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“In Establishing and Maintaining A Library”

Thomas Fisher and the Fisher Bequest


Behind almost every great library stands at least one great benefactor. Sir Thomas Bodley and John Rylands in the United Kingdom, Henry Folger and J. Pierpont Morgan in the United States, David Scott Mitchell and Thomas Fisher in Australia, are but six of the many thousands of bibliothecal benefactors whose names and memories have been preserved in the institutions they established.

In most cases the lives of these founders and the motivations for their philanthropy are well documented. An outstanding exception is Thomas Fisher (1820-1884), the principal benefactor of the library of the University of Sydney. Contemporary references to his bequest make no mention of his background and say little more about the man himself other than that he was a boot and shoe maker and lived near the University. Later accounts often surrounded him with fanciful legends. Attempts to trace his life are made difficult by the scarcity of records left behind—even his death certificate does not disclose the names of his parents.

The centenary year of his death seems an appropriate occasion on which to document the life of Thomas Fisher and to commemorate his legacy.note


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On April 20th, 1755, Steven and Mary Fisher of the village of Kemble, Wiltshire, some 150 km west of London, brought their infant son to the village church for baptism. It seems reasonable to assume that baby John had been born the same year, though there appears to be no record of his actual birth date. Over the next eighteen years four more Fisher children were similarly baptised — Steven in 1758, Dinah in 1766, Elizabeth in 1769, and Sarah in 1773.note

Kemble was a farming village and John Fisher became a farm labourer and shepherd. Nothing is known of his life until 1801, but it is not unlikely that in those forty-six years he married in the district and may have raised a family. Whatever life he had collapsed suddenly in March, 1801, when he was arrested, with another man, for sheep stealing.

On March 11th, 1801, John Fisher was brought before the Wiltshire Assizes at New Sarum. The jury found that, on March 4th, he and his accomplice had stolen “one sheep to the value of fifty shillings, the property of Robert Radway.” Sheep stealing was a capital crime and he was sentenced to be hanged. The sentence was later commuted to “transportation to the Eastern Coast of New South Wales or some one other of the islands adjacent for and during the Term of his natural life.”note

If John Fisher had a wife and family he was never to see them again. On February 12th, 1802, he and 136 other male convicts sailed in the transport Perseus for Sydney, then a small struggling settlement founded only fourteen years earlier. The Perseus and its human cargo, most of whom had never before seen the ocean, arrived in August, 1802, after a voyage of six months.

John Fisher, aged 47 and an experienced shepherd and farmhand, was soon assigned to a sheep farm near Castle Hill owned by Rev. Rowland Hassall. Fourteen months later, on January 1st, 1804, the convicted sheep stealer was placed in charge of all Hassall's sheep, a nice irony.note In time Hassall broadened his activities to embrace horse breeding, selling

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to many prominent settlers including D'Arcy Wentworth and Robert Campbell. John Fisher became an expert horse-breaker and doubtless met many of Hassall's important customers.

In 1810, the Sydney Racing Club was established and held its first meeting in October. Although the Sydney Gazette reported the event in detail, only one jockey was named, and then only because he met with an accident. The Gazette recorded that a dog running across the course frightened a horse which threw its rider, by the name of Fisher, who was fortunately not seriously hurt.note As John Fisher later became a well-known jockey in Sydney, it seems reasonable to assume that it was he who was thrown from his horse at the inaugural race meeting and that he therefore deserves the distinction of being the first recorded professional jockey in Australia.

While John Fisher was building a new life for himself as a trusted convict in Sydney, another court case took place in England which was soon to affect his life. On May 27th, 1809, a 33-year-old household servant, Jemima Bolton of the village of Southoe, Huntingdonshire, some 90 km north of London, was arrested on a charge of grand larceny. Tried before the Huntingdon Assizes on July 22nd, 1809, she was found guilty of stealing “two pieces of satin of the value of twelve shillings, one pair of thread stockings of the value of twelve pence, and one hempen cloth of the value of six pence”, the property of the Rev. Robert Pointer, vicar of St. Leonards. She was sentenced to transportation for seven years and arrived in Sydney on the Canada in September, 1810, with 120 other female convicts.note

Nine days after her arrival, Jemima Bolton was assigned as Government housekeeper at Parramatta, probably because of her previous training as a servant. Within a few months of her arrival at Parramatta in September, 1810, Jemima Bolton, aged 34, met John Fisher, aged 55. The details are not known, but it can be deduced from the date of birth of their first child that they were certainly on intimate terms by early 1811. They were married by the Rev.

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Samuel Marsden at St. John's Church, Parramatta, on October 28th, 1811,note and their first child, Jemima, was born two months later, on Christmas Eve, 1811.note A second daughter, Mary Ann, was born on October 31st, 1813.

John Fisher's horse racing skills had brought him into contact with many of the leaders of Sydney society as owners and spectators, including Colonel Maurice O'Connell of the 73rd Highlanders Regiment and Lieutenant Governor of the colony. O'Connell was a leading figure in the Sydney Racing Club and Fisher often rode his horses to victory. In 1814, the 73rd Regiment was recalled to England, and it seems likely that, as a parting gesture, O'Connell recommended that Fisher be granted a free pardon. Governor Macquarie complied, and on January 17th, 1814, almost thirteen years after being sentenced to death, John Fisher found himself a free man. As an added bonus he was granted fifty acres of land at Appin, near Campbelltown.

Jemima's sentence still had more than two years to run, but John, as a free man and landholder, could be responsible for her. By mid-1814, the family was settled on their farm and a third daughter, Sarah, was born there on June 25th, 1816. Life was hard; an unprecedented drought had virtually wiped out the pastoral industry, aborigines made frequent attacks on settlers in this isolated district, and severe floods in 1817 devastated those who had bravely stayed on. In 1818, the Fishers admitted defeat and moved to Sydney, where they occupied a house on Brickfield Hill at the southern approach to the city. By this time John was 62, and although he could still earn money as a jockey, he needed respite from the arduous work of farming in a hostile and unforgiving environment.

Brickfield Hill was a busy thoroughfare thronged with travellers to and from the interior of the colony, and John Fisher applied unsuccessfully to operate a tavern from his premises.note He continued to ride at the Hyde Park racecoursenote and appears to have retired from being a jockey about 1820, when he would have been 65. In this year Jemima bore him a last child and first son, whom they named Thomas.

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Thomas Fisher

Thomas Fisher was born at Brickfield Hill, Sydney, on January 23rd, 1820, and was baptised at St. Phillip's Church of England on May 7th.note Shortly thereafter the family moved to a cottage at the south-east corner of Clarence and Market Streets, Sydney. The census of 1828 shows the occupants of the Clarence Street house as John and Jemima Fisher, their two youngest children, Sarah and Thomas, and two lodgers, John White, 29, described as a “Government servant”, and Susannah White, 19. Fisher's two eldest daughters lived at their places of employment nearby, Jemima being a servant in the “King's Arms” hotel at the corner of Castlereagh and Hunter Streets, which was owned by her father's friend William Henry Roberts, and Mary Ann a housemaid in the Castlereagh Street home of Henry and Elizabeth Marr.note

John Fisher died on May 7th, 1832, aged 77note and was buried in the Devonshire Street cemetery. His Will, made the year before, stipulated that whatever rents and profits might accrue from the Clarence Street property, were to go to his widow “for the support of herself and the maintenance and education of my son Thomas Fisher until he shall attain the age of twenty-one years or day of marriage”, after which the estate was to be divided between Thomas and his three sisters.note Six months later, on November 25th, 1832, his wife Jemima died at the age of 56 and was buried beside him.note

The effects of unexpectedly becoming orphans must have been severe on the four children. Jemima, the eldest, was almost 21, Mary Ann was 19, Sarah 16 and Thomas only twelve. No records appear to have survived which illuminate their lives at this time but it is likely that their father's executors or other friends would have cared for them. In fact, one of the executors was Jemima's employer at the “King's Arms” hotel so there was obviously a close bond with the Fisher children. Despite John Fisher's desire to ensure his son's education, funds were not plentiful after the mother's death, and young Thomas was apprenticed to a bootmaker, perhaps to James White, his father's second executor.

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In 1841, when Thomas turned 21, the Clarence Street property was sold and the proceeds divided among the four children as specified in their father's Will. The following year Thomas opened an account at the Bank of New South Walesnote and in either 1842 or 1843, he opened a boot and shoe shop in Pitt Street, on the east side, one door north of King Street.note It was a three-storey building with a shop at street level, rooms on the first floor which were rented out, and a residence on the second floor.note Because of its proximity to the law courts, Fisher's first floor rooms were occupied by solicitors, many of whom, it may be assumed, became his friends during the thirty years of his ownership of the building. They included John Williams, who became Mayor of Sydney and later Crown Solicitor, and Richard Driver, member of the Legislative Assembly and also a future Crown solicitor. One of Williams's articled clerks was James Martin, who went on to become Chief Justice and Premier of New South Wales.

