300 new items on display in Australia’s largest exhibition dedicated to books

SLV Nishiyama KaneiState Library Victoria’s free World of the Book exhibition has reopened with more than 300 new items on display including some never-before-exhibited material. The exhibition in the Library’s Dome Galleries explores the history of writing, books and book design with items dating from 2050 BC to the present day.

Rare Books Historian and exhibition curator, Dr Anna Welch, said the exhibition showcases some of the rare, beautiful and historically significant books held inside the Library’s vast collection of more than 5 million items.

“Our collection spans thousands of years – from one of the world’s first written texts to the digital present – and tells us so much about human history,” said Dr Welch. “Some of the new items on display are recent donations and acquisitions, and we’re thrilled to be able to showcase these precious items to visitors for the first time.”

Highlights of the World of the Book exhibition include the medieval art of dying display that includes an illuminated prayer book from c. 1430 and key printed works from the 16th and 17th-centuries exploring Christian rituals around preparing for death. A South-east Asian Muslim manuscript from the Library’s internationally significant Michael Abbott Collection of South-east Asian texts, exhibited for the first time.

The exhibition also includes books by women that have changed the world, including Dr Marie Stopes’ book Contraception (Birth Control): Its Theory, History and Practice – which was placed in the Library’s restricted section shortly after it was added to the collection in 1923, and a Picnic at Hanging Rock display that includes never-before-exhibited scripts and props from the iconic film version (1972) as well as Joan Lindsay’s manuscripts and a first edition of the book published more than 50 years ago.

An Australian book design display features the work of three internationally renowned Australian designers – Jenny Grigg, Miriam Rosenbloom and Sandy Cull – and also looks at the history of the iconic Melbourne publishing house Sun Books and a display of concrete poetry features sculptural and printed works by Australian poets which use layout, typography and 3D forms to enhance the meaning of written words.

Other items on display include one of the world’s most valuable printed books, John James Audubon’s Birds of America; an ancient clay tablet from Mesopotamia, and much more. For more information, visit: www.slv.vic.gov.au for details.

Image: Nishiyama Kanei, Kanei gafu [An Album of Drawings by Kanei] (Osaka, Maekawa Zenbe, 1886), Rare Books Collection, State Library Victoria.