Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction Exhibition

There has long been a thirst for cheap, mass produced depictions of violence and crime narratives in popular culture from eighteenth century crime ‘broadsides’ sold at public executions and nineteenth century ‘penny dreadfuls’. Rare Books and Special Collections holds an extensive collection of Detective Fiction encompassing twentieth century crime novels as well as pulp fiction series.

A selection of detective fiction on display at the Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction Exhibition


Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction showcases these books and their cover designs. For instance, the mid-century, green-saturated period of Penguin crime literature paperbacks demonstrates the ‘Marber Grid’, with two-thirds of the layout allowing for striking modernist illustration and bold graphic design. There is power in the simplicity of these designs with their limited colour palette, elements of photomontage, collage, drawing and geometric pattern, and use of sans serif font.

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A selection of detective fiction on display at the Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction Exhibition

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At the other extreme of the literary spectrum, there are the garish, titillating and often misogynistic designs that adorn pulp fiction covers. The racy titles and compositional elements of femme fatales and wanton dames, gangsters and gumshoes, and occasional homoerotic imagery, were designed to catch the eyes of disposable sleaze readers (and latter day criminologists).

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A selection of detective fiction on display at the Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction Exhibition

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Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction reveals and revels in a sense of each genre’s distinctive design, whether highbrow or lowbrow, and the visual impact of these compact, accessible and affordable publications.

This exhibition has been curated by Dr Carolyn McKay. Dr Carolyn McKay is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney Law School where she teaches Criminal Law, Civil & Criminal Procedure and Digital Criminology. She is co-Deputy Director of the Sydney Institute of Criminology. Carolyn is recognised for her research into technologies in justice, specifically her empirical research into prisoners’ experiences of accessing justice from a custodial situation by audio visual links. Her qualitative study based on one-to-one interviews with prisoners provided evidence for her PhD thesis as well as her recently published research monograph,The Pixelated Prisoner: Prison video links, court ‘appearance’ and the justice matrix (2018) Routledge. Carolyn has published and presented in relation to other technologies and served on the 2019 NSW Law Society Legal Technologies Committee. She has been appointed to the 2019-2020 NSW Bar Association Innovation & Technology Committee. Carolyn has been a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford 2019 and for 3 months at the Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law, Spain 2013-14. Carolyn has previously consulted on anti-dumping trade disputes and indirect taxation, working in both Sydney and Tokyo, and she also has a digital media/visual arts practice.

Visit Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction from 24th February- 20 June 2020 , level 3 Fisher Library & SciTech Library

Fritz Schonbach: Exhibition

Fritz Schonbach was 18 when Nazi forces invaded Austria in 1938 and he was forced to flee. While his parents went to Argentina, Schonbach escaped to London where despite being a Jewish refugee he was eventually declared an enemy agent.

Collection of sketches 1 (Hay Internment Camp, 1940)
Schonbach, Fritz Pencil on paper

On the 10th of July 1940 Schonbach, along with 2,000 other German speaking Jewish men, became passenger aboard the infamous HMT Dunera and bound for Australia. The conditions and treatment aboard the Dunera were horrific, but Schonbach was content as long as he was creating his art.

Schonbach, Fritz Pencil and Watercolour on Paper

With only a stub of pencil, he recorded the journey and conditions on the Dunera, his arrival in Sydney, and his time at the Hay Internment Camp through a series of beautiful drawings, satirical cartoons, and later watercolor paintings. During his time in the Hay camp, Schonbach and two other young men created a bi-weekly newspaper that was remembered fondly by the other internees for years to come. At such a young age, despite the often-depressing conditions and the prohibiting aspects of camp life, Schonbach managed to view this time in his life as an adventure where he was free to follow his artistic passion.

Schonbach, Fritz Pencil and Watercolour on Paper

After his internment, Schonbach became a member of the 8th Employment Company of the Australian Army under the command of Captain. E. R. Broughton. He was released from duty by 1946, a demoralizing entire year after the end of the war, at which time he moved to Sydney and began a painting and drawing degree at what is now the National Art School. During his three years of study Schonbach became engaged to local photographer Beverley June Heydon. They were married in 1950 and travelled for several years before eventually settling in Buenos Ares, where Schonbach worked as an artist, illustrator, and cartoonist, and he and June had two children.

“He Say He Wants to Travel by Liner – Not by Mistake” (Hay Internment Camp, 1941)
Schonbach, Fritz Pencil and Watercolour on Paper

His paintings from this time are vibrant and evocative. Never completely content in the politically and socially unstable Argentina, Schonbach eventually moved with his family to the US, and then later to Canada where he lived until his death in 2011. Throughout his life, art continued to be a central theme and driving force.

