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Category: Book of the Month

The usefulness of mathematical learning explained and demonstrated: Being mathematical lectures read in the publick schools at the University of Cambridge… Isaac Barrow (1734)

Isaac Barrow, mathematician and Christian theologian, was born to Thomas and Ann Barrow in London in 1630. He is believed to be the only child, surviving at least, of that marriage, with the death of his mother just four years later giving some credence to such reports.[1] Within two years of her passing his father […]

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Old Christmas. Washington Irving (1876)

Originally published as five short stories in the American edition of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1819-20), Old Christmas is Washington Irving’s later, illustrated version of the work, portraying the good old-fashioned customs of Christmas. The youngest of eleven children to Scottish parents William and Sara Irving, Washington was born in 1783 after […]

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A hand-book to the marsupialia and monotremata. Richard Lydekker (1894)

Born in 1849, naturalist and geologist Richard Lydekker was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he earned second place in the first class ‘Natural Science Tripos’ of 1871.  Three years later he joined the Geological Survey of India, one of the oldest government organisations in the world responsible for conducting geological surveys and presenting earth […]

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The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer… Francis Barrett (1801)

The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer is Francis Barrett’s compendium of occult knowledge and ceremonial magic.  An important 19th century grimoire, the book remains one of the rarest and most sought after primary sources for those interested in natural magic, magnetism and cabalism. About its author, we know very little. Most sources put Barrett’s date of […]

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The home of the blizzard: Being the story of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914. Sir Douglas Mawson (1915)

Born in Yorkshire, England, on 5 May 1882, Douglas Mawson was the son of cloth merchant, Robert Ellis Mawson and his wife, Margaret Ann. Mawson’s family immigrated to Australia in 1884, settling at Rooty Hill, New South Wales. Douglas was a talented student and in 1902 graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering from the University […]

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A general system of surgery in three parts… Laurence Heister (1743)

Lorenz Heister was born at Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, in 1683 to a lumber and wine merchant, and his wife, also the daughter of a merchant.  He attended the Gymnasium there, whilst receiving private lessons in French and Italian, before going on to study medicine at the University of Giessen in 1702.  In 1703 he followed Georg […]

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Rural Architecture in the Chinese Taste. William and John Halfpenny (1755)

Written by the father and son team, William and John Halfpenny, Rural Architecture in the Chinese taste is a beautifully illustrated 18th century instruction or pattern book, designed to assist those erecting Chinese structures in regional areas. Of William Halfpenny’s personal life very little is known.  His earliest paid work was for a 1723 design […]

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The Devil’s motor: A fantasy. Marie Corelli. c1911

The work of one of Britain’s most popular authors of the Victorian era, The Devil’s motor is a fantasy, dramatically illustrated by Arthur Severn, son of the famous English portrait painter Joseph Severn. For someone so famous and highly paid, surprisingly little is known about the childhood of Mary Mackay, who wrote under the pseudonym […]

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Australia at war: A winter record made by Will Dyson on the Somme and at Ypres during the campaigns of 1916 and 1917; with an introduction by G. K. Chesterton, 1918

This month Rare Books & Special Collections pays tribute to those engaged in military service, past and present, by taking a closer look at Lieutenant Will Dyson’s book, Australia at war. The ninth of eleven children, Dyson was born in 1880 at Alfredton, a suburb of Ballarat, Victoria. Though largely self-taught as an artist, he […]

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Monograph of the Paradiseidae, or birds of paradise and Ptilonorhynchidae, or bower-birds. R Bowdler Sharpe (1891-1898)

Though rarely afforded the attention of his contemporary John Gould, Richard Bowdler Sharpe was an accomplished ornithologist in his own right, and his contribution to the field was nothing short of astounding.  He was born in London in 1847 and cared for by his aunt who kept a preparatory school at Brighton.  Sharpe passed three […]

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