The following collections are housed in the rare books and special collections because they are irreplaceable, contain in-depth collections in special subject areas or because the individual items they contain are valuable.
Generally material in the special collections can only be located through guides and catalogues which have been produced for some of these collections. These are available to clients in the State Reference Library Reading Room.
This collection was donated to the Library by the Benevolent Society of New South Wales and consists of approximately 250 works on obstetrics and gynaecology. All were published before 1900 with the earliest dating from the sixteenth century.
The collection contains a number of notable items including Childbirth by Jacques Guillemeau (published 1635) and A set of anatomical tables by William Smellie (published 1754).
The books in this collection are fully described in Obstetrics and gynaecology: short-title catalogue of books published before 1900 and available in Australia... by Ian Cope, Frank M. C. Forster and Sheila Simpson.
Location: Rare books, State Reference Library RB 2337.
There is a supplement at RB 2338.
The Bourke Street Congregational Sunday School Library was acquired from the Bourke Street Darlinghurst Congregational Church in 1982. While incomplete — much material having been destroyed before the library acquired it — it still contains some 513 books published between 1832 and 1920. The collection represents a typical Sunday School lending library in use from the mid nineteenth century to the early twentieth century.
The works included come from a wide range of publishing houses, such as the Religious Tract Society, Hodder & Stoughton, T. Nelson & Sons, and the London Missionary Society. As such, it provides an interesting comparison to the St Matthias Library which was operating for some of the same period. Both libraries are illustrative of the social and religious attitudes of their day.
Items in the Bourke Street Congregational Church Sunday School Library can be found through an author-title index in the State Reference Library, Lower Ground 1 (Macquarie St Wing).
Catalogue location: REF/NQ268.432016/2
Dr Ben Haneman, a Sydney specialist physician, donated this collection of 1591 items to the Library in 1997. It contains works by the great Spanish writer Cervantes and includes 1100 different editions of Don Quixote, critical and biographical works and realia.
The special editions include an edition with paintings by Salvador Dali, a first edition of the second part of Don Quixote dated 1620 and a 1789 edition published during the French Revolution. Fifty languages are represented including Hebrew, Afrikaans, Welsh and Portuguese.
The Donald MacPherson collection of art and literature was established with funds provided from a bequest by the Misses Margaret and Elizabeth MacPherson. This bequest became fully available to the Library in 1970, and it was directed that the income from it be used for "the purchase of books of pure literature and fine art, that is to say books of literature and about literature and fine arts".
A collection of books selected by the State Library of NSW in the period from 1939 to 1948 to form a model library for Australian schools.
Items in the model school library can be found through a special catalogue in the State Reference Library, Lower Ground 1 (Macquarie St Wing).
Catalogue location: REF/NQ028.5/21A
The State Library of New South Wales purchased the basis of the Penguin collection in 1981 from C. C. Kohler, an antiquarian book dealer of Dorking, Surrey. Other titles are being added to fill in gaps as they come to hand.
The collection now consists of over 3000 paperback books published by Penguin between 1935 and 1979. Many of its titles are first edition Penguins. Included are both fiction and non-fiction books in the Penguin, Pelican and Penguin Specials series. The collection embodies a complete generation's culture and thought when the printed word was the primary means of communication.
The books in the collection are stored in date order of issue, following the series number allocated by the publisher.
Items in the Penguin books collection can be found through special catalogues in the State Reference Library, Lower Ground 1 (Macquarie St Wing).
Penguin books collection 1935–1979: author and title index
Penguin books collection 1935–1979: Pelican series
The Robbins collection was purchased by the library from the estate of stage magician R. B. Robbins. Mr Robbins performed under the stage name of Robert Merlini. The collection contains some 900 books, trade catalogues, pamphlets and serials, including rare material from the nineteenth century through to 1962 dating from 1799 to 1962, much of which was originally the property of the Great Levante. Some items in the collection belonged to Harry Houdini and bear his signature.
The collection is one of the few of its kind in the world, as it represents a rare example of a working magician's collection. Many of the items to be found in it are of great rarity, as conjurers' tricks were amongst the most closely guarded of trade secrets. Some of the material was sold only to professional magicians.
Items in the R. B. Robbins collection of stage magic and conjuring can be found through a special catalogue in the State Reference Library, Lower Ground 1 (Macquarie St Wing).
Catalogue location: REF/NQ793.8016/1 (3 volumes)
The Collection of 289 volumes consists mainly of texts of the English Bible and related material, together with some early printed books, herbals and medieval manuscripts.
This collection was bequeathed to the Library by Nelson Moore Richardson of Weymouth, England, and received in 1926 from his widow.
The collection is fully catalogued in the State Reference Library card catalogue.
The St Matthias Sunday School Library was acquired from St Matthias Church of England, Paddington, in 1964, and is representative of a Sunday School collection in use at the turn of the century. It consists of some 1200 items of a religious or instructional nature, mainly those published by the Religious Tract Society between 1846 and 1899.
The library was originally stored in publisher number order, and this is how it is housed in Rare books and special collections today. An alphabetical catalogue and a loans register for the period from September 1891 to February 1899 are also kept in Rare books.
Items in the St Matthias Church Sunday School Library can be found through an author-title index in the State Reference Library, Lower Ground 1 (Macquarie St Wing).
Catalogue location: REF/NQ268.432016/1
This collection forms part of the Donald MacPherson collection of art and literature. It was purchased in 1983 and comprises more than 4000 titles, forming a comprehensive sample of modern British theatre in the period from 1900 to 1980. Much of the material included was issued by small publishers, by private drama societies or local institutes, and is unlikely to ever be published again. Some of the plays in the collection exist only as author's original typescripts or roneoed copies. Items in the Twentieth century British drama collection can be found through a special catalogue in the State Reference Library, Lower Ground 1 (Macquarie St Wing).
Catalogue location: REF/NQ822.91016/1
This collection contains more than 400 books, serials, tournament bulletins and manuscripts, including material donated by Mr F. L. Vaughan and Mr J. Van Manen.
Material in the collection covers the years from 1874 to 1973. It includes Australian as well as overseas items and is in various languages. F. L. Vaughan's manuscripts of over 40 000 annotated games are indexed under various openings, end games and gambits, and form a major part of the collection.
Items in the F. L. Vaughan and J. Van Manen chess collection can be found through a special catalogue in the State Reference Library, Lower Ground 1 (Macquarie St Wing).
Catalogue location: REF/NQ794.1016/1