Enabling discovery: cataloguing the Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections

Sydney Digital Collections Usyd Library

In a time where Library space is at a premium and print collections are increasingly making way for digital, Rare Books and Special Collections stand out as unique points of difference within university libraries and offer a multitude of opportunities for creative and innovative educational experiences and original research.

The University of Sydney Library’s Rare and Special collections comprise manuscripts and books spanning millennia, from over 2000 B.C. to the current day, and encompassing literary, cultural, scientific, and religious thought across the globe.

Ethel M Richmond bequest

Ethel M Richmond’s generous bequest to the University Library has enabled a large-scale project to catalogue these collections, making them searchable and discoverable to researchers worldwide.

Giorgione

In 2017, a sketch of the Virgin and Child, since attributed to the Italian Renaissance artist Giorgione, was found in the back of a 15th Century edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy along with a contemporary inscription giving Giorgione’s age and the exact date of his death.

This previously unknown information allows Giorgione’s career timeline to be rewritten, and the addition of a new drawing to the small oeuvre of this enigmatic artist is of significance to art historians worldwide.

Who knows what other tantalising revelations are waiting to be revealed through this cataloguing project?

Sydney Digital Collections

In addition to cataloguing, the Library has a concurrent digitisation program that provides open access to high quality digital versions of significant historical and cultural treasures, via Sydney Digital Collections.

Lockdown Discoveries Series

Lockdown Discoveries is a series of blog posts and an exhibition created and curated by the Rare Books & Special Collections Cataloguing Project Team to highlight some of the weird and wonderful items they discovered whilst working from home during the 2020 Covid-19 Lockdown.

The exhibition showcases highlights from the Graham Science Fiction collection, handpicked and curated by the RBSC Cataloguing Project Team. The exhibition has been temporarily paused for the 2021 stay at home orders and will reopen when it is safe to open the Rare Book reading rooms once more.

Explore the links below to learn more about the cataloguing project, the discoveries and resulting exhibition.

Lockdown Discoveries: Part 1

Lockdown Discoveries: Part 2

Lockdown Discoveries: Part 3

Cataloguing the Graham Science Fiction Collection

Lockdown Discoveries Exhibition

Palm Leaf Manuscript

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