Eight Million Gods in Nihon: the Practice of Shintō and the Japanese Culture

tower gate of Katori Shrine

Drawing on the Japanese pre-war postcards collection from the Library’s East Asian Collection, Rare Books & Special Collections student intern Jiawen (Chloe) Li (Master of Museum and Heritage Studies) introduces the practice of Shintō and explores its place in the Japanese culture today.


Shintō (神道) has been at the heart of Japanese culture since the country has named itself Nihon (日本), “the sun’s origin”. It originated in the relationship between ancient Japanese and the power they found in nature . Through centuries of recorded history, Shintō continues to take part in the framing of Japan both to the outside world and to the Japanese themselves. Shintō is a way of life and a way of thinking. Drawing on the Japanese postcard collection from the University Library’s East Asian Collection, this online exhibition is about to walk you through the spiritual Shintō world.

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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

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.