Some of the materials on this site came from the State Library of
Victoria. To discover the richness of their holdings you simply
have to visit The State Library
of Victoria website and click on Catalogues
& Databases and then on Main
Catalogue and then search for India as a keyword anywhere.
The results give an impression of the
richness of the State Libary's Indian related holdings. A simple
search for India brings up over nine thousand items.
There is for instance a wealth of early
material related to Hindustani, try seaching for that term and then
sort the search by date, earliest first, you get many items from
the early 19th century and even the late 18th century. Indeed certain
works, such as the English and Hindustani student's assistant
of 1837 are extremely rare and interesting works, also notable
is a copy of Grammar of the Hindustani language from J.
Shakespear from 1813 and Concise grammar of the Hindustani language
of 1847 by Edward Eastwick, who also wrote the Murray's Guide to
the Madras and Bombay Presidencies which is on this website.
Background to the State Library
of Victoria's India Related Holdings
The Melbourne Public Library was founded in 1853 and later became
the State Library of Victoria. During its formative period from
1853 to 1880 it acquired substantial holdings of materials related
to India from a variety of sources. Initially many of the purchases
were made in London through booksellers on the instructions of the
first Chairman of the Trustees of the Library and the Colony's Solictor-General,
Sir Redmond Barry, which were carried out in London by Edward Bernard
the Colonial Agent-General in London.
This continued until 1881 when the new Chairman of the Trustees
of the Public Library, D. C. McArther, changed the policy to buying
books in Melbourne rather than through foreign agents. Due to this
in the 1880s and 1890s very few India related purchases were made
and it is was thus during the period from 1853 to 1880 that the
majority of early India related purchases were made.
Barry's early purchases did not have a separate category for India,
but used headings such as History. Under this heading for instance
Mill's History of British India was requested in 1853. He also requested
under 'Dictionaries etc." a dictionary for Hindoostanee and
under 'Bibles etc.' , 'Shaster' and 'Veda'. A substantial collection
of texts and translations in classical Indian languages, that is
Sanskrit, were also purchased although modern Indian languages were
less well represented apart from in regards to dictionaries and
grammar. The library also bought a lot historical works related
to India and works describing the military exploits of the British
Barry also got a lot of people to make donations to the library,
writing to former colonists in London and to governments around
the world asking them to make donations to the library of books.
At the time of the mutiny in 1857 Victoria became a major centre
of gathering funds for relief works in India. As part of this activity
Barry wanted to build a Museum of Indian armaments and although
he was unsuccessful in this he did succeed in getting funding from
Sir Henry Barkly Governor of Victoria to buy Indian publications
by the Honourable East India Company and Indian Government. Following
this materials started arriving from the British administration
in Calcutta and Bombay. Barry seems to have been interested not
only in armaments but also in the question of Indo-European origins
which it seems he believed were in the Kashmir Valley which he argued
in a public lecture in 1840 was the birth-place of the Human race.
"Kashmere, where the great elevation converts the southern
heat into perpetual spring and where nature has exerted all her
powers to produce plants, animals, and man in the greatest perfection.
No spot on the whole earth unites so many advantages. In none could
the human plant have succeeded so well without care. This spot,
therefore, seems to unite all the characters of Paradise, and to
be the most appropriate situation in Asia for the birth place of
the human race."
In around 1868-1870 Barry also campaigned for the possibility
of I.C.S. examinations being held in Melbourne following training
given at Melbourne University to students from India on scholarships.
In support of his claims tried to strengthen further the India holdings
of the library. Due to this in 1870 he was intent on purchasing
both materials related to Sanskrit and official publications on
modern subjects such as.
Agriculture, Banking, Barracks, Botany, Canals, Chincona, Coal,
Codes of Law, Coffee, Cotton, Commerce, Docks, Education, Exploration,
Ethnology, Finances, Geology, Health, Horsebreeding etc., Indigo
growth of, Internal Communication, Irrigation, Land Tenure, Laws,
Maps, Meteorology, Minerals and Mining, Natural History, Opium,
Population, Photographs Published by Departments -, Survey etc.,
Quinine, Regulations of the Different Branches of the Service, Railroads,
Reports of Departments, Silk, Steam Communication, Survey, Taxation,
Tea growth of, Timber, Trade, Translations of ancient and modern
works of Asiatic languages, Vegetable products of Export, War and
Dunham also points out that Barry was not just interested in India
per se but as India as an example of what could be done in the development
of a country and what was being collected was ' a body of information
of the most authoritative and trustworthy nature, on the history
and policy of British India, abounding with instructions as to the
best mode of prosecuting many profitable industries, capable of
being practiced with success in this country [i.e. Australia].
Dr Peter G. Friedlander
La Trobe University, VIC 3086
Tel: 61 + 3 9479 2064
Fax: 61 + 3 9479 1880
Dunham, John, "The British India Holdings of the State Library
of Victoria", La Trobe Library Journal, V. 4. no. 16, October
1975, pp. 77-88.
Dunham, John, Sources for the Study of British India in the State
Library of Victoria: Part I: Serials, Melbourne, Library Council
of Victoria, 1977.
McVilly, David, A History of the State Library of Victoria 1853-74,
unpublished MA thesis, Monash University, 1975.