Rare Books & Special Collections

Harry Maude_smallerFor the last 18 months we have been undergoing a project to digitise the personal and research papers of Harry and Honor Maude. Henry (Harry) Evans Maude (1906-2006) was a civil servant and anthropologist who spent eighteen years working in the Pacific Islands. Between 1929 and 1948 Maude served as District Officer, Native Title Lands Commissioner and Resident Commissioner to the remote Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony (now Kiribati and Tuvalu), a widespread collection of coral atolls incorporating the Gilbert and Ellice Islands group, the Phoenix Islands group and also Fanning, Washington, Christmas and Ocean Islands. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1939 for his services in the Colony, particularly in relation to his Phoenix Islands resettlement scheme. Recognising the complexities of island life and the process of cultural change, Maude began to research island history, collecting an extensive array of source materials along the way. Harry’s wife, Honor, accompanied Harry to the islands, aiding him with his research, as well as conducting research of her own, becoming a world-renowned expert on String Figures.

The papers include letters, publications and official reports from their time on the Islands, as well as written notes on pacific history, culture, genealogy and language. The goal of the project is to make the contents more accessible to both researchers and people living on the islands wanting to connect with their history. So far approximately half of the contents of the papers have been scanned and are available freely online on our Digital Archive. The digitisation was made possible thanks to a generous donation.

Using the digitised files, we have been creating a timeline and map of their work on the islands using the Story Map platform, created by Arcgis. The Story Map follows Harry and Honor around the islands, featuring maps of their locations and accompanied by a narrative of their work and research, put together from information taken out of their letters home.

The first stage of this project is now complete, covering their early lives and careers up until 1935. Check out the Life of Harry Evans Maude story map online at http://arcg.is/2vArJfQ. The project is ongoing with the Story Map being continuously edited and updated.


Thoughts or comments on the project? Please contact us via email at library_special@adelaide.edu.au or message us on our Facebook page


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cover_2Written for his son Grenville and published on a monthly basis in MacMillan’s Magazine between August 1862 and March 1863, Charles Kingsley’s The water-babies… is one of the most unusual children’s fables.  Intended as a satire in support of Charles Darwin’s On the origin of species, it delves into some of the naturalist’s preoccupations at the time and, in many ways, is a response to Victorian attitudes, particularly in regard to child labour and religion.

whole_cover_2The story centres around Tom, a young chimney sweep employed by the cruel Mr Grimes, who falls down a chimney whilst working in a posh home.  He finds himself in Ellie’s bedroom, where he’s puzzled by a washing stand, soap, brushes, towels and a bath filled with clean water.  A looking-glass confirms Tom’s dirty appearance before he’s chased out of the house by its occupants.  A desire to be clean, leads Tom towards a stream where, once under water, he is transformed into a water-baby.  A series of adventures and moral lessons ensue, with Tom crossing the paths of numerous water-creatures along the way.  Spiritual leaders such as Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby, Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid and Mother Carey also play an important role in his moral education, which culminates in a journey to the “other-end-of-nowhere” to help Grimes, who has himself become a chimney sweep.  Upon helping someone he doesn’t like, and learning many other lessons, Tom is allowed to return home with Ellie on Sundays and to become a great man of science.[1]

watered_silk_doublures_2The book has both political and religious overtones.  Not only was it a serious critique of the closed-minded approaches of many scientists of the day, it was actually written in support of Darwin’s theory of evolution, with which Kingsley had no trouble reconciling his own faith.  In fact, Kingsley and Darwin became good friends, the former issued with a review copy of The origin of species before it had even gone to print.  Parallels between their works can also been drawn, with Kingsley emphasising in The water-babies that nobody had the authority to say that something did not exist simply because they had never seen it.  Through the book’s characters, Kingsley also exposed and criticised the Victorians’ attitudes to child labour; some have even credited his novel with easing the passage of the 1864 Chimney Sweeper’s Act, which prohibited the use of minors in the trade.  In more recent times, however, The water-babies has lost favour with many who cannot accept Kingsley’s rather dismissive, even insulting, references to different ethnic and racial groups, particularly the Americans, and Irish and Jewish people.  Although the book should be considered in context, the author merely expressing prejudices common at the time, many later editions have been edited or abridged to maintain popularity.

signatures_2Though significant as a children’s classic, this is not the reason for the Library’s acquisition of the 1885 edition.  In many ways the holy-grail of bindings, this book exhibits one of the finest covers of all of the books held in Rare Books & Special Collections.  This edition is presented in a magnificent ‘Cosway’ binding by Rivière & Son in a red crushed Levant (goatskin).  Its cover, with a gilt triple fillet border, inner double fillet border and floral ornamentation, is set with a miniature portrait under bevelled glass.  The portrait, depicting the author Charles Kingsley, is painted by Miss C. B. Currie on ivory.  In addition, the book features raised bands, gold-decorated spine compartments, fillet-tooled board edges, ruled turn-ins (stamped ‘Bound by Rivière & Son’) and watered-silk doublures, the rear of which is also stamped ‘Miniatures by C. B. Currie’.  An inserted certificate leaf has also been signed by J. H. Stonehouse and Currie and reads: ‘This is No. 951 of the Cosway Bindings invented by J. H. Stonehouse, with Miniatures on Ivory by Miss Currie.’

book_edges_2Always a traditional leather binding, the ‘Cosway’ is named after Richard Cosway (c1742-1821), the acclaimed English miniaturist.  He painted various English and French aristocrats and many members of the British Royal family, and much of his work can still be seen in Windsor Castle.  An early 20th century creation though, the Cosway binding didn’t actually have anything to do with Richard.  The earliest designs were in fact the work of Miss C. B. Currie whose services were employed by the bookselling firm of Henry Sotheran, the manager of which was J. Harrison Stonehouse.  Her paintings were almost always on ivory.  Often one large painting was set into the cover; occasionally multiple graced the front cover.  In 1911, a particularly lavish example appeared in Sotheran’s catalogue which had 21 miniatures inset into the front cover.

