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The State Library of Victoria's India Related Holdings



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 in India.

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 Warfare.

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
Asian Studies
La Trobe University, VIC 3086
Tel: 61 + 3 9479 2064
Fax: 61 + 3 9479 1880

Main source:
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.

See also:
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.

Page maintained by: Project Officer
Last Updated: 25 July, 2006

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