Program for Sydney Rare Book Week

Find out all Sydney Rare Book Week events held at venues across Sydney from
Sunday, 27 October to Saturday, 2 November 2019.

A man with glasses.

Launch: Sydney Rare Book Week

Gallery Room
State Library of NSW

Sunday 27 October
6 pm to 7.30 pm

Speaker: Stuart Kells

Book tickets


Join us for the launch of the Sydney Rare Book Week with Stuart Kells.

What constitutes a rare or desirable book? How have these concepts changed over time? The international hunt for Shakespearean texts is closely intertwined with concepts of rarity, desirability and bibliographical integrity. Professor Stuart Kells will explore the search for Shakespearean books, including volumes from Shakespeare’s own library, as a window into the mindset of bibliophiles and bibliomaniacs. Informed by examples from the State Library’s own collections, the talk will also shed light on how Shakespeare has been collected and appreciated in the New World.

Light refreshments will be available.


A sketch of the Piscator press.

Introduction to hand printing on the Albion Press

Rare Books and Special Collections
Level 1, University of Sydney Library

Session One

Monday, 28 October 2019
10 am to 1 pm

This event has been fully booked.

Session Two

Tuesday, 29 October 2019
10 am to 1 pm

This event has been fully booked.


This workshop is an introduction to hand-printing using the University of Sydney Library's Piscator Press. The course will include an overview of the history of letterpress printing, showing examples from Rare Books & Special Collections at the University of Sydney Library. It will demonstrate how to set type and how to print using the Albion press. Participants will have the opportunity to try for themselves, giving each person a small commemorative item (postcard or small notice) to take away.

This hands on workshop is limited to 6 participants, no experience required.


A bookshelf with well-worn, heavy-bound books.

Behind the scenes tour at the NSW State Archives

Western Sydney Records Centre, NSW State Archives
161 O’Connell St, Kingswood

Monday, 28 October 2019
Departing 11 am


Focusing on just some of the nearly 180,000 volumes in the State Archives Collection the tour offers a special opportunity to see how the volumes are stored, cared for and repaired.  The volumes range from the tiny to the weighty and the old to the new.

Tour numbers are limited to 25.


A page from a book with written in gothic calligraphy and framed with an elaborate woodcut.

Books of the Reformation: an interactive exhibition

Moore College Library
1 King St, Newtown

Monday, 28 October 2019
6.30 pm

Book tickets


Gutenberg’s invention of a printing press with movable type allowed the pioneers of the Reformation to spread their ideas in print much quicker than they could have done without it. Thus, the printed word and Reformed-evangelical theology go hand in hand. 

The Donald Robinson Library at Moore College holds many significant works printed during the Reformation, including two incunabula, first editions of Martin Luther’s works and every edition of the Book of Common Prayer.


Painted violin with text

Curator-led tour: Songs of Home exhibition

Museum of Sydney
Corner Phillip and Bridge Streets, Sydney

Tuesday, 29 October 2019
10.30am to 11.30am

Curator: Dr Matthew Stephens

Book tickets


Songs of Home tells the little-known story of music played and enjoyed in NSW during the first 70 years of the colony. For the first time, some of Australia’s earliest manuscripts, sheet music and musical instruments are displayed together to reveal a fascinating social history through the lens of music. Highlights include the earliest Australian manuscript composition, the earliest surviving printed composition by an Australian settler, one of the earliest collections of music purchased and bound in Sydney, Mrs Macquarie’s cello, Napoleon’s guitar and – for the first time in Australia – volumes of sheet music copied in Jane Austen’s hand.

Tour numbers are limited to 30.


A woodcut depicting a man hitting another's head with a book.

A bookseller, autograph hunter and bookplate collector walk into a bar...

Cornstalk Bookshop
C11/372-428 Wattle Street, Ultimo

Tuesday, 29 October 2019
6 pm to 8 pm

Speakers: Paul Feain, Syd Cauveren, Mark Ferson

Bookings: 0452 228 982


Join Paul Feain for a triple header event at his premises in Ultimo. Hear Paul discuss 40 years as a bookseller, Syd Cauveren talk about collecting autographs and Mark Ferson share his love of bookplates! 