By this time Fisher's elder sisters Jemima and Mary Ann were both married. In 1833, Jemima had married Mountfort Clarkson, a cabinet-maker and later a publican, and Mary Ann had married Joseph Holt, a carpenter, in 1838. The youngest sister, Sarah, was unmarried and apparently lived with her brother as his housekeeper. In 1850, Jemima Clarkson died, leaving five small children. The only girl, Sarah, and perhaps one or more of the boys, were taken in by Thomas and Sarah Fisher, their aunt and uncle, and came to live above the shoe shop in Pitt Street. One of the boys, Thomas Clarkson, was later apprenticed to his uncle as a bootmaker.

Fisher's business prospered, despite the depression of the 1840s, and his boot and shoe shop became a boot and shoe warehouse from which he retailed both custom-made footwear and imported stock from London. By 1856 he was able to consider investing some of his surplus capital, and it can be assumed that he sought advice on this matter from his solicitor tenants. The first investment of which there is record was made in 1856, when he lent money (in his sister's

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name) on the security of a mortgage over land in Woolloomooloo. Gradually he expanded his lending on the security of mortgages and also began gradually to acquire small parcels of property which he leased to tenants. During the next quarter century Fisher's lending and property dealing activity assumed sizable proportions — at the date of his death, for example, he held more than fifty mortgages and also received rents from more than twenty tenants in various properties.

In tandem, as it were, with this activity Fisher continued the business of importing and manufacturing boots and shoes. He continued to live above the shop in Pitt Street with his sister, Sarah, as his housekeeper. In June of 1871 he suffered a severe blow when Sarah, who had been with him for most of his 51 years, died. The death notice he inserted in the Sydney Morning Herald on June 10th, stated simply: “On the 9th instant, at her brother's residence, 176 Pitt Street, Miss Sarah Fisher, of apoplexy.” Sarah was buried in Camperdown Cemetery, beside her sister Jemima, in the family vault Thomas had erected more than 20 years earlier, and in which he himself expected eventually to lie.

It is likely that, at about this time, his own health began to cause some concern. He suffered from Bright's Diseasenote and the early symptoms could well have begun to manifest themselves — increasing tiredness, lethargy and irritability; fluid swelling of the face or ankles; and recurrent severe headaches. There would probably be remissions, followed by severe attacks, gradual deterioration of eyesight, anaemia, and difficulty in breathing. Eventually, perhaps after many years, death was inevitable from kidney failure or congestive heart failure.

These infirmities gradually made it more difficult for Fisher to carry on his retail business, particularly when, with Sarah gone, he had also to care for himself in the flat upstairs. Although only in his early fifties, he decided to retire and concentrate on his property investments. In 1873, after 30 years of successful and profitable trading, he closed the business of “T. Fisher, Ladies' and Gentlemen's Boot and

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Shoe Manufacturer”note and retired to a substantial two-storey brick house in the suburb of Darlington.

The house occupied a corner block, the south-east corner of Alma and Codrington Streets,note and from the first-floor balcony with its delicate cast-iron railings he enjoyed extensive views across Victoria Park and the attractive grounds of the University of Sydney and the Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind. The Institution was his neighbour across Codrington Street and the University and park one block distant across busy Newtown (later City) Road. He named the house “Clarence House”, perhaps as a link with his first home in Clarence Street. Attached on the Alma Street side was a single storey cottage which Fisher rented to a sea captain, James Beattie, whose daughter Ellen became his housekeeper for the remaining decade of his life.

In retirement, though frequently suffering from the enervating effects of his chronic illness, Thomas Fisher continued to invest in property and to lend out money on the security of mortgages. The amounts lent were modest, generally a few hundred pounds, repayable over several years at an interest rate of around seven per cent per annum.note The income, plus income from rents on properties he owned, would have been more than sufficient for his ordinary needs, and thus the surplus was again lent out or invested. His capital multiplied slowly but surely.

Not unexpectedly Fisher took advantage of his proximity to the University and frequently walked in its pleasant grounds. At that time, the University had fewer than a hundred students and only a handful of staff, so it is likely that his presence was noticed and that he formed friendships, or at least acquaintanceships, with University people. It is probable that he knew Henry Ebenezer Barff, Master of Studies from 1876 and Registrar from 1882, and it seems highly likely that he would have been known to other staff and students. Certainly he was regarded as a welcome visitor to the grounds and buildings,note and he was a regular attender at the annual ceremony of commemoration of benefactors held in the Great Hall.note

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Here he would have noted the applause accorded to former benefactors when their names were read out, and the cheers which customarily greeted the announcement of a new or particularly generous endowment. Here he would have heard, in 1879, that Sydney businessman Thomas Walker had purchased and presented to the University Library the important private collection of Nicol D. Stenhouse, solicitor, literary patron, and Fellow of the University Senate from 1869 until his death in 1873. This would have had a particular significance for Fisher, who almost certainly had been counted among Stenhouse's friends.note He would also have heard the announcement in 1880 of the Challis Bequest, valued at the astronomical sum of £250,000.

By the late 1870s Fisher had doubtless been told by his doctors that his illness was incurable and that, although he might have years of life ahead of him, gradual decline and death from the disease were inevitable. Being a man of property he would no doubt want to ensure that his affairs were in order, but it appears that it was not until 1880 that he came to a firm conclusion as to the disposition of his estate.note

In the light of subsequent events it seems most likely that the Commemoration Ceremony of 1879 particularly influenced his thinking. In his address at that ceremony the Chancellor, Sir William Manning, after announcing the gift of Stenhouse's “valuable library” referred directly to “the deficiency and … the practical inconvenience of our library accommodation.” The 3,600 Stenhouse volumes had increased the bookstock by fifty percent and had precipitated a crisis in accommodation. The library had long outgrown its original home in a single room at the northern end of the main University building, and thousands of books were stored in the clock tower and in numerous other rooms nearby. Suitable accommodation for the library was probably the University's most pressing need.

“I will be so bold,” said the Chancellor, “as to give expression to the hope that the day will come when one of our men of great wealth and equal public spirit will…earn

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the gratitude of their country by erecting for the University a library worthy of comparison with like edifices at Home. With such a building to receive them, we may confidently anticipate that contributions of books would freely follow.”note

As Bryan has pointed out, “perhaps too much should not be built on this link between Manning's words and Fisher's action”note but it is nevertheless a fact that in the following year Fisher made the University of Sydney the residual beneficiary of his estate, specifying that the bequest should be used “in establishing and maintaining a library.”note

He left no record of the reasons for his decision to endow the University's library, but it seems not unreasonable to assume that they included Manning's appeal for a donor, his own observations of the library's poor state, and perhaps also his conversations with students and staff. If, as seems certain, Fisher knew Nicol Stenhouse, he would have known of the importance of books to scholarship, and would have been impressed that his friend's own collection eventually came to swell the University Library. As a Fellow of the University Senate, Stenhouse would have been aware of the institution's library problems and might well have mentioned them in conversation with others. Another influence may well have been Canon Robert Allwood, Fellow of the Senate 1855–1886 and Vice-Chancellor 1869–1883. Allwood was minister at St. James's Church in King Street, Sydney, 1840–1884, a period which almost exactly coincided with Fisher's membership of the congregation there. They would certainly have known each other well and again it is quite probable that Allwood mentioned University matters in conversation from time to time.

A century later the reasons for Thomas Fisher's decision to endow the University's library can only be, at best, the subject of speculation. However, we do know that he kept this decision a secret from the University authorities. In October, 1884, four years after Fisher's Will was made and nearly three months before his death, the University Senate debated the problem of accommodation for the library. It is clear that Fisher's intentions were entirely unknown to the

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University, for it was proposed that the Challis Bequest be used to erect a library building, to be called the Challis Building, and that the library be supported by annual appropriations from the Challis fund “and be similarly designated.”note However, the proposal lapsed when the cost of the building was calculated and the Senate resolved “that it would be inexpedient to draw upon the Challis Funds to so great an extent …”note

Having made his decision on the disposition of his estate, Fisher continued to lend money and invest in property. He also had interests in shipping and, for example, in 1884 he had built by shipwrights in Balmain a 74-ton two-masted schooner which he named the Tom Fisher. Its owner, under mortgage for £1,200, was Captain James Beattie, master mariner and Fisher's next-door neighbour and tenant in Alma Street, Darlington.note It is likely that Beattie commanded the Tom Fisher on trading voyages along the eastern coast of Australia and to nearby islands.

