Australasian Rare Book Summer School

In 2020, the State Library of New South Wales is hosting the 14th Australasian Rare Books Summer School.


We will be offering three 5-day courses and one 1-day course.

Courses on offer

English Bookbindings, 1450–1850

Identify and date English bindings on historic books of the hand-press period.

with David Pearson

Duration: 5 days
Cost: $850

Rare Book Cataloguing

Learn how to apply cataloguing codes and standards, including DCRM(B).

with Deborah J Leslie

Duration: 5 days
Cost: $850

The History of Maps

Learn the history of maps and their use in modern day teaching and research.

with Julie Sweetkind-Singer

Duration: 5 days
Cost: $850

Illustration Processes to 1900

Identify illustration processes and techniques from the period 1800–1900.

with Richard Neville

Duration: 1 day
Cost: $120

A man sitting with a backdrop of bookshelves and antiques.

English Bookbindings, 1450–1850: Identification & Interpretation

Dates: 3–7 February 2020 (inclusive)

Fee: $850

Apply now


This course aims to give participants a toolkit to identify and date English bindings on historic books of the handpress period, distinguishing the contemporary from the later and the repaired, covering the progression of decorative styles which enable simple as well as upmarket bindings to be recognised. It will focus on external, visible features, rather than internal structures, but will cover the materials used to make bindings, and their distinguishing features. English bindings form the backbone of the course, but continental European ones will be brought in to compare, contrast, and set the wider context. Consideration will also be given to the historical landscape of the book in which bindings should be seen, understood and interpreted. “What are the questions I should ask, when looking at a historic binding?” is a theme that will run through this course, and it is hoped that students will come to the end of the week better equipped to both pose and answer those questions.

The course is aimed at anyone who works regularly with historic books in which English bindings are likely to feature including librarians and curators, humanities researchers, collectors and dealers. It is not a practical course to learn how to bind, and its philosophy is book historical, not art historical – it will cover bindings of all kinds, the cheap, temporary and simple as well as the extravagant and luxurious. Illustrated teaching sessions will be supplemented by the opportunity to see and handle examples from Sydney collections.

David Pearson retired in 2017 as Director of Culture, Heritage and Libraries for the City of London Corporation, after a professional career of 35 years or so working in various major research libraries in London and elsewhere. He is now a Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies in the University of London, and a member of the teaching staff of the London Rare Books School. He has published extensively on aspects of book history, with a particular interest in aspects of the book as an owned and designed object; his books include Provenance Research in Book History (1994), Oxford Bookbinding 1500–1640 (2000), English Bookbinding Styles 1450–1800 (2005), and Books as History (2008). He has taught and lectured in these fields for numerous audiences and is a Past President of the Bibliographical Society.

A woman with chin-length hair.

Rare Book Cataloguing

Dates: 3–7 February 2020 (inclusive)

Fee: $850

Apply now


This course is aimed at experienced cataloguers who find that their present duties include or will in the future include cataloguing of books in their rare materials or special collections departments and want to be trained in applying Descriptive Cataloguing of Rare Materials (Books). Primary emphasis will be placed on books of the hand-press era (roughly, the 16th through 18th centuries). 

Topics include:

  • application of codes and standards, especially DCRM(B)
  • transcription, collation, and physical description
  • concepts of edition, impression, issue, state
  • added name entries, genre/form terms, relationship designators, other special files
  • copy-specific description
  • cataloguing policy in institutional contexts.

This course is restricted to working cataloguers experienced in AACR2 and/or RDA and MARC 21, and general cataloguing principles and practices. No prior knowledge of early printed books is necessary. The goal of the course is to provide instruction and practice in each of the primary elements of the rare book catalogue record, so that students will be equipped to catalogue their institution's rare books and special collections materials to international standards. Please note that this course covers printed monographs only – no serials, manuscripts, maps, music, graphics, or scrapbooks.

Application requirements: In their personal statement, applicants should:

  • describe their experience with machine-readable AACR2 and/or RDA cataloguing;
  • provide a brief description of the types and date range of materials they expect to catalogue with DCRM(B), and whether they are expected to produce RDA-compliant records at their home institutions;
  • submit 3 typical bibliographic records of materials they are currently cataloguing, preferably original or complex copy cataloguing of modern books. For records created from copy, please provide before-and-after versions.

In addition to fulfilling a moderate requirement of preliminary reading and YouTube videos, successful applicants can expect to participate in some warm-up cataloguing exercises; be subscribed to DCRM-L (an electronic discussion list devoted to the cataloging of rare materials); and to be immersed in an intense, exciting, and collaborative environment with other like-minded people, working hands-on with rare books from the collections of the State Library of New South Wales.

