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Published in 1896, Henry Lawson's first volume of poems was titled In the Days When The World Was Wide and Other Verses.
 

Prior to Angus and Robertson publishing these poems, Lawson had been involved in a very public spat with Banjo Paterson.  These had taken place in the pages of The Bulletin newspaper between 1892 and 1893 and the banter centred around the significance of 'the Australian bush'. While Lawson argued against the romanticised view of country life held by Paterson, they both developed a respect for each other's work and their opposing views helped shape 'the bush' as a significant part of Australia's cultural identity. 

In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses featured anthologised poems and the best of Lawson's contributions to The Bulletin and in 1896 was released in two editions. The first, a limited edition of 50 copies and the second, a print run of 2000 copies. The State Library of New South Wales holds four copies from the limited edition, numbers 8/50, 22/50, 27/50 and 30/50, and three of these illustrate the importance of collecting what can at first appear to be copies of the same work.

Each copy held by the Library was modified after its publication into a document which tells its own unique story about the collector who owned the book.

Norman Lindsay's copy

No. 22, HQ 2016/751

The first of these is numbered 22/50. For many years it was in the possession of the descendants of the artist Norman Lindsay and at one stage must have been his personal copy. The library purchased this copy in 2016 because it includes original drawings which Lindsay drew directly onto the pages to illustrate the poems. These twelve pencil and twenty pen and ink drawings are unique to this volume. Whether there was any intention to use these as a basis for a commission to illustrate a later edition is unclear, but Lindsay left the project unfinished as the drawings stop at page 142 and they never found their way into a later publication. 

Published in 1896, it is amazing to think that Lindsay's incisive visualisations of one of Australia's most famous poets only exist in the pages of this single volume.

In the Days When The World Was Wide And Other Verses (Norman Lindsay's copy, with drawings), 1896
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William Dixson/Walter Syers' copy

No. 27, 89/571

The second volume is number 27/50. This was the personal copy of the wealthy businessman and philanthropist Sir William Dixson. Like the copy owned by the Lindsay family, it is filled with illustrations drawn directly onto the pages but in this case, the pencil sketches are by the artist Walter Syer.

Syer is best known for his 1880s sketches of prominent Sydney figures and was sufficiently trusted by the reclusive book collector David Scott Mitchell to sketch one of the few portraits ever made of him. Dixson was an admirer and close friend of Mitchell and this may have been the reason he chose to commission Syer to illustrate his personal copy of In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses. At the same time, he also commissioned Syer to do illustrations for 'Banjo' Paterson's The Man from Snowy River. The library holds Dixson's copy 89/568.

In the Days When The World Was Wide And Other Verses (Sir William Dixson's copy, with drawings), 1896
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Dixson supported many Australian artists and writers in the early part of the twentieth century. Some of his projects were large, like his donations of paintings for the Dixson Wing at the State Library of New South Wales, others like his work with the illustrator Walter Syer were done on a much smaller scale.

The Library also holds a fascinating collection of letters and drawings [ DLSPENCER 279 ] which Syer sent to Dixson while he was working on the project. From these, it appears Dixson started talking to Syer about personally illustrating his limited edition copy sometime around 1902. The letters include preliminary sketches for Dixson’s approval and correspondence relating to Syer’s progress. Most of these were sent to Dixson from Syer's home at 341 Alfred Street, North Sydney.

According to Syer, he started work on the illustrations for In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses in May 1903, and his correspondence details problems he was having finalising the illustrations and trying to fit them around the text already printed on the pages. Syer also made numerous trips to the places mentioned in the poems to sketch the people and places in situ. By the end of the year, he appears to have completed the Lawson illustrations but as late as 1910 he was still working on 'Banjo' Paterson's Man from Snowy River and writing to Dixson:

It is almost a year since I wrote saying I wanted the illustrations not only to satisfy you as much re character and action as did the Lawson ones - but to show the ability to deal with Australian scenery.

Letters from Walter Syers to Sir William Dixson regarding illustrations to two books, with sketches, c 1895–1907
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John Lockley's copy

No. 30, QA821/L425.1/1A2

The third volume is number 30/50. This was owned by Henry Lawson's friend Mr John Lockley and the front fly-leaf is inscribed, "Mr John Lockley with the Publisher's compliments". On the half-title page, there is a signed dedication by Lawson:

To Jack Lockley, one of my dear friends, from his truly Henry Lawson. Written in The Days when the World is Narrow. Die Fightin'

The volume is made even more interesting by Lawson's personal notes which are sprinkled throughout the book next to the poems.  In some instances, these provide locations for the poems. "Written in Phillip Street, above Hunter Street, just where the garage stands now. H. L.", is written in ink below the poem ‘Faces in the Street’ and "Bourke N.S.W. '91-92, Xmas, during the great drought" is written below the poem ‘Out Back’. 

In other cases, Lawson gives insights into the people in the poems. The name "Bertha Lambert" appears under the poem ‘The Drovers Wife’ and inserted between the leaves on page 184, next to the poem ‘Peter Anderson and Co.’, is Lawson's paper note stating:

I know how Webb died. Dunn and Webb auctioneers in the old times in Castlereagh Street and Bob Brothers, Robert Brothers. Living 'x' writing yet I cannot speak. Peter Anderson and Co.

A note titled "Archibald's favourite piece", and found under the poem 'The Glass on the Bar’, is a reference to Lockley and Lawson's mutual friend, J F Archibald, editor of The Bulletin. On page 119 Lawson corrects the printed text of the poem ‘The Star of Australia’, replacing the words "is rode" with "we ride". 

Each of the three volumes of In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses highlights the unique significance of what can at first appear to be copies of the same work. It is also interesting to note how in the case of Lindsay and Dixson their limited edition copies of the book were not only valuable in monetary terms but were thought to be of such high cultural value that they sought to improve them with additional illustrations. In the case of Lockley’s copy, the additional notes inserted by Lawson add historical details not found in the original text.

In the days when the world was wide and other verses, 1896, by Henry Lawson. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, no. 27 of an edition limited to 50 copies, illustrated by Walter Syer owned Sir Wm. Dixson, State Library of New South Wales, 89/571

In the days when the world was wide and other verses, 1896, by Henry Lawson. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, no. 30 of an edition limited to 50 copies, half-title page signed dedication to Lockley by Lawson, State Library of New South Wales, QA821/L425.1/1A2

In the days when the world was wide and other verses, 1896, by Henry Lawson. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, no. 22 of an edition limited to 50 copies, includes original drawings by Norman Lindsay up to page 142, State Library of New South Wales, HQ 2016/751

In the days when the world was wide and other verses, 1896, by Henry Lawson. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, no. 8 of an edition limited to 50 copies, signed by Henry Lawson, State Library of New South Wales, RB/DS829.1/L425/2

Letters, from Walter Syer to Sir William Dixson about illustrations to Lawson's 'In the days when the world was wide' and Paterson's 'Man from the Snowy River', with sketches, ca. 1895-1907, State Library of New South Wales, DLSPENCER 279

Walter S. Syer, Australian Art and design Online, Joan Kerr, Joanna Mendelsson, 1996-2013,

Henry Lawson, Wikipedia

In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, Wikipedia

The man from Snowy River and other verses, 1895, A.B. Paterson, edition limited to 25 copies, preface by Rolf Boldrewood, illustrated with original pencil sketches by Syer, extra portrait of A.B. Paterson is pasted in, 89/568

2000 Print edition with Lawson proofreading Lawson, H. (1896). In the days when the world was wide and other verses / by Henry Lawson. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.