Crommelin Collection

Library staff working with Rare Books & Special Collections are invited to blog about significant items and interesting discoveries. When Theresia Sandjaja was cataloguing for Rare Books & Special Collections, she found an envelope addressed simply to “Miss M. Crommelin, Pearl Beach via Woy Woy”. Theresia tells the story of her find:



Working on the Crommelin Collection, I encountered the envelope pictured above without a full address. I supposed that she must have been a very prominent person during her time. Further research concluded that she was the first Post Mistress in Woy Woy (1906-1910)!

Minard Fannie Crommelin was born on 29 June 1881 at Aston station, near Bombala, New South Wales. Her experience working in the post office started as early as 12 when she assisted the postmistress at Burrawong. Minard continued learning at the Sydney Church of England Grammar School for Girls then worked as an assistant in the post office at Moss Vale. In 1906, she became the acting postmistress in Woy Woy, where she stayed until 1910. During the rest of her working life, she was relieving postmistress in over 150 towns. 

Minard Crommelin often explored local bushland for walks and picnics with friends. When visiting Pearl beach, near Woy Woy, she spotted a lyrebird for the first time, which encouraged her to retire there. Pearl Beach has the best of both worlds: tranquil bush, full of birds & crickets chirping, and a short walk to a gentle rolling wave beach.

At the end of her working life in the mid-1930s, Crommelin visited England, Ireland and Europe to learn about her family history. She was also active in many conservation and natural history societies and began purchasing antique furniture and rare books on Australia and its natural history. Books owned by her have a bookplate designed by Neave Parker (1910-1961), an English natural history artist. The bookplate contains the Crommelin arms with three merlettes and a chevron, and illustrations of the Australian bush with native animals such as koalas, a kangaroo, and a lyrebird.

After returning to Australia, Crommelin purchased around seven acres of land adjoining a sanctuary at Pearl Beach. She named the main residence and library “Warrah”, an Aboriginal word meaning “a wide view” or “seen from a long way”. In 1946, Crommelin gave the property along with all other assets to the University of Sydney, with the provision that she would still be able to stay and live there for the rest of her life. The original copy of the deed of gift is archived at Mitchell Library.

Her legacy still lives to present day. The University named the Crommelin Biological Research Station in her honour, which is now used by our visiting scholars. The books previously held in Warrah were transferred to Fisher Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections .

In addition to her invaluable contribution to the University of Sydney, Crommelin was also active in assisting local communities. Crommelin Place in Canberra, Crommelin Crescent in St Helens Park, NSW, and Crommelin Native Arboretum, Pearl Beach (shown below), are all named in her honour.


For more information on Minard Crommelin and Neave Parker:

Crommelin.org
Neave parker

Free access to online reading material from SUP!

book covers

Sydney University Press have compiled some of their favourite free reading material from their own open access collection and from around the world. There is history, Australian poetry, classic children’s picture books and much more to choose from!

SYDNEY OPEN LIBRARY

In our Sydney Open Library, you’ll find all of SUP’s open access books, including history, biography, politics, literary criticism, public health and more, all free to read.

AUSTRALIAN POETRY LIBRARY

Created by the University of Sydney and the Australian Copyright Agency, the Australian Poetry Library hosts tens of thousands of poems by Australian writers, plus recordings of poets reading their work.

INDIGENOUS MUSIC OF AUSTRALIA

Several books in our Indigenous Music of Australia series have companion websites, where you can learn about the music of Indigenous communities and stream audio and video recordings of musicians performing their songs

Book cover: Fighting Nature by Peta Tait

From Sydney Open Library:

Throughout the 19th century, animals were integrated into staged scenarios of confrontation, ranging from lion acts in small cages to large-scale re-enactments of war. Fighting Nature is an insightful analysis of the historical legacy of 19th-century colonialism, war, animal acquisition and transportation.

Book Cover: Singing Bones - ancestral Creativity and Collaboration by Samuel Curkpatrick

From Indigenous Music of Australia:

Manikay are the ancestral songs of Arnhem Land, passed down over generations and containing vital cultural knowledge.