Gradually Fisher's illness took its inevitable toll. He became weaker, less mobile, and less able to read and concentrate. He was not inactive, however, and continued almost to the end to maintain his account books of loans and repayments. On Christmas Day, 1884, he suffered a severe relapse, probably while on his way to or from church, and he was admitted to Sydney Hospital.note He died there of kidney failure on December 27th, just one month short of his 65th birthday.note

Fisher's Will directed that his remains be interred in the family tomb at Camperdown Cemetery, where his sisters Jemima and Sarah already lay. For reasons unknown, this direction was not complied with. It could well be that his nephews, who apparently arranged the funeral, and who inserted his death notices in the Sydney Morning Herald,note were as unaware of this provision of his Will as they were of the fact that he had excluded all but one of them from its list of beneficiaries. In any case, the funeral procession moved from Clarence House, Alma Street, Darlington, at 3 p.m. on Monday December 29th, 1884note bound for the new Waverley

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Cemetery where he was buried according to the rites of the Church of England. In due course the grave was surmounted by a monument, erected by his executors and paid for from part of the fund set aside in his Will for the upkeep of the Camperdown Cemetery tomb.note On it was engraved the following memorial inscription: Sacred to the memory of Thomas Fisher Esq. late of Alma Street, Darlington, South Sydney, who died 27 December 1884, aged 64 years. His munificent bequests are recorded in the annals of the Sydney University, School of Arts, and other charitable institutions.note

The Bequest

Probate of the Will was granted in April, 1885. The total value of the estate was in excess of £50,000.note The executors were J. H. Clayton, Fisher's solicitor and a tenant above the Pitt Street shop, and Mark Spence, a Pitt Street draper and long-time friend.

Ellen Beattie, Fisher's housekeeper for the last decade of his life, was left Clarence House, the cottage next door (of which her father was the tenant), all the household furniture, and £100. She soon after married and the house passed through a number of hands until it was acquired by the University in the late 1960s. Regrettably, it was demolished about 1970 to make way for a science laboratory. The demolition failed to substantiate the theory held by one branch of the family that “thousands of pounds in gold and silver coins” were hidden in the house.note

Seven charitable institutions were named to share £1,000 — Randwick Destitute Children's Asylum, N.S.W. Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind, the Hospital for Sick Children, Sydney Infirmary, the Benevolent Asylum, Prince Alfred Hospital, and the Mechanics' School of Arts. The executors were instructed to invest £200 and to use the income to maintain his tomb in good condition, and “to erect to my memory at such expense as shall be usual or necessary a

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Tablet of Marble in Saint James Church King Street Sydney with a suitable inscription thereon.” It has already been noted that the fund to maintain the family tomb in Camperdown Cemetery was diverted to erect a memorial in Waverley Cemetery. The hoped-for memorial in St. James's Church was never erected. The Minister and churchwardens refused permission for unstated reasonsnote though it may be inferred that, in an era when a convict connection was not spoken of in polite society, they may have been reluctant to memorialise a man, both of whose parents were convicts.

Fisher's Will must have dealt a severe blow to his relatives. Those who were not excluded entirely received very small sums, much less than they might have been expecting from the estate of their rich brother and uncle who lacked such obvious heirs as a wife and children. Mary Ann, his surviving sister, was excluded, as were her two daughters. This may have been because all three had husbands to support them, but there is family speculation that Fisher disliked Mary Ann's second husband, John Chevasse. Fisher's eldest sister, Jemima, was dead, but she had four children living. One of them, Thomas Clarkson, a shoemaker and formerly apprenticed to his uncle, received £300, but the others were ignored.

There is a persistent family story that Jemima's youngest child Sarah, brought up by Thomas Fisher and his sister after her mother's death, was intended to be his principal beneficiary. However, she had displeased him, it is said, by marrying James Spratt, a man of whom her uncle strongly disapproved. The reason for this disapproval is not clear, but Sarah and James Spratt's descendants are in no doubt that an antipathy existed between the two men and that this was the reason for Sarah's exclusion from the Will. Instead Fisher established a trust fund of £2,000 for her children, payable when they turned 21 or married. Between 1886 and 1904, seven sons and three daughters successively applied to the executors for the money due to them, each receiving between £250 and £400.note It is interesting that one was named Thomas Fisher Spratt and another Sarah Fisher Spratt after

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the aunt and uncle who had stood in loco parentis to their mother for so long.

In the final section of his Will, Thomas Fisher directed his executors: To pay all the balance or final residue of my said Trust Estate unto the Treasurer or other officer for the time being entitled to receive the same of the University of Sydney to be applied and expended by the Senate for the time being of the said University in establishing and maintaining a Library for the use of the said University for which purpose they may erect a building and may purchase books and do anything which may be thought desirable for effectuating the objects aforesaid.note

The University was informed of this bequest in the early months of 1885, probably in April when probate was granted by the Supreme Court. It was apparently first mentioned at the Senate meeting on April 20th,note and when the announcement was made at the annual Commemoration of Benefactors in May, it was greeted with cheers from the assembly.note

In June the University Senate received a petition from two of Fisher's nephews, William and Henry Clarkson, “setting forth that they believed their names to have been accidentally omitted from Mr. Thos. Fisher's will, and that they were in poor circumstances having large families depending on each of them, and praying the Senate to take their case into favourable consideration.”

The Registrar was instructed “to inform the Messrs Clarkson that it is not in the power of the Senate … to entertain their application.”note

Some members of the family, at least, resented the way they had been treated, and the wounds were slow to heal. Forty years later this resentment was still evident. Herbert Spratt, even though he had received £258 in 1891, on his twenty-first birthday, as his share in the trust fund bequeathed to the children of Fisher's niece, Sarah Spratt, wrote in bitter

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terms to the then Librarian, H. M. Green, who had asked him for information about his celebrated great-uncle: “It is 39 years since my uncle died, and records of him cannot be given. I remember him very well … The money left to the University at the time should have been given to his sisters and relations; for Mr. Fisher was never in a University in his life; and just petty spite on his part leaving it away from his family after his friendly relations with them when he lived.”note

When probate of the Will was granted the executors set about the not inconsiderable task of realising on Fisher's various properties and mortgages. He owned property in Darlinghurst, Darlington, Botany, Balmain, the North Shore, and elsewhere; all of this was sold during 1885. The Darlinghurst properties were the most valuable, comprising twenty buildings centred on the north-west corner of Palmer and Burton Streets, a choice location just a stone's throw from Oxford Street and Taylor Square. The sale of this so-called “Fisher Estate” realised £7,800 at auction.note Proceeds from these and other sales, and a total of 53 mortgages worth nearly £25,000 were handed over to the University during 1885 and 1886.note

The Senate, in its Annual Report for 1885, announced “with much satisfaction a munificent benefaction, consisting of property expected to amount to about £30,000, bequeathed to the University by the late Mr. Thomas Fisher of Sydney. … Of the amount bequeathed, a considerable portion had been handed over to the University prior to the 31st of December in the form of subsisting securities for money.”note

So far as can be ascertained the amount actually received by the University was £32,212/12/0.note At present values this may be approximately equated with $2,500,000.note

The mortgages were gradually called in as they fell due, though some borrowers who were unsuccessful in their applications for renewal of their loans appear to have had difficulty in making repayment. One such was Captain Beattie of the Tom Fisher, who defaulted on the £1,200 owing to his former neighbour and landlord and lost his ship. The Tom Fisher was subsequently sold by the University for £600, only half its apparent worth.note

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While these details were being attended to by the University's accountant and solicitors the Senate was giving considerable thought to the best way of utilising the Fisher bequest for the benefit of the library. In his Commemoration Day address in 1885, after the bequest had been announced to the public, the Chancellor, Sir William Manning, had offered as his opinion that it “will probably suffice for a handsome and well-designed Library Building, and for a partial endowment of the librarian's office. As regards books, my conviction is very confident that, with a suitable building and a good librarian, they will so assuredly follow as to dispense with any appropriation for them out of this fund.”note

A contrary view was held by the Vice-Chancellor and the Library Committee, who desired at least part of the bequest to be reserved for the purchase of books. In August, 1887, the Senate resolved, on the motion of the Vice-Chancellor, that “pending the final decision of the Senate as to the mode of employing the Fisher Fund” the annual income be used for purchase and binding of books and periodicals.note

The final decision proved difficult to reach. Manning persisted in his view that £20,000 “be applied in the erection of a Library Building at and for the University; such building to be designated ‘The Fisher Library’ ”, that £10,000 be used “for the endowment of a Librarianship for the University”, and that any excess be spent on books.note In February of 1888, the Senate resolved to devote £20,000 to a building, but also to ask the State government to provide a corresponding amount “for the erection of buildings annexed to the Library, comprising Reading Rooms and Common Rooms for students, Residences for the Librarian and Registrar, a small Museum for the Nicholson antiquities, and additional Lecture Rooms, together with a Refectory for Students and other conveniences.”note

At the same meeting the Chancellor also moved that £10,000 be used as an endowment for the Librarianship, but Theodore Gurney, the Professor of Mathematics, moved an amendment that this sum be “a perpetual endowment fund

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for keeping up and adding to the Library”. The amendment was carried 6:5, the Chancellor abstaining.note At the Commemoration ceremony two months later, Manning referred to this vote as having been taken “under peculiar circumstances” and gave as his reason for favouring an endowment for the Librarianship that it would be “better adapted to keep Mr. Fisher's name in remembrance, as he certainly had himself hoped, than the purchase of books which would necessarily be mixed indiscriminately with the rest of our collection.”note

The matter came to a head in March of 1889. The Chancellor moved rescission of the resolution that the £10,000 should be a general endowment and that the Senate consider again using it for the endowment of the Librarianship. His motion was lost “after considerable discussion”note and the decision of 1888 was therefore confirmed — £20,000 for a building, with the government being asked to contribute a similar sum for ancillary buildings, and £10,000 as a perpetual bookfund.

