Rare Books and Special Collections are sharing with us these historical treasures in the Bookstall Company exhibition in Fisher Library, beginning on 30th July.
This was a retail publishing success story. Between 1904 and 1946 the NSW Bookstall Company released 234 books. The company sold books through its newsagencies, included smaller press items in its distribution network for a fee, and survived the Great Depression.
The Bookstall outlets were well situated at railway stations to sell a range of entertaining books to travellers when the 22.5 km journey from Central to Parramatta could take 50 minutes by train.
The settings and stories appealed to the diverse tastes of readers – Australian bush idylls and dangers, Pacific adventures, humour, romance, bushrangers, and Australian history. Read today, the stories reveal a view of life and values from a harsher time in Australia’s history.
The soft cover design with attention-grabbing cover art and illustrations throughout appealed to the public. Australian artists were contracted for this work, further linking the Bookstall Company to national identity and pride in the product.
Rare Books and Special Collections hold many of the N.S.W. Bookstall Co. publications, contracts, and 153 original book cover designs and illustrations. The exhibition using this material has been curated by Dr Peter Kirkpatrick (Associate Professor of Australian Literature) and Dr Anita Callaway (Nelson Meers Foundation Lecturer in Australian Art). Visit our exhibition and imagine Australia in the time of family farms, remote islands, and long train journeys.