Book Catalogues of the Colonial Southern Hemisphere (BCCSH)

Overview and Scope

BCCSH is a digital archive of primarily English-language book catalogues published in colonial Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Straits Settlements (Singapore, Malacca, and Penang) between 1780-1870. The SouthHem team has identified and collected nearly 500 extant catalogues from the relevant period and region. The types of catalogues included in the archive are library catalogues (for subscription libraries, mechanics’ institutes, public libraries, and circulating libraries); bookseller catalogues; auction catalogues; and the catalogues of private collectors.

Apart from the few exceptions listed below, the BCCSH digital archive aims to record and reproduce every known surviving English-language book catalogue published within the relevant period regardless of genre or type. Where catalogues have already been digitised, links are provided. Where catalogues have not previously been digitised and permissions have been granted, the SouthHem team has produced a high-quality pdf version for inclusion in BCCSH. Where an extant catalogue exists but it has not been possible to reproduce/digitise it, this has been noted below and within the archive.

BCCSH does not currently include book catalogues (published or unpublished) in Malay, Arabic, Chinese, or other local or indigenous languages. It also does not list any catalogues in English solely devoted to Malay, Arabic, Chinese, or other local or indigenous manuscripts. Where relevant, BCCSH includes catalogues in European languages such as Dutch, as well as collections of foreign language books within English language catalogues. BCCSH does not include catalogues of official government records (whether in English or another language), such as court records or prison records, on the basis that these records did not circulate among colonial readers either in the open market or via subscription.

Archival Objectives

Along with borrowing records and newspaper advertisements, book catalogues are an important source of empirical evidence on how books were bought, sold, collected, distributed, and circulated. The primary aims of the BCCSH digital archive are three-fold:

  1. to provide a comprehensive list of extant English-language book catalogues that were published in the region within the relevant dates of the project (1780-1870)
  2. to provide a digitised copy of each of these catalogues (where possible)
  3. to provide a brief description of each of the catalogues, indicating the number, type, and range of books it contains, as well as elucidating the immediate context of the catalogue and the institutions or persons to which it refers

The BCCSH archive can provide users with the following kinds of information:

  1. name, type, and number of auctioneers who auctioned books in the colonies
  2. a sense of the relative frequency of book auctions within the relevant dates
  3. name, type, and number of booksellers in the colonies and/or who were selling books to the colonies
  4. name, type, and number of publishers and printers who published and printed catalogues in the colonies and/or for booksellers selling in or to the colonies
  5. titles, genres, and number of books held and distributed by booksellers and auctioneers in the colonies
  6. a list of some of the region’s earliest cultural institutions and an insight into their book collections
  7. an insight into the institutional practices of these institutions, including how they viewed their roles and organised information
  8. titles, genres, and number of books held by these institutions
  9. diachronic and synchronic information, including an indication of how book holdings and institutional practices changed across time and place
  10. relational data (i.e. an indication of the relationships between book collectors, auctioneers, administrators, librarians, journalists etc.)
  11. information about any marginalia or other annotations in the catalogues

BCCSH therefore not only aims to provide an indication of the number and types of books available in the British colonies under consideration, but also the opportunity to analyse and compare the ways in which these book holdings changed over space and time. Additionally, the archive can provide insights into burgeoning colonial print, publishing, advertising, and consumer cultures, as well as an opportunity to consider different institutional practises and the formation/ organisation of knowledge and taste.

Archival Policy

With the few exceptions listed below, BCCHS lists and provides digital links to surviving catalogues published in the British-controlled Southern Hemisphere and Straits Settlements between 1780-1870. Existing research suggests that these surviving book catalogues represent only a small proportion of the total number of such catalogues produced in the colonies within those dates. However, the sample included in BCCHS is large and varied enough to provide the best available indication of the number and kinds of books circulating in the colonies.

Where a digitised copy of a catalogue could not be provided because of its fragile state, this has been recorded below and in the notes section of the individual catalogue entry in the BCCSH archive. Where a catalogue contains any marginalia or other forms of annotation, this has also been recorded in the notes section of the catalogue entry. Where more than one catalogues has been bound within a larger volume, the catalogues have been entered separately in the archive, as per their original published form.

As of this website’s release date (December 2017), approximately 80 per cent of the sourced catalogues have been digitised. The remaining 20 per cent will be undertaken when the catalogues become available or when issues surrounding permissions have been resolved. Notes, analyses, and visualisations of the catalogues and book-holdings are ongoing.

Library catalogue descriptions include the following abbreviations:

  • British Library (BL)
  • National Library of Australia (NLA)
  • National Library of Singapore (NLS)
  • National Library of South Africa (NLSA)
  • Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand (ATL)
  • Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales (ML)
  • State Library Victoria (SLV)
  • State Library of Tasmania (SLT)
  • State Library of South Australia (SLSA)
  • State Library of Queensland (SLQ)
  • State Library of Western Australia (SLWA)
  • University of Melbourne (UniM)
  • University of Sydney (Usyd)
  • Bodleian Library, Oxford University (BOD)

Unavailable Catalogues

Catalogue of the Library of the Parliament of Victoria (RARELT 017.105 [1864-65]): too fragile to digitise

Trade Catalogue of Books, Stationery, &C.:R. (RARELT 070.50294 T67G): too fragile to digitise

Catalogue of Books recently added to the Library of the General Assembly, New Zealand (RARESF_ -- 010.4 B47 [V. 90]): currently missing from the SLV

Catalogue of the Collection of Books in the English Language in the Public South African Public Library (NLSA G.15.a.2(2)): currently missing from the NLSA/ no extant copy located

Technical Design

Mr Niall O’Leary, Digital Humanities Specialist: