2009 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Baillieu Library building, the University’s first purpose-built library.
The anniversary celebrations have given alumni, students and staff past and present an opportunity to reflect on their own time in the Library, whether it had been spent studying, working, flirting or snoozing. The milestone also draws attention to the richness of the Library’s collections and the generosity of the many donors who have contributed books, prints, maps, manuscripts, musical scores, archives, artefacts and money over more than 150 years.
Although founded in the 1850s, the University did not receive its first major gift of rare books until 1903. This was the bequest of George McArthur (born in Scotland in 1842), a retired baker from the Victorian town of Maldon. Although McArthur never atte nded this or any other university, he came from a bookish family living in a highly literate society. Despite limited formal education he knew Latin, was a keen reader, a knowledgeable collector of books, objects and colonial documents, and an enthusiastic international traveller, publishing travel writings under the pseudonym ‘The Rambler’. Both his journeys overseas and his life in a goldfields town informed his collecting. As well as acquiring books about travel and exploration, Bibles in obscure languages, and incunabula (books printed before 1500), McArthur was a pioneer in collecting early Australian documents such as colonial newspapers, convict records and miner’s licenses. Why did this bookish baker from Maldon leave his collection of more than 2,500 publications and documents to the University of Melbourne? The connection might seem a tenuous one to us today but demonstrates the importance of always making a good first impression. In 1903 John Walter Gregory, professor of geology at the University, visited McArthur in Maldon. The two men found they shared many interests, and McArthur was impressed by the younger professor, writing to his bank manager, “If that was the sort of men the university professors were, they should have [my] books”. Tragically, a few months later McArthur took his own life, suffering from unbearable depression. His books and documents came to the University Library, while his coins, weapons and other artefacts went to the Museum of Victoria.
Sir Russell Grimwade (BSc 1901)
The collections of Sir Russell Grimwade (1879–1955) reflect his wide sphere of interests and activities as an industrialist, conservationist, naturalist, woodworker, philanthropist and author. Not only are 1,000 of his rare books now located in the Baillieu Library, but his art collection is also in the Ian Potter Museum of Art (indeed William Strutt’s 1887 painting, Bushrangers, Victoria, Australia 1852, is arguably the icon of the University of Melbourne Art Collection) and his papers are held in the University of Melbourne Archives. Grimwade was a Melbourne alumnus, having completed a Bachelor of Science degree in 1901 while living at Ormond College, which he recalled as a time of “happy satisfaction”. Sir Russell and Lady (Mab) Grimwade’s generosity to the University extended beyond the collections, to a major gift of money for the construction of a biochemistry building and later the bequest of their Toorak home Miegunyah, proceeds from the sale of which created the Russell and Mab Grimwade Miegunyah Fund. At the time of its receipt (upon Lady Grimwade’s death in 1973), the Grimwades’ was the largest private bequest the University had ever received. This substantial trust fund continues to support activities that were of interest to Sir Russell, including the care and development of the University’s collections.
J. Orde Poynton (Lld 1977)
The opening of the Baillieu Library building served as the catalyst to another of the Library’s great benefactions. In 1959 Dr J. Orde Poynton (1906–2001) donated his collection of some 3,700 old master prints and 15,000 rare books. Poynton has been described as “a virtuoso book collector”; his books transformed the Library’s holdings in fields such as the Greek and Roman classics and modern private presses, while his prints form the core of one of Australia’s most significant collections of prints. In subsequent years Dr Poynton made further donations, and was later a major benefactor of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Poynton was an English-born medical practitioner, who served in Malaya in World War II and was imprisoned in Changi. He had inherited his love for rare books and prints from his father. He arrived in Adelaide in 1947 and moved to Melbourne in 1962, serving as an honorary consultant bibliographer in the Baillieu for twelve years. In 1977 the University recognised his services by conferring an honorary Doctor of Laws.
Image: Jan van de Velde II, An antique gate, plate 1
of part 1 of the series Sixty landscapes, 1616, etching,
13.3 x 20.0 cm, second state, reg. no. 1959.3921.
Print Collection, Baillieu Library, University of
Melbourne. Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959. To
be exhibited in the exhibition Journeys and places:
Etchings by Jan van de Velde II at the Ian Potter Museum
of Art, 5 September 2009 to 17 January 2010.
Dr Nicholas Hamilton (MB BS 1946)
As well as donations and bequests of large collections, the Library continues to receive gifts of individual volumes. Recently Dr Nicholas Hamilton donated a rare anatomy book printed in London
in 1694. This family heirloom was originally brought to Australia by Dr Hamilton’s Scottish born great-greatgrandfather, Dr Alexander Thomson (1798-1866), also a medical practitioner, who has been commemorated as a pioneer of Melbourne and founder of Geelong. It passed down thorugh the family and was presented to Dr Hamilton when he graduated MBBS from The University of Melbourne in 1946. Dr Hamilton not only donated the book but also generously funded its conservation, so that it would be in a fit condition for use by library patrons for many years to come.
Image: Title page of Ysbrand can Diemerbroek, The anatomy of human bodies; Comprehending the most modern discoveries and curiosities in that art…London: printed for W. Whitwood, 1694, Medical Rare Books Collection, University fo Melbourne, Gift of Dr Nicholas Hamilton, 2008.
Learn more about the Baillieu's 50th anniversary celebrations and view the online memorry book at http://www.baillieu50.unimelb.edu.au/
Donations to fund the cataloguing and conservation of its cultural collections are always welcomed by the Library. Visit https://alumni.unimelb.edu.au/awc/MakeAGift.aspx and nominate ‘Library and cultural collections’ for your ‘gift purpose to make a donation or contact the Advancement Office on +61 3 8344 1751.
A commemorative booklet is available from the Library: A storehouse of wisdom; Celebrating 50 years of the Baillieu Library. http://www.baillieu50.unimelb.edu.au/
- Major Features
- Our Alumni
- Regular Features
- Message from the Vice-Chancellor
- Books | Stage | Film | Music
- Then and Now
- University News
- Anniversary and Scholarship for Veterinary Science
- Funding announced for the $1 Billion Parkville Comprehensive Cancer Centre
- Hugh Taylor Wins Helen Keller Prizeb for Vision Research
- New Graduate School Of Arts
- New think tank set to shape public debate
- Prize Winning VCAM Alumni Artists
- Three Steps To Sustainability
- Top Architects Compete For Faculty Of Architecture, Building And Planning Commission
- University Of Melbourne Scientists Discover Ancient Reef
- The Last Word
- Giving to the University