Lockdown Discoveries – part 1

Lockdown Discovery Exhibition

Lockdown Discoveries is an exhibition currently on display at Rare Books & Special Collections in Fisher Library. Due to COVID restrictions preventing access to some people, we’ve created a series of blog posts to ensure no-one misses out.

The Lockdown Discoveries exhibition presents highlights from the Ron Graham Science Fiction collection, handpicked and curated by the RBSC Cataloguing Project Team. This is Part 1 of our blog about the exhibition. Read Part 2 and Part 3.

Ron Graham’s collection

Ronald E. Graham collected science fiction for more than 50 years and his collection contains almost complete holdings (up to 1979) of commercially published American, English and Australian science fiction magazines.

Graham had encyclopaedic knowledge of early science fiction; he was the publisher of Vision of Tomorrow magazine and the co-owner of the first science fiction bookshop in Australia, Space Age Books (originally named The Space Age Bookshop), until his death in 1979. Fisher Library is very fortunate to be the custodian of Graham’s extensive private library.

Read more about the Ron Graham Science Fiction collection.


Mass printed books can occasionally become valuable when a copy is inscribed by the author or perhaps a famous owner. Attributes such as autographs, inscriptions, bookplates and decorations may provide insight into the life, friendships and personality of authors. Take for example, the inscriptions written by the author, Ben Bova, to the science fiction enthusiast, Ron Graham. There are more than 40 Ben Bova books in Graham’s collection, many of them signed with a personal message. It is gratifying to observe how friendships develop between an author and a fan.

Front cover and inscription of Flight of Exiles by Ben Bova.
Flight of Exiles
Ben Bova, 1972
New York: Dutton
Graham SF 7168
Front cover and inscription of Exiled from earth by Ben Bova
Exiled from Earth
Ben Bova, 1971
New York: Dutton
Graham SF 07167
Front cover and inscription of Escapre by Ben Bova
Ben Bova, 1970
New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston
Graham SF 05440
Book cover of The Duelling Machine
The Duelling Machine
Ben Bova, 1969
New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston
Graham SF 07165
Book cover of The Weathermakers
The Weathermakers
Ben Bova, 1968
New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston
Graham SF 07176

Discover more inscriptions

There may be more hidden inscriptions in books ready to be discovered. You can find books with unique attributes in the collection by using Advanced search in the Library’s catalogue. Enter the call number Graham SF and the keyword inscribed (or bookplate, depending on your interest). This search will retrieve a list of titles that have these attributes.

Screenshot of Advanced Search


A bookplate, also known as ex-librīs (Latin for ‘from the books or library’), is a printed or decorative label inserted into a book, usually on the front endpaper to indicate the name of the book’s owner.

What fascinated me while cataloguing the Graham SF collection were the bookplates. I adored the artistic designs, some simple and others with amazing detail. The thought that the item once belonged to a certain person, made me wonder about the history of the book. How it was housed? In a large personal library or in a box sitting in the basement? Did it travel around before it landed in Ron Graham’s collection?

Often, bookplates reflect the owner’s position in society, or in this instance, their passion for science fiction.

Here is one of Ron Graham’s personal bookplates. The designer of the bookplate is not known.

Bookplate of Children of the Atom
Children of the Atom
Wilmar H. Shiras, 1954
London: Boardman
Graham SF 01028

Another bookplate for Ron Graham was designed by the artist, Virgil Finlay. Finlay was one of the most popular illustrators for pulp magazines, particularly Weird Tales and Famous Fantastic Mysteries. The bookplate illustration below was also used as the cover of the fanzine The Mentor, number 19.

Bookplate of Tom Swift and His Rocket Ship
Tom Swift and his Rocket Ship
Victor Appleton II; illustrated by Graham Kaye, 1954
New York: Grosset & Dunlap
Graham SF 01325

Not only is this bookplate aesthetically pleasing but it reveals that the books previously belonged to the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1916-1922). David Lloyd George was one of Britain’s most well-known figures of the 20th century, best known for guiding Britain through the First World War. Lloyd George had a personal library and part of that collection is now housed at the University of Kent.

Bookplate of Black Light
Black Light
Talbot Mundy, 1930
London: Hutchinson
Graham SF 09280

The bookplate below caught my attention as it has a ‘royal’ look to it. Sir William Gordon-Cumming 4th Baronet was a friend of Edward, Prince of Wales (later known as King Edward VII). Interestingly, Sir William Gordon-Cumming was involved in the great baccarat scandal of 1890 that ultimately changed the course of his life.

Bookplate of Sunrise Stories
Sunrise Stories: A Glance at the Literature of Japan
Roger Riordan & Tozo Takayanagi, 1896
London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.
Graham SF 09555

Aside from Ron Graham’s bookplates, the bookplate I have seen most often is that of John Carnell. Carnell was a British editor, especially known for New Worlds (1946-64), New Writings (1964-75), and Science Fantasy (1951-64). John Carnell is known to his friends as either Ted or John which is evidenced in quite a few of the books in Ron Graham’s collection, with inscriptions from countless authors addressing him as Ted.

