(17 April 2015) One of the world’s great rare book collections has been donated to the State Library of Victoria, Australia.
Valued at over $5 million, the collection encompasses more than 5,000 volumes from the 15th to 18th century, including political, religious, philosophical and literary works.
The collection was amassed over 40 years by the late John Emmerson QC (1938–2014), a bibliophile and brilliant scholar who had careers as both an Oxford physicist and a Melbourne barrister. John Emmerson requested that his collection be passed on to a Melbourne library, along with a bequest of $1.3 million to help preserve, catalogue and expand the collection, and fund scholarship.
The Emmerson family generously selected the State Library. John Emmerson’s brother David explaining that ‘John wanted his collection to remain in Melbourne for the interest and enjoyment of future generations.’
‘We are delighted for the collection to find its new home in such a vibrant institution, which is at the heart of Melbourne life. John would have loved the thought that anyone could have a chance encounter with the works through the two cases which will be permanent display. The John Emmerson fellowship will offer scholars and artists nationally and internationally an opportunity for study and inspiration through more intimate involvement with the collection.’
Among the treasures are King Charles I’s personal copy of his father King James’ writings, a 15th century Nuremburg bible belonging to Archbishop of Canterbury William Juxon, some of the world’s earliest newspapers, and early editions of literary greats from Chaucer to Milton and Defoe.
The collection is considered to be one of the largest and most valuable of rare English printed materials surrounding the King Charles I era and 1640s English Civil War, with the only comparable collections belonging to the British Library and Oxford’s Bodleian Library.
Read the profusely illustrated announcement here.