It did not prove easy to persuade the government to contribute a matching sum for buildings and negotiations dragged on for more than a decade. It is obvious from the regular mention of this matter in the Commemoration Day addresses that the Senate felt considerable embarrassment at what might appear to be its dilatoriness in carrying out the wishes of one of its most generous benefactors. In 1990, however, it was finally agreed that the government would meet the entire cost (estimated at £67,500) of erecting a library building, including space for a museum and other facilities. The building, named the Fisher Library, was opened in 1909, the Chancellor Sir Normand MacLaurin proclaiming: “May it continue for ever as the source of light and learning to the inhabitants of Australia. This generation will soon pass away but the torch of learning will be handed down by the influence of this great library to generation after generation of Australian scholars.”note

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Photograph on page 25: The Original Fisher Library, opened 1909.

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Ink Drawing on page 26 by Allan Gamble 1968: Clarence House, Darlington, Fisher's home for the last decade of his life.

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Within fifty years, the Fisher Library was no longer adequate for its purpose and in 1963 a new building was opened and the name Fisher Library transferred to it, thus nicely maintaining the link between Thomas Fisher and the University Library.

By agreeing to meet the full cost of the erection of the first Fisher Library, the State government enabled the University to retain the Fisher bequest in its entirety for the purchase of books and periodicals. In fact, pressing financial problems besetting the University forced diversion of at least part of the income of the fund to pay library staff salaries from 1893 until at least 1937.note Income from the Fisher Fund is now reserved for special purchases of library materials which cannot be afforded from the library's normal allocation within the University's annual budget.

In announcing the completion of the Fisher Library building to the Commemoration Day audience in 1910, the Chancellor, Sir Normand MacLaurin, exclaimed “All honour be given to Mr. Fisher's memory; may his excellent example be followed by many other patriotic citizens; For what greater merit can there be than that of aiding in the instruction of future generations, and contributing to the highest intellectual welfare of those who shall in their turn represent this great colony in all that leads to the elevation of our race?”note

Thomas Fisher contributed more than he realised to the University of Sydney and to Australian scholarship generally when he decided to devote his fortune to the establishment and maintenance of the University Library. Convicts' son, bootmaker, and investor, his name is known and respected a century after his death. May it always be so.

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“Per ardua ad libros” The Friends of the University of Sydney Library 1961–1984

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Libraries have, fortunately, always had Friends, as well as users and readers. An early example of one such Friend is seen in Fisher Library's copy (at RB 8236.2 Fol.) of Erasmus' edition of the works of St. Jerome (Basel 1536, 37). This was given in 1682 by Abbot Johann to his monastery's library at Wengen, near Ulm. Like many other Friends before and since, Abbot Johann recorded his gift by means of a printed bookplate.

Closer to home we have the magnificent precedents of David Scott Mitchell (1836–1907) and Sir William Dixson (1870–1952).

Closer still we have the Fisher Library of the University of Sydney, the story of which needs in the present context no further exposition from me.

Given the way that other “named” libraries have survived through the centuries in Europe, it would seem that munificence vis-a-vis libraries and book collecting is one tested and proven way of assuring for oneself a sort of distinctly unbookish immortality. A thought assuredly not far distant from the minds of those early benefactors who sought and strove to hold Time at bay. Nor is it far removed from the thinking of commercial bodies today in the U.S.A. and in Canada.

The same rationalization has yet to surface in Australia. Indeed, perhaps here, thanks to generations of diligent Scottish migrants, a McDonalds Library might be accepted, although I am less sure about a Colonel Sanders' Library (with appropriately modified exterior) or a library where “only the best will do”. Nonetheless, I leave these thoughts with suitably qualified tycoons, magnates and millionaire entrepreneurs.

Immortality as such did not, I imagine, loom large in the minds of the three men who in the Sydney of 1961 conjoined to conceive the Friends of the University of Sydney Library.note Nor was the idea as such a new one, however surprising that might seem from the perspective of 1984 with its growing plethora of Friends for zoos, theatres, art-galleries and museums.

Photograph facing page 33: The present Fisher Library, opened 1963.

  ― 34 ―

Similar schemes had surfaced in Europe in the 'twenties, then as now a time of tightening belts. They had rapidly multiplied throughout the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in North America, with its tailor-made tradition of alumni societies. The first Friends of a university library group in the U.S.A. was at Harvard in 1925: thirty years later the same country had some 650 Friends organisations. In Australia too, the Public Library of South Australia, faced with a minuscule government budget, had launched its Friends in the 'thirties (1932). It was their Constitution that was used as a model for the Sydney offspring a generation later.

Our three men were hard-headed pragmatists. They were also eminent professionals, and as doctor, lawyer and librarian represented three of the oldest professions to combine public skills with book collecting and bibliographical expertise. They were Sir Edward Ford (born 1902), medical man, academic and collector; Sir John Ferguson (1881–1969), lawyer and Australian bibliographer par excellence; and Dr. Andrew Osborn, University Librarian (1959–62), fresh from the ivied walls of Harvard itself.

Once mooted, the idea was not allowed to wither. At a “provisional general meeting” on 5 October 1961, in the University Staff Club, over dinner, eight people assembled, their minds brimming with ambitious plans, embryonic constitutions, eye-catching circulars and subtle printed appeals. They were: Sir Edward Ford (chairman), Sir John Ferguson, C. M. Hotimsky, Wallace Kirsop, Walter Stone, Professor J. M. Ward, Miss Jean Whyte and Miss Beatrice Wines. It was a judicious mixture of practising collectors, librarians and academics, of people who knew their books.

The meeting appointed a planning committee of Walter Stone (printer, collector, expert in Australian literature), C. M. Hotimsky (librarian and devilishly astute collector) and Wallace Kirsop (bibliographer and scholar). Dr. Kirsop was, incidentally, later (1968) to be instrumental in bringing the Friends of Monash University Library into being.

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During the next six months the provisional planning committee met three times, with Dr. A. Osborn in attendance. They drew up, examined, revised, re-examined, amended the draft Constitution, which was in turn subjected to a more public scrutiny on 13 March 1962 before a provisional general committee — a good number this — of twelve. On the last day of that same month, the first Annual General Meeting took place in the Senate Room of the University. There were 38 present.

The essence of the three-page Constitution lies in its definition of the Society's aims (par. 2(i)): “To assist, encourage and promote the interests of the University of Sydney Library in such ways as the Society may determine, and in particular

  • a) by gifts of money, books and other property
  • b) to furnish expert advice and assistance and to report the whereabouts of books, manuscripts or other material that may be of use to the Library
  • c) by such other manner as the Society may from time to time determine.”

Under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Ford, who was elected President, a post he was to hold in unbroken sequence until the May of 1972, the assembly resolved that each Friend should subscribe (the word “donate” came in later) one pound a year to the fledgling Society. There were in addition two further categories of membership. Friends could, in lieu of (or of course in addition to) their yearly pound of money, donate books or manuscripts to the Library. Or they could, in a peculiarly gentlemanly sort of way, promise “to assist if special need arises”.

It is not known what our original trio of pragmatists thought of this particular loophole. What is known is that when the crunch came, as come it had to, in the Book of Hours Appeal of 1972–73, the urgent cries for assistance netted a mere $402, which was for those with calculators, a tiny 6.18% of the purchase price of the 15th-century manuscript.

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In this double-edged context, we can note that at that distant inaugural Annual General Meeting, total membership was declared to stand at 140 (see here Appendix II). Also announced was the Friends' first purchase: a 15th-century French manuscript discovered by a Friend on a routine patrol in Tyrrell's book shop. It was bought for 20 pounds. The same purchase gave the newly elected Secretary, Dr. R. I. Jack, an apposite opportunity to proselytize for the Friends in the columns of Biblionews.note

Spreading the word was in fact to pre-empt much of the deliberations within the four Committee meetings that took place before the second Annual General Meeting (11 March 1963). Apart from drawing up a new prospectus, designing a bookplate and suitable stationery, the Committee (30 April 1962) called for appropriate publicity in the Union Recorder, in The Gazette, in the Sydney Morning Herald.note They decided that lists of accessions should be sent to Biblionews and Southerly: talked of contacting “Melbourne literary journals and business firms … columnists in influential daily papers” and vowed to “circularize university staff”.

