Our Special Collections are full of surprises. From a classic Roman 1494 treatise on military strategy, a set of engineering manuals illustrating inventions from the Industrial Revolution, to a vibrant sequence of late twentieth century stage set designs by acclaimed Australian architect Peter Corrigan, the collection reflects the diversity of human knowledge and endeavour.
Significant strengths include our exceptional Australian literary and performance archives (including over 60 women writers), with an emphasis on Australian poets and poetry. Military strategy and history are strongly represented, including uniquely held tactical manuals and pamphlets from the World Wars, rare annotated maps from the Gallipoli and Allied campaigns, and a 70,000 strong naval photograph collection belonging to ship historian George Robertson.
Unique Manuscripts, Rare Books & Objects
Unexpected holdings include a signed copy of the first book published in Canberra and the Royal Airforce’s earliest flying manual. A bound set of pamphlets belonging to Sir Henry Parkes encloses Florence Nightingale’s signature, and a handwritten naval journal records a sighting of the young Captain Horatio Nelson. Delve deeper to find a mine-sweeping handbook with lead cover designed to be thrown overboard in case of enemy capture, and the well-loved personal writing chair of Australian author Frank Hardy on which he wrote Power without Glory, and which was also a favourite sleeping spot of his cat.
Browse our Image Gallery to discover other collection highlights to inform your research.