Bookplate in The World Aflame
World Aflame: The Russian-American War of 1950
Leonard Engel & Emanuel S. Piller, 1947
New York: Dial Press
Graham SF 07876

Great women of science fiction

In what has long been perceived as a male bastion, women have made their mark and continue to shape and challenge the limits of the science fiction genre. Let’s look at three of these amazing women and their contributions.

Andre Norton (1912–2005)

Andre Norton
Andre Norton

Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton) was a female writer who chose to adopt a male pseudonym to compete in a predominantly male market. The first female Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master challenged gender barriers introduced new ideas to the genre, and went on to become one of the most prolific science fiction writers of all time.

Aimed at a young adult audience, Norton blended the genres of science fiction and sword and sorcery in her highly successful Witch World saga. Spell of the Witch World, a collection of three short stories, provides a good introduction to the Witch World.

Book cover of Spell of the Witch World
Spell of the Witch World
Andre Norton, 1972
New York: DAW Books
Graham SF 17825

Ursula Le Guin (1929–2018)

Ursula Le Guin
Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin, one of the most influential writers the science fiction genre has ever known, was declared a Living Legend by the U.S. Library of Congress in 2000. Le Guin was strongly influenced by her interests in anthropology and feminism throughout a career that spanned almost 60 years.

In The Left Hand of Darkness, an envoy is sent to report on the inhabitants of an icy planet, only to find a people who have developed only one gender. This novel delves into the themes of sex and gender. One of the genre’s first feminist novels, and considered its most famous study of androgyny, this book led to a new progressive era in science fiction.

Book cover of The Left Hand of Darkness
The Left Hand of Darkness
Ursula Le Guin, 1969
New York: Ace Books
Graham SF 13916

Joanna Russ (1937–2011)

Joanna Russ
Joanna Russ

Joanna Russ was a true pioneer of feminist science fiction who believed the genre was a perfect platform for radical ideas. Written with an undertone of anger and wit, there can be no doubt of the focus on gender and sex in the more than 50 short stories and novels penned by this award-winning author.

The Female Man is the story of four women from parallel worlds. When they cross to each other’s worlds they explore and question the constraints of gender in their imaginary societies. Considered one of the most influential works in feminist literature, this novel will expand your notions of the science fiction genre.

Book cover of The Female Man
The Female Man
Joanna Russ, 1975
New York: Bantam Books
Graham SF 15501

Lockdown Discoveries was curated by the Rare Book & Special Collections Cataloguing Project Team: Vicky Chiu, Simon Cooper, Tonia Fossey, Chingmy Lam, Hiyori Ogawa, Phuong Pham, Liz Ray, Theresia Sandjaja, Dannielle Williams & some other guy.

This is part 1 of a three-part blog series. Read Part 2 and Part 3 or learn more about the Lockdown Discoveries exhibition generally.

The Lockdown Discoveries exhibition is located at:
Rare Books & Special Collections
Open: Monday to Friday, 11am to 3pm
Phone: +61 2 9351 2992
Email: rarebook.library@sydney.edu.au

The Library to suspend overdue fines in 2021

Books on a shelf in the Library

We know how challenging 2020 was and we want to make sure 2021 is your most successful year ever! To support students and staff in the new year, the Library will be suspending overdue fines in 2021. From Monday 18 January 2021, we won’t charge you for returning an overdue item and we’ll waive all overdue fines on your account.

We do want to make sure all students and staff have access to items that are in demand, so you should still return your items on time, especially those in our 2-hour collection and items that are recalled by another person. If you do have an item that is overdue, you won’t be able to borrow another item or renew any of your items until the overdue item is returned. We’ll send you due-date reminders to your University email address, and you can always check MyAccount for a list of your loaned items and their due dates.

If you have an item that is long overdue, we’ll mark it as lost. This means we’ve assumed you’ve lost the item, and you’ll be sent a lost item bill. If the lost item isn’t returned, replaced or paid for within three months, it may attract additional academic sanctions. For more information, please see our updated guide on fines and fees.

Help everyone get the most out of the Library by practising good library etiquette and always being considerate of others. When you borrow an item, be sure to follow our updated borrowing terms and conditions so that everyone has access to our collections.

If you have any questions, please contact Mark Jamieson, Assistant Manager Site Services (mark.jamieson@sydney.edu.au), or Jeff Cruz, Associate Director Site Services (jeffery.cruz@sydney.edu.au).

Celebrating International Day of People with Disability

International Day of People with Disability logo
International Day of People with Disability logo

As the Library celebrates International Day of People with Disability (which is today!), we’d like to tell you about some easy steps anyone can take to contribute to a more accessible world. Here are our 5 top tips. If you’d like to add any of your own, feel free to comment below!