Importantly, all of the early bindings are by Rivière and the paintings the work of Miss Currie.  Over the years, numerous attempts have been made to reproduce the Cosway bindings.  These Cosway-style bindings, however, lack the quality of the early pieces and collectors should be wary of the less expensive designs.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is…

The water-babies is available for viewing in Rare Books & Special Collections at SR 823 K55w.



[1] ‘lThe Water Babies by Charles Kingsley’, Stellla & Rose’s Books, Joanne Hill, accessed online 2/8/2017,


‘Things you may not know about The Water Babies’, Interesting literature: A library of literary interestingness, 9 October 2013, accessed online 1 August 2017.

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IMG_1559Born in North Adelaide, Fiveash was first taught art by Miss Annie Bentham, a painter of birds and flowers, and later studied at the Adelaide School of Art and Design from 1881 to 1888, specialising in the painting of Australian flora.

Despite the lack of formal recognition during her lifetime, Rosa Fiveash is regarded as one of the foremost Australian botanical artists of her day. She also painted illuminated addresses and pioneered china-painting in Adelaide, attending to all stages of the process including the firing. Fiveash’s drawings, both beautiful and meticulously accurate, were highly sought after. Her talent for accuracy was well known to South Australia’s foremost natural historians, and she received a number of commissions, particularly to illustrate scientific papers.

Fiveash contributed illustrations to Richard S. Rogers’ studies of South Australian orchids for over 30 years, including plates published in J.M. Black’s Flora of South Australia (Adelaide, 1922-1929), and produced numerous scientific illustrations for Edward Stirling at the Adelaide Museum.

Apart from two years overseas, Rosa lived all her life in the family home in North Adelaide with her sister.  They were both unmarried and devout Anglicans.  Rosa worked steadily until failing eyesight supervened four years before she died on 13 February 1938, and was buried in the West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide.

Rare Books & Special Collections of the Barr Smith Library holds 8 albums of Fiveash’s original orchid paintings undertaken for Dr. Richard S. Rogers, orchidologist and physician. These scientifically accurate paintings were a result of a thirty year collaboration between Rosa Fiveash and Rogers. Fiveash was so meticulous that she would wait for weeks for a rare orchid bud to open fully before recording it.

Rogers reportedly described her as the foremost Australian botanical artist of her day; this was high praise, as despite being well-known, her scientific illustrations had been rarely acknowledged in her lifetime.

The magnificent set of Orchid Paintings was bequeathed to the University of Adelaide library by Rogers along with his other materials on orchids. Other stunning examples of Rosa’s work can be found at the State Library of South Australia, the South Australian Museum, the Art Gallery of SA and the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.

Several volumes of this set are currently on display as part of the SALA Festival, accompanying an exhibition of objects by the internationally recognised Adelaide based artist Angela Valamanesh, inspired by works held in Rare Books & Special Collections. The exhibition runs from August 20th – October 1st and can be found on level 1 of the Barr Smith Library.


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It’s easy to fall for the charms of this little book. It has been described as timeless, a ‘tour de force’, a remarkable achievement, and “an original and significant contribution to twentieth-century Australian art and print culture.”[1] It also occupies a monumental place in Australian publishing history, being the first example of coloured woodblock printing […]

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Bookbinding is a humble pursuit. Rarely does it receive the attention and glamour afforded to other ancient crafts.  Unlike the silversmith or the glassblower, whose talents are immediately obvious, the binder’s craft of construction is largely concealed.  Durability and function are foremost in the bookbinder’s mind; theirs is a role of guardianship – they serve […]

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A massive tome of some 1630 pages, The herball, or Generall historie of plantes was first published in 1597. Essentially, a gigantic plant catalogue, it documented more than 1,000 species, many accompanied by hand-coloured illustrations. It brought John Gerard instant fame and remained highly esteemed for the next 200 years. Generally considered to be the […]

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John Dryden’s 1697 translation of The works of Virgil… is a massive folio edition, spanning some 640 pages.  It brings together three of Virgil’s finest works, including the Pastorals, the Georgics and the epic Aeneid.  Profusely illustrated by three of the finest engravers, it is considered to be one of the great publishing projects of […]

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Arguably one of the most appealing pictorial books published during the mid-1800s, The Chinese Empire illustrated, (known also as China, its scenery, architecture, social habits &c. illustrated), truly is a remarkable book.  With 75 steel engravings, after the original sketches by Thomas Allom, and descriptive letter press by Irish clergyman, G.N. Wright, the book has […]

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The physician John French was born at Broughton, Oxfordshire, in approximately 1616.  He entered New Inn Hall in 1633, one of Oxford University’s earliest medieval halls, and graduated with a Degree in Arts in 1637 and a Masters in 1640.  He pursued work in Great Britain’s Parliament army during the Civil War, eventually becoming one […]

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It’s our Birthday! Saturday March 4th marks 85 years since the official opening of the Barr Smith Library. Designed by Architect Walter Hervey Bagot, and built with funds donated by Sir Thomas Elder Barr Smith, the Library was officially opened by the Governor, Sir Alexandar Hore-Ruthven, VC, in a widely attended public ceremony in 1932. […]

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