When much of this white-hot urgency proved to be “inconclusive” (20 June 1962), the Committee looked instead to its own house and “an approach to defaulting subscribers was authorised”. There was more talk of a “standard policy for reminding over-due subscribers” on 10 January 1963, when the Librarian-elect, Mr. H. Bryan (1963–80) was one of the ten present. In a less punitive way, the new brochure and bookplate were displayed and there was a lively discussion on the production of a Friends' Christmas card and on the “publication of a printed periodical”.

The Christmas card issue (“a second card to show Thomas Fisher's house” (3 July 1963)) was to surface regularly for the next eighteen months. It was shelved for the Christmas of 1963 (“cards of other associations are not selling well this year” (1 October 1963)). It was abandoned altogether on 9 June 1964, when the Committee received, with horror, their first firm quotation.

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But there were other points to exercise the Committee's minds. The five members who turned up on Wednesday, 3 July 1963 heard of a “prolonged controversy with the Income Tax authorities”, a knotty confrontation subsequently resolved, however, with the favourable result that all subscriptions (donations) were and are deemed to be tax-deductible for the subscriber (donor). The same five, after listening to Colin Berckelman's remarks “on the poverty of Australiana in the University Library”, unanimously agreed to buy from Francis Edwards in London the 1739–45 set of Thomas Rymer's Foedera.

Writ large, Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae, et Cujuscunque Generis Acta Publica, The Hague, 1739–45, this ten-volume work established a hefty precedent for the bookshelves of similarly authoritative and rare works which the Friends were, at the suggestion of the Librarian or of relevant University departments, to purchase for the Library down the years. By a curious logistical hiccup, it was discovered in 1967, when cataloguing backlogged antiquarian books, that the Library already possessed this particular edition. The Librarian acted deftly (30 June 1967) and the Friends' first substantial purchase, still bearing its Friends' bookplate, now rests tranquilly in the State Library of New South Wales (at S.C.275–84F). This particular precedent was not to be repeated.

In the same year (1 October 1963) the Committee, following the spirit of their new Constitution, flexed their bibliophile muscles in calling for lists of the Library's desiderata to be drawn up and “to be made available to Friends who actively rummage in second-hand bookshops”. They also voted for substantial support towards the Library's purchase of the late Professor J. R. Stewart's “magnificent collection of archaeological and numismatic books and periodicals” (Secretary's Report for 1963–64: see too Appendix VI no. 8). The same Report notes the new total of 162 members (see Appendix II), sadly records the death of Martin Dobrillanote but warmly comments, no doubt “pour encourager les autres”,

  ― 38 ―
that the bequest to the Library of his “large and eclectic” collection will ensure a “posthumous perpetuation”.

There was some steam lost in the Friends' year of March 1964 to the March of 1965. The first Committee meeting (14 May 1964) was adjourned for want of a quorum. At the only other meeting (9 June 1964), although “a proposed women's group” provoked lively comment, we also find that “discussion on further publicity reached no decision”. There was, however, a vigorous Members' Evening held on Friday, 20 November 1964 (the early Friends were keen on Friday evening meetings) where Sir John Ferguson presided over much discussion and animated boasting from book-laden members.

More importantly, books kept coming in to the Library. In the Report for 1964–65, the Secretary could announce that membership had risen to 174 (see Appendix II), that individual Friends had donated 128 items (including Theodor Dorstenius' Botanicon of 1540), that the Committee had purchased for the Library the entire collection (over 1000 volumes) of the Highland Society of New South Wales. The sad news of the death of Dr. G. A. M. Heydon, the Friends' most generous benefactor in their opening years, was leavened by the presentation to the Library by his heir of Dr. Heydon's “considerable book collection”.

Although, in a like manner, the incoming Committee was grieved to hear of the death (22 April 1965) of Colin Berckelman, one of their more active members, they were also to set a sparkling pace for their year of office (1965–66). Suggestions flew fast and furious. A sub-committee recommended the publication of “facsimile editions of rare, small items … best suited to the Friends' capabilities” (7 May 1965). To this end, Sir John Ferguson had approved of the reproduction of his copy of Christopher Brennan's XVIII Poems (Sydney, 1897). It was also proposed that Sir John's notes on the books he had displayed at the warmly remembered Members' Evening (20 November 1964) “be cyclostyled and bound in a cover printed by the Piscator

  ― 39 ―
Press: “unlike the facsimile editions, this would not be for sale to the general public”.

In a postscriptal sort of way, the same meeting decided to donate 70 pounds to the Italian Department's Appeal (launched on 2 April 1965) on the 700th anniversary of Dante's birth. This same “cri de coeur”, warmly welcomed and abetted by the Friends, was to increase the Library's holdings of Italian books from 6,000 to 9,000.

Later meetings that year (18 June and 2 September 1965) designed a letter to be circulated amongst the University's teaching staff, sanctioned “approaches to industry, business and the professions”. A final meeting (21 September 1965) approved the Librarian's suggestion that all items printed at and on the Library's Piscator Press (see Appendix VI) be regularly distributed to Friends. Also discussed were the “possibilities of exhibition in a city gallery”. The latter suggestion underlines the revived pragmatism of the Friends who saw in publications, in big business and in “down town” publicity their only real opportunities of generating substantial sponsorship.

Curiously the Secretary's Report for 1965–66 records “a year of quiet activity”. Membership now stood at 179 and amongst the 254 items donated by individual Friends the Secretary notes a manuscript by the sometime University Librarian John Le Gay Brereton. It was titled “A Natural Mistake”.

Undaunted by their Secretary's sobriety, the Committee launched itself anew into an effervescent year. On 22 April 1966 they decreed that “articles be written for publication in professional journals and in Biblionews” (which expression of sentiment at least put Biblionews firmly in its place). They called shrewdly for “contacts with deceased estates”, and, less shrewdly, for “contacts with the armed forces”. They discussed their purchase of the Library's forthcoming One Millionth Book which “should have relevance to undergraduate studies … intrinsic interest and publicity value”. The chilling news that Sir John Ferguson (being after all a collector) had not yet surrendered his copy

  ― 40 ―
of Brennan's XVIII Poems was countered by Walter Stone's warm offer “to print the text of the notes by Sir John [Members' Evening of 20 November 1964] as a present to the Friends”.note

A later meeting (19 July 1966) discussed the Friends' contribution to the Library's purchase of the Colin Berckelman Collection. On this occasion, spurred by the news that the One Millionth Book was to be the Berckelman copy of Henry Lawson's Short Stories in Prose and Verse (Sydney, 1894), the meeting moved that a further $1000 should be given “at once” towards the Library's purchase of their late colleague's library. Those present (there were eleven) were also informed that a recent circular to the University's teaching staff had brought in 38 new members, that a recent article in The Gazette note had brought in one new Friend.

The Lawson item was duly handed over to the Library by Sir Edward Ford at a ceremony on 24 November 1966.note Although viewed by its abashed author as little more than a “curiosity in printing”, the Lawson book represented a focal point in the first decade of existence for the publicity-hungry Friends. It was also in the same year (1966–67) that the hard-working Committee pressured for the first time some 16 corporate members to add their considerable weight to the cause. Like the Lawson book, this is again a pivotal point of the Friends' striving towards substantial funding. That the momentum engendered and engineered in this heady year eventually lost its pace was perhaps inevitable. What remains as a crystalline fact is that the Friends will always need friends of this stature.

The same thought probably loomed large in the minds of the 1967–68 Committee. There was discussion (11 May and 24 May 1967) of a “business men's reception” at the Library. The Secretary was delegated with the task of drawing up a new brochure. There were dark murmurings about those Friends “financially considerably in arrears” which culminated in the supreme exorcistic decision that they be

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“deleted from the Addressograph” (30 June 1967). On this same day the Committee heard of the generous donations to the Library by two Honorary Friends, Mr. W. H. Deane (obiit 1984) and Mrs. Margery Keesing (obiit 1983) (“that most munificent patron”, the Librarian was to call her in a letter to the Secretary of 29 June 1972).

They expressed too support for the Library's Under-graduate Collection and in quick succession voted for funds to be supplied towards the Library's purchase of Professor K. G. Cross' collection (30 August 1967) and the rich 1000-volume strong library of Mrs. Monner (1 November 1967). This latter collection also contained, in the form of the Mainz, 1491 Ortus Sanitatis (slightly imperfect, with handcoloured illustrations) the first incunabulum acquired by the Library under the aegis of Mr. H. Bryan (19 April 1968).

On Wednesday, 15 November 1967 the Committee found tabled before it off-prints of the Secretary's new recruiting article in Apollonia,note the journal of the University's Dental Alumni, who have in turn constantly figured amongst the Friends' most enduring supporters. A further field for potential new members, but this was clearly by way of repetition,note was canvassed by the meeting of Friday, 9 February 1968 which “urged possible approaches to book collectors”.