Paul has been a bookseller since 1979 having run Cornstalk Bookshop from 1980 until 2014. Since closing the physical shop, Cornstalk has been selling books online and at bookfairs. Paul was on the executive of ANZAAB for 10 years and also served for 10 years on the executive of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

Light refreshments will be provided.


An intricate illustration page from a rare book.

Curator-led tour: rare books in the Amaze Gallery

Meet next to the Tasman Map, Mitchell Building
State Library of NSW

Thursday, 31 October 2019
2 pm to 3 pm

Curator: Maggie Patton

Book tickets


Join rare books expert Maggie Patton for a special tour of the Amaze Gallery, where you will view a selection of rare, beautiful and historically significant items from the Library's Rare Book collections, from the first edition of The booke of the common prayer, 1549 to the first book published in Australia, 1802 – just a sampler from one of Australia's most extensive Rare Book collections chosen for #SydneyRareBookWeek.

Meet next to the Tasman Map, in the Mitchell Building vestibule.


Sketch of the old Sydney Public Library.

Looking for books: a walking tour with Mark Dunn

Meet next to the Tasman Map, Mitchell Building
State Library of NSW

Friday, 1 November 2019
3.45 pm to 5.30 pm

This event has been fully booked.


Explore the some of the early streets of Sydney where stories of private and public libraries unfold. Discover the wonderful world of books in colonial Sydney and learn about a few of the most important book collectors in New South Wales whose collections continue to be used today. 

Dr Mark Dunn is a professional historian with a wide range of experience in broad-based historical research and oral history. He has a Masters degree in Applied History from the University of Technology, Sydney and a PhD from the University of New South Wales on the Colonial Hunter Valley. 

Meet next to the Tasman Map, in the Mitchell Building vestibule.


A woman looking at the joint of a book page to the book spine.

Preserving your personal collections

Mitchell Building
State Library of NSW

Wednesday, 30 October 2019
10.30am to 12.30pm

This event has been fully booked.

Waiting list


A session dedicated to the long-term preservation of books and paper-based collections. The session will include a talk on preservation concerns and solutions for collections. The emphasis will be on preventive conservation measures including storage environment, enclosures and handling. This will be followed by a tour of the Library’s conservation labs where you will be able to see and discuss conservation treatments being worked on by the Collection Care team.

Meet next to the Tasman Map in the Mitchell Building vestibule.


A sketched map titled "Birds eye view of the Port of Sydney".

Collecting maps: an uncharted journey

Metcalfe Auditorium
State Library of NSW

Wednesday, 30 October 2019
6 pm to 7 pm

Speaker: Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy AM

Book tickets


Robert Clancy has been an avid map collector for over 40 years, from $20 tourist maps to rare charts of exploration. Each map in his collection has a story attached - whether it be the first selection he bought in London or the Matthew Flinders atlas he bought in 1978. A particularly enjoyable part of the uncharted journey as a collector is the special relationships developed with other collectors and dealers, many of whom Robert considers as friends.

Join Robert as he discusses his journeys in collecting!

Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy AM has had a distinguished career as a clinical immunologist, however alongside his professional medical interests, he has long been involved in historical research, particularly in the areas of medical history and cartographic history. Professor Clancy has been awarded an AM for service to cartography as a collector of early maps of Australia, and to the field of immunology. He has written five books on the mapping of Australia and Antarctica (The Mapping of Terra Australis and So Came They South), has served as the International Secretary of IMCoS (International Map Collectors Society), curated several History of Cartography exhibitions and organised international conferences and seminars on the history of antique maps.


A cutout graphic of a branch with blue-green leaves and small red fruit.

A peek inside the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection

The Mint
10 Macquarie St, Sydney

Thursday, 31 October 2019
11 am

This event has been fully booked.


Join us for a special, in-depth, curator-led tour of the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection (CSL&RC), the library of Sydney Living Museums. Since the 1980s, the CSL&RC has quietly and diligently amassed a collection focusing on the post-1788 history of the home in Australia, a collection that covers a range of material culture formats. Architectural pattern books, furniture design books, manufacturers’ trade catalogues and sample books published in both Australia and overseas shine a light on our houses, interiors and gardens. Many of these publications are not held by any other Australian library.

Tour numbers are limited to 30.


View into a book room with glass doors.

