Rare Bites: Free lunchtime talks uncovering Library’s hidden treasures

Rare Bites is a series of 30 minute lunchtime talks held monthly during semester. Each talk features an expert speaker spotlighting specific Rare Books and Special Collections resources that are part of their field of study.

The series gives the opportunity for staff & students to learn about some of the treasures and lesser-known gems within Rare Books & Special Collections.

Semester one talks include:

Mary Brunton’s Discipline – bad girls and moral tales 

In Discipline (1814), the Scottish novelist Mary Brunton created one of the first intentionally flawed heroines in anglophone fiction. Ellen Percy’s fictional autobiography tracks her development from spoiled, selfish schoolgirl to respectable wife and mother, as through suffering and dedicated effort her character is transformed. Arguably the inspiration for Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse, Ellen’s fictional journey is as moral as it is physical, combining traditions of spiritual autobiography with the tropes of sentimental literature.    

Discipline’s literary impact is only now being recognised, but we can see the influence of the unlikeable Ellen Percy in Austen’s ‘heroine whom no one but myself will much like’. In this talk I discuss the process of restoring Brunton’s novel for the Chawton House Novels series and explain how this remarkable novel went overlooked for so long. 

Dr Olivia Murphy works on British literature and culture of the long eighteenth century, with a particular interest in women’s writing, novels, and the relationship between literature and science. She is the author of Jane Austen the Reader: The Artist as Critic (2013), the editor of Mary Brunton’s 1814 novel Discipline (2018) and the co-editor of Anna Letitia Barbauld: New Perspectives (2013) and Romantic Climates: Literature and Science in an Age of Catastrophe (2019). She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the English Department at the University of Sydney.  

When: Wednesday 11 March, 2020 1:00 – 1:30pm

Location: Fisher Seminar Room (218), level 2

Places are limited, register to secure a place.

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

Calling all hand-craft printers and printmakers!

For the third year running, we are excited to announce applications for the 2020 Printer in Residence Program are now open!

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2019 Printer in Residence Barbara Campbell at work creating a print.

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The Library is calling for applications from letterpress printers and artists in printing or book arts, for a residency of 8 weeks, to take place during Semester 2, 2020. The residency is acquisitive and supported by payment of $7,000.

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Now in its third year, the 2020 Printer in Residence program returns to increase awareness of the Piscator Press and to encourage an ongoing enthusiasm for material book arts within the University. We also aim to foster; a creative dialogue between print and digital processes, experimentation, and active engagement with library users.
Letterpress printmakers and book artists are invited to propose a project for a print publication or creative work to be made in the workshop and completed during an 8-week residency.

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2018 Printer in Residence Wendy Murray giving a workshop on printing during her residency.

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Applications close Sunday 1st March, 2020 at 11.59pm. Further information and application details can be found on the Library’s website.

Did you know the Library houses an extremely rare copy of Principia with hand written notes by Newton?

Safely resting in the archives of our Library lives a copy of the text that rewrote the rule book on Earth and space Principia (Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica), recently featured on ABC’s 7.30 report.

Title page of The Principia, 1687. 

First published in 1687, the text is one of the most important books on natural philosophy in which Newton establishes the modern science of dynamics and outlines his three laws of motion.

The University of Sydney copy is one of only four known copies that were sent by Newton and his assistant Roger Cotes to other mathematicians in order to eliminate any errors in a second edition. The other copies are all located in the Northern Hemisphere – two in the University of Cambridge Library and one in the Library of Trinity College.

The report uncovers how the Library came to have this important copy and the significance of the rare text.

Re-watch the story online, read the University’s media release or explore Principia online via our Digital Collections.

Australia Post’s Christmas Stamp Collection Features Rare Books and Special Collections

Each year, Australia Post releases Christmas stamps that celebrate the Christmas holiday, featuring both traditional and secular themes.

This year’s traditional Christmas stamps feature images from a magnificent French illuminated manuscript from the 15th century Book of hours : Horae B.V.M. ad usum Parisiensem, one of the treasures from the Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections. The two scenes from the Christmas story include the Adoration of the Magi and the Flight into Egypt.


  Domestic Christmas-card-rate -rate traditional Christmas stamp, 2019 ‘Flight into Egypt’ from Book of hours : Horae B.V.M. ad usum Parisiensem, folio 84
 International-rate traditional Christmas stamp, 2019 ‘Adoration of the Magi’ from Book of hours : Horae B.V.M. ad usum Parisiensem, folio 76 verso

The traditional Christmas stamps were designed by Simone Sakinofsky with photography by Sarah Lorien.

Read more about the Australia Post 2019 Christmas collection, on the Australia Post Website.

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.