Those of the Friends, now declared (Secretary's Report for 1967–68) to be 251 strong, who warily came along to the University's Senate Room on Saturday, 15 March 1968 for the seventh Annual General Meeting heard Sir Edward Ford's presidential address on “Association copies”, a talk seen by the Secretary as “a delightful and surprisingly romantic exposition on a number of volumes medical and literary”. They also heard that the Friends' balance now stood at $3600 (amended on 5 July 1968 to “some $5000”). This firm financial footing was not forgotten by the four Committee meetings for 1968–69. There was much buying. More money towards the Monner Collection, various reprints of scientific periodical runs, facsimiles, and a clutch of rariora such as John Dryden's Examen Poeticum (London, 1693).

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There was also a faint flicker of the old entrepreneurial spirit on 4 November 1968 when members heard that the President's Address to the seventh Annual General Meeting was “to be sent out shortly as the second occasional publication of the Friends”.note The Friends were again mindful of their foundation President, Sir Edward Ford, when on 4 December 1969 he retired from his office as Director of the University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. With the notable help of the Department of Preventive Medicine the Friends purchased a mint copy of Thomas Crooke's illustrated folio Microcosmographia (London, 1615) which they presented, no doubt much to Sir Edward's well concealed chagrin, to the Library.

It also fell to Professor emeritus Sir Edward Ford, on the occasion of the eighth Annual General Meeting (10 May 1969), to publicly lament the death of his eminent fellow collector and bibliographer Sir John Ferguson,note who had, he averred, always evinced a “great and warm interest in the Friends … which had continued during the course of his long illness.”

It seems to this by no means impartial chronicler that, as they emerged from their exciting 'sixties and entered the sober 'seventies, the Friends left behind them not so much their initial drive, more the panache, flair, enthusiasm, that had first buttressed their hopes and guided their steps.

Committee meetings continued to be regularly held. They passed by in a blur of book ordering and often desultory discussion. The range of talks given broadened dramatically (see Appendix V). There were even moments of shocked excitement as when it was “discovered that neither the present Chancellor nor the present Vice-Chancellor appear to be Friends” (30 June 1970). The same Committee heard too of “a certain decline in active participation”, an observation that now appears with tautening regularity up to the mid 'seventies. The Librarian's comment at the tenth Annual General Meeting (8 May 1971) on “a year of mingled frustration and achievement” presumably mirrored too the feelings of the Friends.

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But the machinery established after so much discussion by the early Friends continued to function. Scores of purchases were made: donations of books and other items flowed in, in an ever thickening stream. At the same time the Friends invested heavily in helping (1 December 1971) the Library to buy the Celtica collection of Mrs. Nora Kershaw Chadwick (Cambridge), to buy items from the Ingleton Collection (14 September 1973), to buy Mary Gilmore and Henry Lawson material (16 September 1974), Norman Lindsay and Douglas Stewart items (8 March 1977), even (11 October 1977) a substantial Cyrano de Bergerac manuscript (see too Appendix III).

There were sporadic attempts to rekindle the earlier flames of promise. A meeting of 13 April 1972 discussed “ideas which had not definitely been translated into action and either should be so translated or else definitely abandoned”. Later that same month (24 April 1974) the Committee called for regular notices in University publications, for “articles of some length” in six named weeklies and monthlies, for a “display window in the Bank of New South Wales, the AMP and the Qantas Buildings”. The issue of postcards and greeting cards was resurrected.

No doubt attempts on these lines were made by individual Committee members. They foundered. Matters were not helped by the eleventh Annual General Meeting (10 May 1972) when Sir Edward Ford on retiring from his foundation Presidency was elected “with acclamation” Patron of the Friends, but where too the Librarian spoke of “a climate of financial stringency”. The Secretary, although writing of the talk given that afternoon, touched a Delphic vein when he called it “at the same time amusing and interesting, and sad and regrettable”.

Throughout 1973 the Committee refocused their attention on the seductive issue of corporate membership. Which was, and remains perforce, the Friends' only real hope of attracting real money. Their discussions culminated in the invitation of 21 business men to a tour of the Library and a function (i.e. sherry) in the Macdonald Room on 29 October

  ― 44 ―
1973. The appeal met with limited success and the Friends have still to improve on the pinnacle of help from the business and commercial community which the Committee first scaled in 1966–67.

Other peaks, however, were and are still in sight. While the Committee diligently bought books, planned an increasing annual number of talks and visits to outside libraries, while financial membership (see Appendix II) oscillated between 102 (1973–74), 67 (1974–75) and 155 (1975–76), a bumper year suddenly grew into being. This was in 1976–77, at the end of which the Friends found themselves to consist of 222 financial members. Three factors lent impetus to this inspiring upswing.

There was a Letter sent to all members of the University's teaching staff. The Friends hosted the inaugural meeting (7 July 1976) of the Christopher Brennan Society when in the general excitement people rushed to join both associations. Moreover, this euphoric evening was closely preceded (2 June 1976) by the presentation to the Library by the Friends (Walter Stone) of the Two Millionth Book. Which wasn't, it may be noted in passing, a book at all, but a manuscript: of John Le Gay Brereton's Sea and Sky.

It was all very apposite. In Walter Stone we find the archetypal bookman, whose expertise was a direct link with the founders of the Friends. In John Le Gay Brereton we find the Library's first full-time Director (1914–21). Even more appositely, we find that the Address, on that strangely moving late afternoon, was given by Dr. A. Osborn, Librarian from 1959–62, in the very cradle-years of the Friends.

Such felicitous conjunctions occur but rarely. There was to be a touch of the same elusively commingled emotions in the March of 1983, when unbelievably the Library's Three Millionth Book was trundled into view. It was a very solid book: G. B. Bodoni's sharply elegant printing (1786) of Gli Amore Pastorali di Dafni e di Cloe. The President, Sydney Levine, on behalf of the Friends, presented it to the Library. Fittingly and movingly, the Bodoni book came from the collection of Walter Stone, printer and Friend. It had been

  ― 45 ―
presented in turn to the Friends by Mrs. Nancy Johnson. The Address was given, with his accustomed verve, by Harrison Bryan, Librarian from 1963 to 1980.

The Friends, now in their third decade, have had to learn that the price of healthy funds is constant publicity. It is their job to badger the business world, to remind the University's graduates of the needs of the Library they once successfully used, to alert the academic community with news of the machinery the Friends have so painstakingly constructed. Well might the Treasurer, in his usual purple prose, pronounce, as the Friends lurched into the anxious 'eighties: “clearly, the writing is on the Library wall, the tocsin is tolling etc.” (27 April 1982).

But rhetoric butters no parsnips. What is needed is action. Not so much from the Friends, who have long since proved themselves, but rather from all those outside who believe in, rely on and look to the Library of the University of Sydney.

No account of the Friends, even one as incomplete as this, would be accurate and just if it failed to acknowledge:

  • those unnamed Committee members who over the years have freely given of their time and energy
  • the Library itself which has long borne all administrative costs
  • and, in the same context, the unfailing and proficient logistical support afforded by the Librarian's secretary Mrs. Patricia Jackson and her successor Mrs. Rae Galtsmith-Clarke.

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Appendix I Officers of the Friends of the University of Sydney Library

President   Secretary   Treasurer  
1962  Sir Edward Ford  R. I. Jack  Hazel King 
1963  Sir Edward Ford  R. I. Jack  Hazel King 
1964  Sir Edward Ford  R. I. Jack  Hazel King 
1965  Sir Edward Ford  R. I. Jack  Hazel King 
1966  Sir Edward Ford  R. I. Jack  Hazel King 
1967  Sir Edward Ford  J. V. S. Megaw  C. Campbell 
1968  Sir Edward Ford  J. V. S. Megaw  J. Waldersee 
1969  Sir Edward Ford  B. K. Martin  G. Harrison 
1970  Sir Edward Ford  B. K. Martin  G. Harrison 
1971  Sir Edward Ford  B. K. Martin  T. G. Vallance 
1972  W. Stone  Heather Radi  T. G. Vallance 
1973  W. Stone  Heather Radi  T. G. Vallance 
1974  W. Stone  J. Fletcher  T. G. Vallance 
1975  D. A. Richardson  J. Fletcher  T. G. Vallance 
1976  D. A. Richardson  J. Fletcher  B. A. Taylor 
1977  S. Levine  J. Fletcher  B. A. Taylor 
1978  S. Levine  Margaret Lundie  B. A. Taylor 
1979  J. Fletcher  Margaret Lundie  B. A. Taylor 
1980  I. Maxwell  Margaret Lundie  B. A. Taylor 
1981  I. Maxwell  Margaret Lundie  J. Fletcher 
1982  S. Levine  Margaret Lundie  J. Fletcher 
1983  S. Levine  Jean Murray  J. Fletcher 
1984  Margaret Lundie  Jean Murray  J. Fletcher 

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Appendix II Financial Membership of the Friends of the University of Sydney Library

Year   Financial members   Amount donated  
1961–62  47  $358.20 
1962–63  99  648.00 
1963–64  93  1158.00 
1964–65  109  883.20 
1965–66  109  689.50 
1966–67  174  2885.20 
(This amount includes $1600
from 16 corporate members) 
1967–68  101 (4 corp. mem.)  1141.00 
1968–69  86 (10)  1667.10 
1969–70  96 (4)  1092.60 
1970–71  80 (9)  1590.00 
1971–72  69 (5)  1046.00 
1972–73  122 (6)  2236.00 
1973–74  102 (8)  2074.00 
1974–75  67 (3)  1027.00 
1975–76  115 (4)  1583.00 
1976–77  222 (3)  2002.50 
1977–78  150  1563.00 
1978–79  165note   2010.00 
1979–80  286note   3672.00 
1980–81  (for this year, exact
figures are not recoverable) 
1981–82  237note (6)  3122.00 
1982–83  67  1548.55 
1983–84  74 (3)  3567.05 

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Appendix III Purchases by the Friends up to 7 May 1984

Individual items

The Friends have bought for the Library in excess of 320 separate items. These include manuscripts (mediaeval and modern), early printed books, modern limited editions, illustrated works, reprints (particularly of periodical runs), facsimiles and microfilms.