This exhibition celebrates Schonbach’s work from very difficult to exciting times of his life.

The Archive of Australian Judaica has been operating since the 4th of July 1983 within Rare Books and Special Collections at Fisher Library, The University of Sydney. The Archive of Australian Judaica houses over 32 partial or complete collections of both prominent and lesser known Jewish community organisation, some of which are now non-operational. It also houses over 80 individual collections of prominent Jewish people that have impacted life in the Australian Jewish Community and Australia. You may also wish to visit our collaborative repository for Australian Jewish records, the Archives of the Australian Jewish Historical Society

This Exhibition has be curated by Laura Kevan. Laura is a current Master of Museum and Heritage Studies student at the University of Sydney. Previous she completed a Bachelors of Art Theory with first class Honours and the University Medal from UNSW: Art and Design, with a focus on contemporary war memorials and commemoration. Having been volunteering and interning with art organisations across Sydney for the last few years, Laura has applied this knowledge and experience to her current internship with Australian Archive of Judaica (AAJ) studying the artworks and life of Fritz Schonbach, developing an exhibition, and writing his bio for the AAJ website. A lifelong lover of 20th century art, Laura has visited numerous art galleries worldwide and has spent years on its study. As such, the chance to handle and engage with Schonbach’s work has been an exciting opportunity. His life is truly a wonderful untold story, and the artworks, firsthand accounts, and period newspapers from the Dunera and Hay Internment Camp available in the AAJ are impressive and interesting.

See the Fritz Schonbach on display at Level 4, Fisher Library, 15th November 2019 – 3rd April 2020, or visit the online exhibition.

‘Who is Sydney?’ ThinkSpace Film Showcase

Earlier this year, as part of the ‘Who is Sydney?’ Competition, domestic and international students were asked to collaborate together on a short film that explored life as a student, in particular the cultural experiences of Sydney.

From a strong field of 18 diverse films, a judging panel of academics and students chose three top films:

Still from ‘Freedom is a home called Sydney’ , 2019

First Place: ‘Freedom is a home called Sydney’ By Sota Maehara (Bachelor of Applied Science) and Martin Phabmixay (Bachelor of Commerce)

Still from ‘積分’, 2019

Second Place: ‘積分’ By Daniel Merson (Bachelor of Civil Engineering and Bachelor of Arts), Dandan Zhao (Master of International Law) and Fergus Martin (Bachelor of Political economics)

Still from ‘Homesick’, 2019

Third Place: ‘Homesick’, By Jiatong Wang (Master of Media Pratice), Wuruo Xu (Master of Media Pratice), and Xiangying Song (Master of Media Pratice)

These three films will be showcased at on the ThinkSpace digital wall from 2nd – 13th December 2019.

Read more about the competition and see the winning films online.

Les Murray: Australia’s “Bush-bard”

In the latest Rare Books and Special Collections exhibition, see selected publications, correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, interview tapes, and typescripts of poems and interviews from our Erica Bell collection and donations from John Rowe, to commemorate the Australian poet Les Murray, the University of Sydney graduate who was to become known as the leading poet of his generation. 

Les Murray was born in Nabiac, NSW on 17 October 1938. Throughout his childhood and teenage years, he faced economic and emotional hurdles, including being targeted by high school bullies. Life improved for Murray in 1957 when he started his Arts degree to study modern languages at the University of Sydney. Student publications gave Murray an output for his creative work and he contributed labour and time to editorial boards of these publications.  

After having taken a break from his studies working as a translator and traveling Europe, he published his first volume of poems was published in 1965: The Ilex Tree, co-authored by Geoff Lehmann, another Sydney alumnus.  

When Murray graduated in 1969, he became a fulltime poet and writer. He played a significant role in the ongoing development of Australian literature and poetry, as a creator, editor, and critic. His poetry was much admired, for his ability to connect with others through class, mythologies, ideals, and landscape. 

Murray died in April 2019. He was 80 years old. 

Visit Les Murray: Australia’s “Bush-bard” from 9th October 2019, level 1 at Fisher Library

Sydney Rare Book Week: Free events this October!

The Library is excited to announce that this October, together with the State Library of NSW, we will be hosting the inaugural Sydney Rare Book Week: A week-long program of free talks and events to celebrate the importance of everything books: literature, publishing, book production, collecting & more.