Singing Bones foregrounds the voices of manikay singers from Ngukurr in southeastern Arnhem Land, and charts their critically acclaimed collaboration with jazz musicians from the Australian Art Orchestra, Crossing Roper Bar. It offers an overview of Wägilak manikay narratives and style, including their social, ceremonial and linguistic aspects, and explores the Crossing Roper Bar project as an example of creative intercultural collaboration and a continuation of the manikay tradition.

Closure of SCA Library

In preparation for Sydney College of the Arts relocating from Rozelle to the Camperdown/Darlington campus, SCA Library will close on Wednesday 27 November 2019 at 6.30pm.

Physical items that form part of the SCA Collection will be unavailable from Wednesday 27 November 2019. You will be able to borrow these items again as you normal would from Camperdown / Darlington Campus from Thursday 9 January 2020.

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Below are some important dates concerning the closure: 

Returning Library Items

If you need to return library items, the SCA returns chute will close on Thursday 28 November 2019. After this date, items can be returned to a Library with return facilities. Find other library locations here: https://library.sydney.edu.au/libraries/locations.html

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Requesting an item to be collected at SCA

The last day to request an item to be collected at SCA Library is Wednesday 20 November 2019.

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Picking up a requested item from SCA

If you have requested an item to be picked up at SCA, the last day to pick up your item is Wednesday 27 November 2019. After this date, reserved items will be sent to Fisher Library.

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Requesting SCA items for pick up at other Library locations

The last day to request an SCA collection item to be picked up at another Library site is Monday 25 November 2019.

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Request a tour of Camperdown/Darlington Campus Libraries

There are five libraries located on the Camperdown/Darlington Campus with over 5,000 study spaces and many facilities available to staff and students for learning and teaching opportunities.

Discover 3D printing workshops, nap pods, 24/7 spaces, postgraduate-only study spaces, kitchenettes, Printing Press workshops, Rare Books and Special Collections and so much more!

If you are a SCA student or staff member interested in a tour of Camperdown/Darlington spaces to learn about the support and facilities available to you, please register your interest online.

Purple Pride: Bending Sydney Exhibition

As part of Wear It Purple Day, 2019 the Library is proud to present Bending Sydney: Camp Ink 1970-77, a new exhibition featuring material from Rare Books & Special Collections. The exhibition runs from 30 August – 30 September in Fisher Library and on our ThinkSpace video wall.

We will be decorating service points and rolling out the purple carpet! Wear It Purple strives to foster supportive, safe, empowering and inclusive environment for young members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Photograph from a CAMP Inc demonstration, 6 October 1971. Photograph by Phillip Potter.

The exhibition Bending Sydney features material from CAMP Ink, which was the official publication of Sydney’s first lesbian and gay political organisation Campaign Against Moral Persecution. CAMP was co-founded in 1970 by John Ware and Christabel Poll to create a “safe space” for homosexual women and men to come together to discuss the issues of discrimination they were facing in Australia at the time.

Covers of CAMP INK publications, on display in the ‘Bending Sydney’ Exhibition. Left Vol 2, No. 2/3, December 1971, January 1972. Right: Vol 4, No. 1, 1974

A CAMP Inc branch was established on the campus of The University of Sydney, and Rare Books & Special Collections now holds the collection of the group’s historical publication which was published from 1970 – 1977. This exhibition highlights these publications, which was a vital outlet for CAMP Inc.

Covers of CAMP INK publications, on display in the ‘Bending Sydney’ Exhibition.
Left: No. 38, 1976. Right: Vol. 5, No. 2, 1976

The exhibition is curated by Library staff member Suzy Faiz. Suzy graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from Sydney College of the Arts in 2017. Her work explores painting’s critical relevance within contemporary art. It ostensibly concentrates on painting and collage and primarily exhibits abstract tendencies coupled with the occasional inclusion of figurative elements. Suzy’s work has been exhibited locally and internationally and is included in private collections in Australia and Austria.