Additional material

In 1964–65 the Friends bought the Library of the Highland Society of New South Wales. The Friends have made substantial contributions towards the Library's purchase of:

  • the J. R. Stewart Collection (1963–64)
  • the C. Berckelman Collection (1966–67)
  • the K. G. W. Cross Collection (1967–68)
  • the Monner Collection (1967–69)
  • the Mrs. N. Chadwick Collection (1970–71)
  • Mary Gilmore and Henry Lawson material (1974–75)
  • Douglas Stewart and Norman Lindsay material (1976–77)
  • G. N. Stewart manuscripts (1979–80)
  • the Hince Collection (1980–81)

In 1981–82 the Friends bought 48 items from Professor F. May's Library, and a collection of 84 three-decker novels.

Since 1981 they have bought 42 items from the W. Stone Collection. (For a description of the mediaeval and 16th-century manuscripts bought by the Friends, see K. V. Sinclair, Descriptive Catalogue of Mediaeval and Renaissance Western Manuscripts. Sydney, Sydney University Press, 1969, nos. 133–47.)

Appendix IV Donations by individual Friends up to 7 May 1984

By this date, Friends had contributed to the Library 12,318 items. This includes the gift (1974–76) of 2,391 items by Professor and Mrs. F. May, excludes the contents of 46 cartons and 23 mailbags donated (1977–78) by Dr. A. Osborn.

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Appendix V Functions and talks arranged by the Friends

