Inaugural rare book week comes to Sydney

24 October 2019
Sydney Rare Book Week co-convened by the University's library
A 15th century book featuring a rare drawing by famous Renaissance artist Giorgione will be one of the many treasures showcased at the inaugural Sydney Rare Book Week on 27 October - 2 November.

Two workshops held at the University of Sydney’s Fisher Library will give visitors an opportunity to create a small memento with a 19th century iron hand-printing press originally used for book printing until the 1850s.

Co-convened by the University of Sydney Library and State Library of New South Wales, the week-long program of free talks and workshops runs from Sunday 27 October to Saturday 2 November

Inspired by the Melbourne rendition of rare book week, which is in its eighth consecutive year, the Sydney organisers say the events offer an opportunity to go behind the scenes of Sydney’s cultural institutions and celebrate the importance of books and literature.

“The importance of rare books in the digital age lies in their materiality,” said Julie Sommerfeldt, Manager of Rare Books & Special Collections at the University of Sydney Library.

“Ownership marks, annotations and even damage can give us tantalizing clues to the history of these significant items, the culture in which they were produced and how they were regarded and used through time.” 

“We hope this year’s inaugural rare book week will provide the blueprint for future years, so it becomes part of Sydney’s rich cultural landscape.”

Discovery of rare art in rare book

Giorgione’s sketch of the Madonna and Child and the inscription. Credit: Sarah Lorien. 

Earlier this year, a red chalk drawing discovered in a 1497 copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy in the University of Sydney Library was attributed to the elusive Renaissance artist, Giorgione.

International expert on Giorgione, Emeritus Professor Jaynie Anderson from the University of Melbourne, will explain the remarkable chance finding and how it might help rewrite Venetian art history at an evening lecture on Thursday 31 October.

Sydney’s old library transforms for rare book fair

The week’s events culminate in a rare book fair at MacLaurin Hall, the University’s first purpose-built library, formerly the Fisher Library, which is now heritage listed.

Located in the University of Sydney’s Quadrangle Building, the Hall served as the main library from 1909 until 1962 when it relocated to the current library on Eastern Avenues.

Exhibitors from across the country will descend on the Hall on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 November for the 2019 Sydney Rare Book Fair.

Try your hand at the Albion printing press

Participants will have the opportunity to try their hand at hand-printing. 

Letterpress printing using a hand-operated printing press was invented by Gutenburg in the mid-15th Century. Today, these presses are largely regarded as museum pieces, but hand-printing is enjoying a renaissance among modern-day artists. 

Presented by the University of Sydney Library’s 2019 Printer in Residence, Barbara Campbell, the hands-on workshop on Monday 28 October and Tuesday 29 October gives a rare glimpse behind the scenes of letterpress printing and allows participants to try the craft for themselves.

Featured image: Interior view of the reading room in MacLaurin Hall, 1908, G3_224_1550. Credit: University of Sydney Archives. 

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