“As a young queer person, this exhibition has been particularly close to my heart. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the history of Australia’s LGBTQIA+ activism, without which we would not have the freedoms to express ourselves today.”

Suzy Faiz

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Explore the Bending Sydney Exhibition:

Fisher Library:, Level 4: Friday 30th August – Wednesday 16th October

ThinkSpace: Friday 30th August – Friday 13th September

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Echo 回声嘹亮: An exhibition on Chinese drama

For many centuries Chinese drama has enthralled all types of people. Drawing on the East Asian Collection of the University Library, this exhibition showcases rare books on the history of Chinese theatre.

The exhibition consists of three parts: the actor’s stagecraft in Chinese drama, the history of Chinese drama, and a comparative study between Chinese and Western drama. Familiarity with Chinese stage conventions is the key to appreciating Chinese drama. Understanding the historical roots of Chinese drama in comparison with Western drama provides new insights into the vicissitudes of theatrical studies.

Chinese drama continues to be a quintessential element of Chinese culture. The curtain of the stage is now raised!

Actor’s stagecraft


戏剧月刊Theatre Monthly  
刘豁公Liu Huogong, editor 
Shanghai : Xi ju yue kan she, 1928-1932 
Available at Fisher Library Rare Books & Special Collections EA 5651 4 A 

In Chinese drama, theatrical conventions made up of movement, costumes, face-painting and props all convey meaning in abstract ways.  

The fake beard is a distinctive part of the costume for many characters in Chinese drama. “Beard work” in Chinese drama refers to the skilful manipulation of the beard, tossing it in the air, grabbing it in a dramatic pose, and even flicking it outwards to indicate various emotions.  

horsewhip is a flexible cane with several tassels and a finder loop. It is used to indicate mounting, dismounting, riding and leading a horse.   

Flags are usually used to convey a battlefield scene. Four triangular flags are inserted on the back of the performer and it is used to exaggerate the heroic demeanour of the character.  

Pheasant tails are tools that the actor manipulates to express a wide range of emotions. The actors use two fingers on each hand to hold and bend the tails in various poses both in front of and behind themselves. They even clench the feathers in their teeth.  

Actors use long sleeves, long tresses and handkerchiefs to convey internal emotional states from joy to anger in order to punctuate a scene with dramatic action.  

The traditional Chinese opera stage is normally bare. A plain stage with only a table and two chairs can represent a courtroom, household, palace or even mountaintop.   

Cloud whisks are used primarily by supernatural beings like Taoist immortals and religious characters.   

Walking in circles means making a journey.  

The stagecraft of Chinese theatre is to suggest rather than to completely present. The suggestion is enough to evoke the entire reality. 

Curator’s note: 

Chinese drama is a genre capable of treating any topics in great depth – love, war, religious conversion, political struggles and criminal investigations to name a few. Famous plays include:   

  • The Injustice to Dou E by Guan Hanqing     
  • Autumn in the Han Palace by Ma Zhiyuan 
  • Regency of the Duke of Zhou by Zheng Guangzu  
  • Rain on the Paulownia Tree by Bai Pu  
  • The West Chamber by Wang Shifu 
  • The Peony Pavilion by Tang Xianzu 

Comparative studies of Western and Chinese drama 

The Orphan of Zhao赵氏孤儿

The Orphan of Zhao赵氏孤儿 was a play written by Ji Junxiang纪君祥in about 1330 AD. The play has revenge and retribution as its central themes. This piece was the first specimen of Chinese dramatic literature translated into a European language. There were five European adaptations in the 18th century: two in English, one in French, German, and Italian, respectively.   The play is founded on an event which occurred in the middle of the 7th century BC. A military leader is determined on exterminating the whole Zhao family. A faithful dependent of the family saves the life of the orphan by concealing him and passing off his own child in his stead. The orphan is brought up ignorant of his real descent until he reaches manhood. Once the truth is revealed, he seeks vengeance for the death of his family against the usurpers and ultimately recovers his birthright.  