31 March 1962  Dr. A. Osborn (Library).
Inaugural address.
Tour of work-site of the new Fisher Library. 
11 March 1963  Sir Frank Francis (British Museum).
Sir Frank talked “with charming discursiveness” on libraries. 
9 August 1963  H. Bryan (Library).
On university libraries in the U.K. and U.S.A. (illustrated). 
6 September 1963  Function at the official Opening of the new Fisher Library. This included a “rousing recruiting call” by Sir Edward Ford. 
28 September 1963  Private viewing of an exhibition of mediaeval manuscripts, and facsimiles. Talk by Dr. R. I. Jack (History). 
21 March 1964  Professor J. M. Ward (History).
On Libraries in U.S.A. and England. 
4 July 1964  Private viewing of exhibition of Russian books. Subsequently declared opened by G. D. Richardson (Public Library of N.S.W.). Guide: C. M. Hotimsky (Library). 
20 November 1964  Members' Evening.
Chaired by Sir John Ferguson. 
27 March 1965  J. Metcalfe (University of N.S.W.).
Education for librarianship at home and abroad. 
24 September 1965  Members' Evening.
Chaired by Professor G. A. Wilkes (English). 
29 October 1965  Film evening.
Images Medievales, The Searching Heart and Love of Books.
Commentators: Dr. R. I. Jack (History) and J. V. S. Megaw (Archaeology). 
18 March 1966  B. Scott (Macquarie University).
On establishing a new university library. Exhibition of Islamic books and manuscripts: opened by Dr. Frowein, Consul-General for the Netherlands. 
30 June 1966  N. J. B. Plomley.
In search of the Tasmanian: a journey among the records in Australia and Europe. 
21 October 1966  J. V. S. Megaw (Archaeology).
Penny-whistles and prehistory (illustrated). 
3 November 1966  Dr. W. Kirsop (French).
Prospects for the history of the Australian book trade. 
24 November 1966  The Friends (Sir Edward Ford) present to the Library the One Millionth Book. 
22 April 1967  J. J. Graneek (A.N.U.).
Neither rich nor rare: an enquiry into the nature of certain old books.
Exhibition of historic medical books. 
7 July 1967  Professor K. F. Russell (University of Melbourne).
The mediaeval doctor and his patient (illustrated). 
29 July 1967  Opening of exhibition of mediaeval manuscripts.
Guide: Dr. K. V. Sinclair (French). 
4 October 1967  I. W. A. Spink (Music).
Handel, sources and resources. 
15 November 1967  Members' Evening.
Chaired by Pamela Green (Library). 
15 March 1968  Sir Edward Ford.
Some association copies.
Exhibitions from: German Consulate-General and of: Sir Edward Ford's gifts to the Library and of: items associated with Sir Edward's war-time service in New Guinea. 
8 May 1968  Professor J. Dunston (Latin).
Early Italian book illumination (illustrated).
(With the Arts Association.) 
27 June 1968  H. Price.
Sydney University Press: three years of publishing. 
28 August 1968  W. Stone.
Items from his collection.
Pamela Green (Library).
On books of the 16th-18th centuries, from the Library's collections.
(With the Book Collectors' Society of Australia.) 
16 October 1968  G. D. Richardson (Public Library of N.S.W.).
A storehouse for the nation's literature: the Public Library of New South Wales. 
4 December 1968  Retirement of Sir Edward Ford. To mark the occasion the Library acquires a copy of Crooke's Microcosmographia (London, 1615). 
10 May 1969  Film.
The True University
16 October 1969  Beatrice Wines (Library).
The new Fisher Library: a personal view.
(With the Arts Association.) 
4 December 1969  Dr. A. D. Crown (Semitic Studies).
Two mediaeval Hebrew manuscripts in the Nicholson Bequest. 
30 April 1970  Dr. A. W. James (Greek).
Books from his collection (illustrated). 
9 May 1970  Film.
The Restoration of Books: Florence, 19 68
30 June 1970  Professor B. Smith (Fine Arts).
The Power Institute of Fine Arts and the Power Research Library. 
8 June 1971  B. K. Martin (English).
Aspects of the mediaeval book and book illustration. 
19 August 1971  Opening of exhibition of Renaissance and 17th-century books.
Guide: Dr. A. Riemer (English). 
1 December 1971  W. Stone.
The enemies of books. 
13 April 1972  Professor L. R. Chambers (French).
Problems in collecting books in foreign languages for Australian universities. 
10 May 1972  J. V. S. Megaw (Archaeology).
The Celtic connection (illustrated). 
25 July 1972  Dr. M. G. Carter (Semitic Studies).
Fisher Library and Arabic. 
28 September 1972  Professor A. Brown (London).
The gentle art of dedicating books. 
29 November 1972  Dr. S. T. Knight (English).
Mrs. Chadwick and her collection. 
13 April 1973  Associate Professor B. Gandevia (University of N.S.W.).
Collecting medical and quack Australiana. (Held at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.) 
8 May 1973  Films of the Library. 
27 June 1973  Professor E. C. B. MacLaurin (Semitic Studies).
On items in his collection. 
1 August 1973  A. Roberts (History).
The Abbey and the Witches' Houses (illustrated).
(With the Australian Society for Historical Archaeology.) 
14 September 1973  Dr. A. Osborn.
Some reflections on collecting. 
23 October 1973  Dr. P. J. Stanbury (Macleay Museum).
Lives and books. The lives of the biologists Darwin and Wallace, and some bibliographical details of Darwin's books. 
26 March 1974  Dr. J. Masselos (History).
Traditions in Indian art (illustrated). 
7 May 1974  H. Bryan (Library).
On the Library's collections since 1963. 
13 June 1974  Members' Evening.
Chaired by W. Stone. 
6 August 1974  G. L. Fischer (Archivist).
If books can be archives, are archivists librarians (but never vice-versa)? 
16 September 1974  Sir Victor Windeyer.
On law books in his collection (illustrated). 
26 October 1974  Visit to Library of St. Patrick's College, Manly.
Guide: J. Fletcher (German). 
7 May 1975  M. Wilding (English).
The social and literary role of small private presses. 
10 July 1975  Visit to the Bishop Broughton Memorial Library at Moore Theological College, Sydney.
Guide: K. Robinson (Librarian). 
27 August 1975  Associate Professor W. Kirsop (Monash University).
Australian book-selling and publishing in the 1860s. 
22 October 1975  Professor G. D. Kilpatrick (Oxford).
Manuscripts and the New Testament. 
3 March 1976  E. F. D. Roberts (National Library of Scotland.
Books in the Middle Ages (illustrated). (With the Library Association of Australia (N.S.W.).) 
5 May 1976  J. Fletcher (German).
The history and holdings of the Library of St. Patrick's College, Manly (illustrated). 
26 May 1976  Nancy Keesing.
The life and works of C. J. Dennis (illustrated).
(With the English Association, Sydney Branch.) 
2 June 1976  The Friends (W. Stone) present to the Library the Two Millionth Book.
Address: Dr. A. Osborn. 
7 July 1976  A Christopher Brennan Evening.
With A. Clark, J. Fletcher and R. Marsden.
(With the Christopher Brennan Society.) 
24 August 1976  Dr. B. McMullin (Monash University).
The bibliographical press movement.
With a visit to and a print-in at The Piscator Press (H. Bryan). 
15 September 1976  R. Rosenthal (Joseph Regenstein Library, Chicago).
The trade in antiquarian books.
(With the Library Association of Australia (N.S.W.).) 
13 November 1976  Visit to the science fiction library of Ron Graham in East Roseville.
Guides: R. Graham and Pauline Dickinson (Library).
Afterwards at Robin Marsden's, East Roseville. 
15 February 1977  C. M. Hotimsky (London, Ontario).
Collecting Australiana overseas.
(With the Book Collectors' Society of Australia.) 
8 March 1977  S. Levine.
The banknote as a historical document. 
27 April 1977  Launching of the Zimrat Haaretz (facsimile reprint). Inauguration of the Library's Sir Asher Joel Microfiche Collection in Hebrew Studies.
Chairman: Dr. A. D. Crown (Semitic Studies).
(With the Hebrew Society.) 
11 May 1977  H. Bryan (Library).
University Libraries in Britain (illustrated). 
21 May 1977  Manuscripts afternoon.
With W. Stone and J. Fletcher (German).
(With the Book Collectors' Society of Australia.) 
29 June 1977  D. Levine.
On collecting military books. 
23 August 1977  J. Fletcher (German).
The history and growth of the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel. 
11 October 1977  Barbara Palmer (Library).
Out-of-print books for the book collector, the bookseller and the librarian. 
22 November 1977  Visits to a) the Catholic Archives in St. Mary's Cathedral (Mons. C. Duffy) and b) the Rabbi Falk Memorial Library at the Great Synagogue (Rabbi R. Apple). 
29 January 1978  Visit to the Library of St. Patrick's College, Manly.
Guide: H. Arns (Librarian). 
27 February 1978  J. Holroyd.
John Ingleton and the Ingleton Collection. 
6 April 1978  Jean Stone.
The writings of Katherine Mansfield. 
9 May 1978  Margaret Sankey (French).
On a Cyrano de Bergerac manuscript recently acquired by the Library. 
21 June 1978  Associate Professor T. G. Vallance (Geology and Geophysics).
Books and rocks: notes of a Sabbatical in Britain and Switzerland. 
26 August 1978  Professor B. Hickey (Venice).
Australian literature in Italy.
(With the Fellowship of Australian Writers, the Book Collectors' Society of Australia and the Christopher Brennan Society.) 
14 September 1978  K. Turnell (Sydney Technical College).
Modern binding techniques (illustrated). 
19 February 1979  Visit to the Lane-Mullins Collection in Sancta Sophia College, Sydney.
Guide: J. Fletcher (German). 
6 March 1979  Patricia Quinn (Bank of N.S.W.).
Books for bankers. 
7 April 1979  Sale of antiquarian books.
(With the Book Collectors' Society of Australia.) 
11 June 1979  An evening with Galway Kinnell.
(With the Christopher Brennan Society.) 
30 June 1979  W. R. Cummings.
Experiences in book collecting.
(With the Book Collectors' Society of Australia.) 
20 August 1979  B. Dyster (University of N.S.W.).
Inventing the suburbs and making a fortune. 
23 October 1979  An evening in the Macleay Museum.
Guide: Dr. P. J. Stanbury (Curator). 
10 November 1979  Visit to the Macarthur-Onslow Library at Camden Park.
Guide: Associate Professor R. I. Jack (History). 
29 November 1979  Dr. F. Forster (Melbourne).
Early Australian publications on birth control (illustrated). 
6 March 1980  Virginia Wayland (U.S.A.).
The history of playing cards in the Far East (illustrated). 
5 May 1980  J. Fletcher (German).
The provenances of 16th-century books in N.S.W. 
19 April 1980  Sale of antiquarian books.
(With the Book Collectors' Society of Australia.) 
11 June 1980  Pauline Dickinson (Library).
Aspects of science fiction collecting (illustrated). 
9 July 1980  Farewell dinner for Mr. and Mrs. H. Bryan. 
30 July 1980  C. M. Hotimsky.
On items from his collection of Russian and Australian material on the Pacific areas (illustrated). 
21 October 1980  G. L. Fischer (Archivist).
On the University of Sydney Archives (illustrated). 
5 November 1980  Visit to the New South Wales Parliamentary Library.
Guide: Dr. R. Cope (Librarian). 
9 March 1981  Dr. B. Haneman.
On collecting Quixote (illustrated). 
5 May 1981  J. Fletcher (German).
The Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel revisited (illustrated). 
2 June 1981  Shirley Singer and Colonel A. W. Sheppard.
On Australia's first participation in the Jerusalem Book Fair of 1981.
(With the Australia-Israel Society for Cultural Exchange.) 
22 June 1981  K. Smith (Archivist).
Archives and libraries. 
28 July 1981  K. Harding.
Books and their bindings (illustrated). 
15 September 1981  Dr. A. Osborn.
Some pitfalls in writing family and local history. 
29 October 1981  Dr. R. Alston (British Library).
On collecting ephemera.
(With the Book Collectors' Society of Australia.) 
28 November 1981  Visit to Berkelouw's Book Barn in Berrima. 
16 March 1982  Dr. A. D. Crown (Semitic Studies).
The scientific examination of some Samaritan manuscripts. 
27 April 1982  S. Budavari.
On the Bibliotheca Corviniana. 
15 June 1982  M. Solling.
Local history, why and how it is written. 
9 August 1982  Dr. Nerida Newbigin (Italian).
From the Creator to the Last Judgment: uncatalogued plays in Italian libraries. 
5 October 1982  Suzanne Mourot.
Material concerning botany and botanists in the Mitchell Library. 
23 November 1982  Professor R. I. Jack (History).
Collecting Australian local history. 
9 March 1983  J. Fletcher (German).
J. N. Degotardi, printer, publisher, photographer.
(With the Book Collectors' Society of Australia.) 
28 March 1983  The Friends (S. Levine) present to the Library the Three Millionth Book.
Address: H. Bryan (National Library of Australia). 
10 May 1983  Janet Hine.
Indexing today, from cottage industry to computer. 
28 June 1983  Dr. B. Kiernan (English).
Researches on Henry Lawson. 
11 August 1983  Dr. J. Masselos (History).
Traditions of book illustration in India (illustrated). 
29 October 1983  Visit to the James Hardie Library.
Guide: R. Holden (Librarian).
(With the Book Collectors' Society of Australia.) 
10 November 1983  Nancy Bird Walton.
They printed so few: early aviation books. 
26 March 1984  F. Carleton (German).
The Early Imprints Project. 
7 May 1984  Dr. N. Radford (Library).
Who was Thomas Fisher? 

  ― 59 ―

Appendix VI The Piscator Press

Fisher Library, University of Sydney.

Press, and types used: Albion, Garamond and Perpetua.

(Issued over the imprint of the Fisher Press.)
1 A Press is Born. 1963
note 2 Friends of Sydney University Library. Secretary's Report (1963-64). 1964
3 Foscolo, Ugo. To Callirhoe. 1964

(Issued over the imprint of the Piscator Press.)
4 Foscolo, Ugo. The Sepulchres. 1964
5 Friends of Sydney University Library. Secretary's Report (1964-65). 1965
note 6 Quartet [A programme]. 1965
note 7 Friends of Sydney University Library. Secretary's Report (1965-66). 1966
note 8 Design for a Bookplate. 1966
note 9 Friends of Sydney University Library. Secretary's Report (1966-67). 1967
note 10 University of Sydney Library. Collection Building Through Collection Buying. 1968
note 11 Sydney University Library. Significant Rare Books. I A General Introduction and John Milton. A Select List. 1970
note 12 Sydney University Library. Significant Rare Books. II Hugh Macdonald and the Macdonald Collection. 1975
note 13 Sydney University Library. An Event of Some Significance for Scholarship. Ceremony of Presentation of the Two Millionth Book. 1976
note 14 Sydney University Library. Souvenir of a Print-in at the Fisher Library. 1976
note 15 McMullin, Brian J. Bibliographical Presses. 1978

For a complete check-list (up to 1970), see G. Farmer, Private Presses and Australia. With a check-list. Melbourne, 1972, p. 40.

  ― 60 ―


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