Sydney Rare Book Week will be held at venues across Sydney from Sunday, 27 October to Saturday, 2 November 2019. There is something for everyone – talks and lectures, walking tours, exhibitions, hands on workshops, and behind the scenes visits.  The free events held here at the University of Sydney include:

Introduction to hand printing on the Albion Press Workshops

Have you ever used a letterpress? This workshop is an introduction to hand-printing using the University of Sydney Library’s Piscator Press. The course includes an overview of the history of letterpress printing, showing examples from our Rare Books & Special Collections.  Register for your opportunity to try the Piscator Press yourself & create your own print to take home.

Evening lecture: Giorgione in Sydney

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. In 2017 a chance discovery 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. 

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

Thursday 31 October 2019, 6:00pm – 7:00pm

Places are limited, please register your attendance online.

Sydney Rare Book Fair

Sydney Rare Book Week will conclude with the Sydney Rare Book Fair at MacLaurin Hall on Friday 1st November 1pm to 7pm & Saturday 2nd November 10am to 4pm.

Hosted by the Australian and New Zealand Association of Antiquarian Booksellers (ANZAAB), Australian and international booksellers will display a broad, diverse and interesting selection of books, maps, manuscripts and ephemera, including early printed books, historical accounts of travel, prints, literature, art, militaria, and children’s books.

Whether you already have your own personal library and wish to add to it or would like to know more about book collecting, this is your opportunity to explore the world of rare and antiquarian books with experts in the field.

For the full program of events, and to register your attendance, visit the State Library of NSW Website

#SydneyRareBookWeek

Reflection and Respite: The Big Anxiety Festival Exhibition at Fisher Library

Detail from Reflection and Respite by Ross Richardson

One of the simplest and most immediately accessible ways to lift your mood is a walk in the countryside or along the beach. Can spending time in front of a piece of art have a similar effect?

Influenced by recent research work on biophilia and ecopsychology, artists Emma and Ross propose that observing, drawing and even colouring in natural forms can help to reduce blood pressure, improve immune responses, and help alleviate anxiety. Art and nature in this sense combine to provide an antidote, and looking at images of nature can enhance a calm meditation. The concepts of mandalas, symmetry and balance are explored in the context of compositions which promote reflection and respite from the busyness of everyday life. 

Reflection and Respite exhibition, Fisher Library by Dr Emma Robertson and Ross Richardson

This exhibition in glass vitrines is on three levels of the Fisher Library at the University of Sydney, and the installation is also inspired by the setting of the Library, and the conventions of scientific illustration. Quotations from books relating to anxiety are integrated into the displays.

Supported by Scientia Education Fellowship, UNSW and The Fisher Library, The University of Sydney.

Detail from Reflection and Respite exhibition, Fisher Library by Dr Emma Robertson and Ross Richardson

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Reflection and Respite is part of the Big Anxiety Fesitival, Australia’s largest mental health festival.

The Big Anxiety brings together artists, scientists and communities to question and re-imagine the state of mental health in the 21st century.

A radically new kind of international arts festival, in which every project is an open conversation, designed to promote curiosity, awareness and action, The Big Anxiety presents events across Sydney, tackling the major anxieties of our times, as well as the stresses and strains of everyday life.

Whether through hi-tech interactive environments or one-on-one dialogues, our goal is to create the rich engagements we need for our collective mental health.

The Big Anxiety is an initiative of UNSW Sydney in association with the Black Dog Institute and partners in the cultural, education and health sectors.

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Artist Biography

Dr Emma Robertson is an award winning artist, whose work is in seven public collections in four countries. The Hospital Trust for Scotland purchased two works for their permanent collection, which were commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council for the exhibition Wordworks. Emma’s work has been competitively selected for a public art commission for a Hospice, for the Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing, the JADA, and four International Biennials of Drawing. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Scientia Education Fellow / Associate Professor at UNSW, and a previous Artist in Residence at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Her expertise in education relating to entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity at University and Executive Education levels has seen her win three prestigious teaching awards. Her PhD at The University of Sydney explored biophilia, ecopsychology, and artistic, nature-based antidotes to anxiety.

Ross Richardson studies illustration at the University of Edinburgh, and he is inspired by the natural environment, people, patterns, and landscape. His work has been competitively selected three times for the Mosman Youth Art Prize. He has received Highly Commended notifications for the Camden Art Prize, the Nan Manefield Youth Writer’s Award, and the Young Archies. Ross has also been selected for the Hunters Hill Art Exhibition, the Waverley Youth Art Prize, the Royal Art Society of NSW Youth Artist Prize, and the Hornsby Art Prize. In 2015 he won First Place in the Wollongong University Design Award for NSW. His work in this exhibition features watercolours, and also polymer clay three dimensional forms.

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Visit Reflection and Respite, 27 September – 31 October 2019 at Fisher Library levels 2, 3 & 4.