L’orphelin de la Chine: tragédie 
Voltaire, 1755 
Available at Fisher Library Rare Books & Special Collections General French Plays 1018 

Voltaire adapted the play and he had it acted in the Comédie-Française in August 1755. Voltaire used the play as a didactic tale of morality and he called the play “the morals of Confucius in five acts.”  

The Orphan of China: A Tragedy 
Arthur Murphy; Du Halde, J.-B. (Jean-Baptiste), 1759 
Available at Fisher Library Rare Books & Special Collections General RB 4659.21 

Arthur Murphy had his adaptation produced at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in April 1759. He includes a letter to Voltaire with suggestions to improve the play.  

Chen Shouyi states, “Each adaptation embodies some attempt at Europeanising the Chinese play. Particularly striking are the efforts made in observance of the Three Unities*. Both Voltaire and Murphy simplified the plot element and reduced the stage scenes. Voltaire embodied in the adaptation his admiration for ancient China, his confidence in the triumph of civilization over savagery. Murphy saw in it a fair chance for adapting and improving Voltaire.”[1]


Also see:

Studies in Chinese-Western Comparative Drama

Yun-Tong LUK  

Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1990 

Available at Fisher Library General 895.1 13  

Curator’s note:  

Comparative research is a research methodology in social sciences that aims to make comparisons across different countries or cultures. Can you think of other areas of comparative studies? 

History of Chinese drama 

A History of Chinese Drama

William Dolby

London: Paul Elek Books Limited, 1976

Available at Fisher Library General 792.0951 4

Dr. William Dolby (杜为廉) was a lecturer in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. As one of the foremost experts on Chinese language, culture and history, Dr. Dolby was a leading pioneer in Chinese theatrical studies and published A History of Chinese Drama in 1976. It was one of the first substantial works of Chinese theatrical history in western countries.

Curator’s question: 

Can you draw a timeline of Chinese theatrical developments using the table of contents?

Curator’s note:  

The cover image is originally from China Illustrated drawn by Thomas Allom who was a famous British illustrator for travel books in the 19th century. The image depicts a Chinese drama performance. Full volumes of China Illustrated can be found in the Rare Books Collections at the Fisher Library. 

China Illustrated  
Thomas Allom  
London: Fisher Son & Co., 1845 
Available at Rare Books & Special Collections General Dewey 915.1 206 

宋元戏曲史 Song Yuan Xiqu Shi (A History of Drama in the Song and Yuan Dynasties)
王国维 Wang Guowei
Taipei: Publications of Ancient Books, 1915
Available at Fisher Library East Asian General EA 5656 4

This book is considered as the first monograph of Chinese theatrical studies. Wang Guowei (王国维) is one of the most renowned intellectual luminaries of modern China.

According to Wang’s research:

  • The definition of Chinese drama must encompass “speech, action and singing in order to perform stories”.
  • Chinese drama originated from witchcraft performances and temple rituals.
  • Chinese drama matured in the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368 AD) and it embodied the value of “naturalness” which Wang considered as a universal standard for good literature.

Chinese drama is an indispensable part of Chinese folk culture. Rare books on folklore in the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) and the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368 AD) recorded some historical developments of Chinese drama.

南村辍耕录 Nan Cun Chuo Geng Lu 

陶宗仪Tao Zongyi  (1329–1410 AD) 

Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1959 

Available at Fisher Library East Asian General EA 2700 3 

都城纪胜 Du Cheng Ji Sheng  

耐得翁 Nai Deweng (Song Dynasty) 

Taibei: Taiwan shang wu yin shu guan, 1979 

Available at Fisher Library East Asian General EA 9105 9 

There were amusement quarters known as瓦舍washe ‘tile booths’ in the Song Dynasty where 雜劇zaju ‘variety plays’ were performed.  

东京梦华录 Dong Jing Meng Hua Lu 

孟元老 Meng Yuanlao (Song Dynasty) 

Shanghai: Po ku chai, 1922 

Available at Fisher Library Rare Books & Special Collections, EA 9100 3 

Within瓦舍washe ‘tile booths’ were a number of棚 peng ‘awnings’ which could hold thousands of audience members.  

