Melbourne Rare Book Week 2017

Last month one of my favourite annual events took place in Melbourne - Rare Book Week :) It's a wonderful series of free events, organised every winter, that celebrates the history of special books and book collections.

There are lots of talks, workshops and exhibitions run over the course of the week by a range of different institutions and libraries around Melbourne. Usually I can only attend evening events, but this year Rare Book Week coincided with my first free week after finishing a work contract, so I dived in and went to as many sessions as I could manage!

I adore books and it's lovely to hear stories of their history and production. I attended sessions on rare illustrated children's books, classic stories that have been given new life as comics and graphic novels, rare books that revealed the early history of Melbourne, novelty books produced in unusual shapes, and artist books from the early twentieth century Parisian art scene.

A talk at the Melbourne Athenaeum Library for Rare Book Week 2017

I think my favourite event was "Reconstructing Melbourne’s Lost Environments" at the Old Treasury Building Museum, a talk that examined Robert Hoddle’s field notebooks and other sources to uncover clues about Melbourne's natural history before settlement. I learnt about the original locations of waterways, large swamps (nowadays we would call them wetlands) that were filled in, surveys that described the extant flora in different parts of Melbourne, and the fate of Batman's Hill - now flattened underneath Southern Cross train station. I'd love to find out more about this version of Melbourne that is hidden underneath the modern city. It was also a good reminder that today's data is tomorrow's valuable historical resource!

Old Treasury Building, Melbourne