Explore the inner workings of a major rare bookshop

Hordern House Rare Books
Level 2, 255 Riley St, Surry Hills

Thursday, 31 October 2019
4 pm to 5 pm
RSVP by 17 October 2019

Download flyer (PDF 365 KB)


Attendees are warmly invited to evening drinks.

Hordern House Rare Books is a leading international antiquarian dealer specializing in voyages and travels, colour plate books including natural history; early Australian paintings and prints, voyage art, historical maps and manuscripts. Hordern House issue regular catalogues and exhibit at Fairs in Australia, Asia, Europe and America.

Our business is in the heart of Surry Hills, five minutes from the centre of Sydney. We occupy an entire floor of a converted warehouse where we have created a customised environment for our work and the display of rare books, manuscripts and paintings.


A rough outline sketch in red pencil of a robed woman holding an infant.

Evening lecture: Giorgione in Sydney

Library Seminar Room (218)
Level 2, University of Sydney Library

Thursday, 31 October 2019
6 pm to 7 pm

Book tickets


Rare Books & Special Collections at the University of Sydney Library holds a first edition copy of Dante’s Divine comedy printed in Venice in 1497. A chance discovery in 2017 by a Librarian of an inscription and sketch in the back of this book has revealed the inscription to be a notice of the death of the elusive Venetian Renaissance artist, Giorgione, and the sketch, of the Madonna and Child, has since been attributed to him. 

Jaynie Anderson, Professor Emeritus in Art History at the University of Melbourne, and international expert on Giorgione will discuss this remarkable find and its implications for rewriting Venetian art history.


A bookshelf with a collection of red hardback books.

A day in the life of a publisher

Metcalfe Auditorium
State Library of NSW

Friday, 1 November 2019
11 am to 12 pm

Speakers: Phillipa McGuinness and Elspeth Menzies

Book tickets


Join Phillipa McGuinness and Elspeth Menzies of leading university publisher NewSouth/UNSW Press to hear about the publishing industry in Australia today. Learn about what it takes to produce a prize-winning work and find out what sorts of books being published today will become the rare books of tomorrow. Phillipa's and Elspeth's presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.

Phillipa McGuinness, Publisher

Phillipa McGuinness has been commissioning books of history, politics, current affairs, biography and memoir, many of them prize-winners, for almost twenty-five years. She is the author of The Year Everything Changed: 2001, the editor of Copyfight and has been published in The Guardian, Meanjin and elsewhere.

Elspeth Menzies, Publisher

Elspeth Menzies’ book publishing career spans more than two decades, including many years as an editor at Pan Macmillan. She has published multiple award-winning books at NewSouth, including highly illustrated books published in partnership with Australia’s leading cultural institutions.


Watercolour drawing depicting bulls carrying a cart through an arid road.

Beyond the Bear Pit

NSW Parliamentary Library, Parliament House

Friday, 1 November 2019
11.30 am to 12.30 pm

This event has been fully booked.


In the 19th century, members of NSW Parliament engaged in verbal, and occasionally, physical combat to such an extent as to earn parliament the nickname of ‘The Bear Pit’. However, these same members also considered themselves to be well-read gentlemen in need of a ‘gentleman’s library’.

Established by the Legislative Council in 1840, the NSW Parliamentary Library became the repository for a number of amazing books and manuscripts it holds to this day. Rarely seen outside of the Library’s stack, some of the items that will be on display are:

  • The settlers muster book (1800), the earliest surviving New South Wales muster document and the accompanying List of convicts allowed to officers
  • Sir Thomas Mitchell’s Report upon the progress made in roads and in the construction of public works in New South Wales (1855), with original watercolours and drawings
  • A first edition of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651) with fascinating early provenance on the title page.


A sketch of a woman.

The accidental librarian: collecting artist books – between obsession and insanity

Macquarie Room
State Library of NSW

Friday, 1 November 2019
12.30 pm to 1.30 pm

Speaker: Monica Oppen

Book tickets


Printmaker, bookbinder and book collector Monica Oppen, owns the largest private collection of books by artists in Australia. The collection is open to the public by appointment but is fully recorded online.Monica will discuss how the collection grew to contain over 1700 books by multiple Australian and international artists covering a time period of over 100 years and will explore the challenges and joys of being an accidental librarian.