  1. Increase the accessibility of the videos you make for people who are deaf or hearing impaired, by including captions.
  2. When presenting, don’t rely on visuals from your slides: explain everything audibly.
  3. When creating documents, make them as accessible as possible by using informative text for descriptive images, and Word’s ‘Headings’ feature to produce consistent, hierarchical styles. For more tips on producing accessible documents, read this resource produced by the Victorian Government.
  4. Design webpages with all users in mind. For example, use “alt text” for text-reader compatibility (see instructions below), describe your links, and make your page usable without a mouse – that is, make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  5. Explore the various resources available to aid accessibility, from apps such as Be My Eyes, to the Library’s own Assistive Technology rooms, which contain specialist software and hardware for users registered with University Disability Support Services.

How to add alt text

Informative images must have alternative (alt) text applied. Alt text should be accurate, succinct and provide information that isn’t already provided in the surrounding text.

To apply alt text to images:

  • Right-click on your image, select “Format picture”, then click “Alt text”.
  • Add your description.

For decorative images, Word doesn’t provide the ability to enter a null alt attribute. Add ‘decorative’ as the alt text or a brief description, such as “image of a middle-aged man sitting on a park bench”.

Find out more

Learn more about the Library’s accessibility resources including our Assistive Technology rooms, a campus-wide access map, and links to the University’s Disability Support Services.

Assistive Technology lab screen magnifier

Lockdown Discoveries exhibition

Lockdown Discovery Exhibition

Lockdown Discoveries is an exhibition created by the Rare Books & Special Collections Cataloguing Project Team to highlight the weird and wonderful items they discovered while working from home during the Library shutdown.

The exhibition opened on Monday 7 December and is located in Rare Books & Special Collections (RBSC) on Level 1 of the Fisher Library (see open hours below). As Fisher Library is only open to current staff and students, we’ve also provided an online component: a series of blog posts about the exhibition, released weekly.

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3

How did the exhibition happen?

As the saying goes, there is always a silver lining! The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives significantly, especially our way of work. The RBSC Cataloguing Project Team has taken on the challenge presented by COVID-19 in its stride. While working remotely during the shutdown, the team catalogued 18,773 items!

Despite working separately in their own physical spaces, the team came together online to marvel at the diversity and magnitude of the collection, admiring striking cover art and bookplates, hypothesising about intriguing inscriptions, showing each other all the weird and wonderful material they came across … And then we pondered, how could we take these treasures to a wider audience?

That’s how Lockdown Discoveries came into being. This exhibition will showcase the highlights from the Graham Science Fiction collection, handpicked and curated by the RBSC Cataloguing Project Team.

Rare Books & Special Collections
Open: Monday to Friday, 11am to 3pm
Phone: +61 2 9351 2992
Email: rarebook.library@sydney.edu.au

Nursing Library moving to a new home

Nursing Library

Today (Friday 27 November) is a significant day for the University of Sydney Nursing Library – this is its last day in Mallett Street on the second floor of the old Bonds Factory (originally built in 1917). After its doors close today, the library’s collections and staff will be relocating to the new Susan Wakil Health Building Library, opening in February 2021.

The Nursing Library housed the collections for nursing and midwifery, as well as material on the social sciences and biology. Students enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere and large space to spread out and focus.

Take a trip down memory lane

Watch this virtual tour of the Nursing Library (from 2012), featuring a young librarian who might now be one of the Library’s directors!

Learn about the history of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Sydney

Photo gallery

Introducing Leganto: a new reading list platform

Pile of books from the Library

In a year in which teaching support has never been more important and equitable access to online reading material is one of the highest priorities, we’re pleased to announce a transition to an enhanced Unit of Study reading list platform, Leganto.

Leganto has a cleaner and more intuitive interface, creating a better user experience for teachers and students.

After running a pilot with a small number of courses in January 2021, we will roll out the new platform to all University schools and faculties for the start of Semester 1, 2021.

A better user experience

A major advantage of the new system is that it is part of the Library Services Platform (LSP). When a coordinator or instructor in a course locates a resource through the Library website, they can ‘drag and drop’ it straight into their reading list. A list can be composed very quickly and easily with this function. Furthermore, the ‘Cite-It’ widget allows the addition of content from anywhere on the web, opening up the use of open-source material.

In addition to electronic resources being more easily accessible, Leganto provides better functionality in creating access to physical items, scanned files and AV materials.

Another advantage is reading list analytics: a highly sought-after feature, according to consistent feedback from academics. Course coordinators will be able to use Leganto to track engagement with course material and update their list accordingly.

Training and support

The Library will support academics’ familiarisation with Leganto through a robust training program that will commence in January and continue into first semester 2021. In addition, we will provide real-time support in the peak lead-up and post-semester periods, to troubleshoot any issues encountered.

For academics who have a current eReserve list, the Library will transition this list to Leganto prior to the first semester start.

We are already consulting with faculties and schools as we approach the start of the pilot in January 2021 and we look forward to working with you.

For more information

If you have any further questions, please contact Adi Piersol, Associate Director Site Services (adi.piersol@sydney.edu.au) or Michael Arndell, Associate Director Academic Services (michael.arndell@sydney.edu.au).