2002, the East Asian Collection is now able to catalogue these rare books in the University of Sydney's Online Catalogue with Japanese scripts, as well as in the Australian National Chinese, Japanese and Korean System. Scholars and researchers, both in the University and other institutions, will be aware of the existence of these rare materials and will be able to use them for research. The Library is sincerely appreciative of Dr Yukiko Sato's generous assistance.

Lindisfarne Gospels

Through the generosity of the Friends of the University of Sydney Library, Mr Anthony Gilbert and the Bruce Williams Fund, the Library has recently been able to order the new facsimile of the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of Britain's greatest artistic treasures and an outstanding example of Anglo-Saxon book production. The book, widely regarded as the 7th century's greatest work of art, is due to arrive in the Library some time early in the New Year.

The manuscript was written and illuminated about 698 in honour of St Cuthbert, the famous Bishop of Lindisfarne, who died in 687. The work was executed at the Monastery of Lindisfarne, situated on Holy Island, just off the coast of Northumberland. The production is probably connected with the Translation of St Cuthbert, which is recorded as taking place on the 20th March 698.

The Gospels remained at Lindisfarne until 875. In fleeing the Vikings, the monks of Lindisfarne took their Gospel with them. From 883 to 995 the Lindisfarne community remained at Chester-le-Street, near Durham, finally settling at Durham itself in the latter year.

At this time, probably between 950 and 970, the Latin text of the gospels was translated into a form of old English in a literal manner, word by word, and with the translation inserted as a gloss between the lines of the original. It thus represents the earliest known translation of the Gospels into any form of the English language. The translator was Aldred, Provost of Chester le Street, and almost everything that it is known concerning the origins of the manuscript is derived from a note in Anglo-Saxon inserted, by him. This note, in modern translation, reads:

'Eadfrith, Bishop of the church of Lindisfarne, originally wrote this book in honour of God and St. Cuthbert and the whole company of saints whose relics are on the island. And AEthelwald, Bishop of the Lindisfarne islanders, bound it on the outside and covered it, as he knew well how to do. And Billfrith, the anchorite, wrought the ornaments on the outside and adorned it with gold and with gems and gilded silver, unalloyed metal. And Aldred, unworthy and most miserable priest, glossed it in English with the help of God and St Cuthbert...'

The manuscript probably lost its original binding at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. The present cover was provided in 1852 by Edward Maltby, Bishop of Durham, who provided it it with a binding of silver and jewels. Early in the 17th century it was acquired by Sir Robert Cotton from Robert Bowyer, Clerk of the Parliaments. Cotton's collection was acquired by the British Library, then the British Museum, where it remains today.

This new facsimile edition consists of the facsimile volume and two volumes of expert commentary. It is produced by the same group that issued the facsimile of the Book of Kells to which it will form a companion for study and teaching within the University. Like Kells, the manuscript facsimile, covering 518 pages, is true to the original in all detail.

The expert commentary is largely by Dr Michelle Brown, curator of the Manuscript Department of the British Library, who provides a detailed description of her latest findings about the codex and the new dates. Other detailed studies have ensured the complete reconstruction of the manuscript.