梦粱录 Meng Liang Lu 

吴自牧Wu Zimu (Song Dynasty) 

Zhejiang: Zhejiang Ren min Chu Ban She, 1980  

Available at Fisher Library East Asian General EA 2665.7 8 

Curator’s question: 

When you write academic essays, you need to provide primary and secondary sources to support your arguments. Are these books primary or secondary sources?  

About the Curator

Jenny Zhijun Yang graduated with a Master of Art Curating with distinction at the University of Sydney in 2018. She graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Arts in history and Asian studies in 2017, and was awarded the Summer Research Scholarship of the University of Auckland. Jenny is currently a gallery assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and was previously a gallery assistant at the Auckland Art Gallery. She also works as a collection manager for a private collector. She co-curated the Giuseppe Castiglione Print Exhibition宫廷画师郎世宁)at the George Fraser Gallery in collaboration with the Auckland Art Gallery Foundation and the National Palace Museum of Taiwan in 2016. In 2018, she curated an exhibition on Thomas Allom, Perspectives of an outsider: Thomas Allom’s fascination with 19th century China with the University Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, and gave a Rare Bites talk: Orientalism in Thomas Allom’ s engravings. Jenny has a Chinese heritage and her dream is to share Chinese civilization with others.  

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Exhibition details:

Fisher Library, level 3

From 29th August 2019

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[1] Chen Shouyi, “The Chinese Orphan: A Yuan Play – Its Influence on European Drama of the Eighteenth Century,” in The Vision of China in the English Literature of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries edited by Adrian Hsia, 1998, Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.

* Three Unities require a play to have a single action represented as occurring in a single place and within the course of a day. These principles were called unity of action, unity of place, and unity of time. 

Preserving our Indigenous Australian Languages

Did you know that out of the estimated 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in Australia, 120 are still spoken and approximately 90% are endangered?

This year in the Library, we’ve started a project to add in additional spelling variations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages into our records.

Now you can more easily search & discover items in our collections that feature Indigenous Australian languages.

For example, whether your preferred spelling is “Kamilaroi”, “Gamilaraay” or Gamilaroi, you’ll now be able to find resources like Gagan = Colours, a picture book written for Gamilaraay language learners by Suellyn Tighe, a Gamilaraay woman and University of Sydney graduate.

“Our languages are inextricably linked to who we are. It encapsulates our identity and  connection to country whilst maintaining links to the past, present and future through our stories and songs” says Suellyn Tighe.

A selection of resources in our collections with AUSTLANG codes. From L to R: Gagan = colours by Suellyn Tighe (Language code: D23), Gamilaraay, Yuwaalaraay, guwaaldanha ngiyani = We are speaking Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay / Accompiled by the Walgett Yuwaalaraay and Gamilaraay Language Program. (Language code: D23 and D27), The rainbow by Ros Moriarty (Language code: N153) and Apmwe-kenhe arne = The snake’s tree by by Margaret Heffernan (Language code: C8)

This work is also timely as the United Nations General Assembly have declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019). Australian indigenous languages are increasingly recognised as a precious global resource and IY2019 is an opportunity to raise awareness and to provide an opportunity to achieve positive change through improving the promotion and preservation of these languages.  

“The importance of our languages being spoken between generations can not be undervalued or replaced. We are fortunate to live in times when technologies can assist us to ensure that our languages are not forgotten. It does not replace human interaction, though it does provide us with the opportunity and ability to ensure our and future generations have a connection to ancestral belonging and knowledge.” says Suellyn Tighe.

This project is based on AUSTLANG, an online resource developed by Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), which provides comprehensive information on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages spoken across Australia in an effort to preserve our Indigenous Australian languages and what we know about them.

This NAIDOC week, you can learn more about the languages of Australia by looking up your local language using the AUSTLANG website and searching our Library for language resources.