Deborah J. Leslie is Senior Cataloger at the Folger Shakespeare Library, before which she held positions as rare book cataloger at Yale University and the Library Company of Philadelphia. She chaired the RBMS Bibliographic Standards Committee (BSC) from 2001 to 2007 and was chief editor of Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Books), as well as serving as an advisor for Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Serials) and chair of the DCRM Steering Group. She was a member of the ACRL/RBMS Descriptive Cataloging for Rare Materials Task Force (2014–2017), the RDA Steering Committee Rare Materials Working Group (2016–2019), and is currently active on the BSC’s RBMS RDA Editorial Group (2019–). In addition to giving presentations and workshops on rare book cataloging in the United States and abroad, Leslie served on the faculties of the California Rare Book School (2006-2007) and the Australasian Rare Book School (2007, Wellington). Her primary faculty affiliation is with the Rare Book School of the University of Virginia; since 1998, she has taught 35 week-long courses in basic and advanced rare book cataloging to nearly 400 students.


A woman leans on a work desk with a map spread out on top.

The History of Maps

Dates: 3–7 February 2020 (inclusive)

Fee: $850

Apply now


This course aims to provide a general overview of the history of maps as well as their use in modern day teaching and research.  Topics will include the production and use of maps; the rise of the map trade in Europe and Australia; the role of maps as cultural and social objects; the wide variety and type of maps produced; the contemporary map trade; conservation issues; and the role of museums and libraries as stewards of the content. 

Topics include:

  • Australian mapping
  • celestial charts and star charts
  • conservation of maps
  • digitisation and preservation of materials
  • early mapping history
  • European mapping and atlas production
  • history of map projections
  • history of map printing
  • indigenous mapping/visualisation
  • introduction to digital map manipulation
  • introduction to map reading
  • nautical charts and navigation
  • non-European mapping
  • reference materials
  • thematic cartography.

Julie Sweetkind-Singer is the Assistant Director of Geospatial and Cartographic Services as well as the Head of the Branner Earth Sciences Library & Map Collections at Stanford University.  She oversees the support infrastructure provided to the faculty, researchers and students for the cartographic and geospatial programs centered in the Libraries.  In conjunction with noted map collector David Rumsey, they created the Digital Philanthropy Map Collections Project whose aim is to work together with private map collectors to allow scanning of their antiquarian collections with four completed collections.  Sweetkind-Singer has managed the donation or acquisition of the Robert C. Berlo Road and Street Map Collection, the California State Automobile Association cartographic unit’s map archive, the Carolina Batchelor Collection of maps of Africa, and the Glen McLaughlin Map Collection.

Portrait of Library executive member.

Illustration Processes to 1900

Date: 3 February 2020 

Fee: $120

Apply now


Using examples of original prints drawn from the Library’s extensive collection this one-day workshop will focus on the identification of illustration processes and techniques, including woodcut, etching, engraving, stipple, aquatint, mezzotint, lithography, wood engraving, steel engraving, photogravure, and colour printing. The workshop will concentrate on illustration between 1800 and 1900.

Richard Neville is the Mitchell Librarian and Director of Engagement at the State Library of NSW. With a research background and expertise in 19th-century Australian art and culture, he has published widely on colonial art and society. He is the author of  Mr JW Lewin, Painter & Naturalist (NewSouth Books, 2012). He has also been extensively involved in the acquisition, arrangement, description and promotion of the Library’s renowned Australian research collections.

How to apply

Applications for the Sydney Rare Books  Summer School close on Friday, 6 December 2019.

Applicants can apply online. Submit an application here.


The fee for the five-day course is $850. The fee for the one-day course is $120. 

Fees cover tuition, course workbooks, morning and afternoon tea and an evening opening reception on Sunday, 2 February 2020.

Successful applicants will receive a link to our online payment system and must pay the full fee by Monday, 13 January 2020. Payment via invoices can be arranged if your institution requires this – please contact us to discuss.

Preliminary reading lists will be sent to successful applicants on payment of the tuition fee.


  1. The Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand is offering financial support through the payment of tuition fees for a student or early career researcher. The bursary is open to applicants who are ineligible for funding or financial aid through their places of employment or institution.

    To apply for the bursary please attach a supporting document of up to 200 words outlining your suitability for the bursary. The decision on the bursary will be made following the close of applications on Friday, 6 December 2019.
  2. The Australian and New Zealand Map Society is offering financial support through the payment of tuition fees for a student or early career researcher. The bursary is open to applicants applying for the History of Maps course and who are ineligible for funding or financial aid through their places of employment or institution.

    To apply for the bursary for the History of Maps course please attach a supporting document of up to 200 words outlining your suitability for the bursary. The decision on the bursary will be made following the close of applications on Friday, 6 December 2019.

Further information

Maggie Patton