State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 16 October 1975


Notes on Major Accessions of Private Papers

Progress is being made in the processing of some of the major accessions of private papers acquired by the La Trobe Library over recent years. A number of important collections are now available for reference, accompanied by full descriptive inventories. Some of the collections recently processed are the following:—

Robert Brough Smyth. Papers. 1820–1889 and undated.

R. Brough Smyth was a geologist and mineralogist, Victorian civil servant, amateur meteorologist and anthropologist, his major publications being The Goldfields And Mineral Districts Of Victoria (Melb., 1869) and The Aborigines Of Victoria (Melb., 1878). The La Trobe Library collection of his papers, relating mainly to his work in the Victorian civil service and to his geological and anthropological interests, comprises: correspondence (1856–83), mainly on scientific subjects and concerning the Paris Universal Exhibition 1867 and Indian gold resources, including letters from Sir Henry Barkly, Sir Redmond Barry. Charles Darwin, F. W. Haddon, W. J. Henwood, Sir Charles Lyell, Adam Sedgwick and Sir Ferdinand Von Mueller; manuscript notes for lectures and articles by Smyth and manuscript notes by Douglas Jerrold; manuscript notes and sketch maps by William Thomas, to whom a considerable number of sketches in the collection relating to Australian Aborigines have also been attributed; further maps and pictorial items, both original and printed; newspaper cuttings and several published items. A descriptive inventory is available for reference.
The collection was arranged by Miss Julie Ager.

John Percy Jones. Papers. 1890–1955.

J. P. Jones (1872–1955) was a leading foundation organiser of the Socialist Party, the Fabian Society and the Labor Party in Victoria. He was elected as a Labor member of the Legislative Council in 1910, and then served in successive Labor ministries from 1911 until he broke with the party in 1932 over the implementation of the Premier's Plan. He continued as Minister for Public Works in Sir Stanley Argyle's National government, remaining in parliament until 1940. As a highly successful business man Jones had been something of an anachronism in Socialist and Labor ranks.
The collection strongly reflects Jones's
political career. His socialist beginnings, including contact with fellow socialists in Australia and Europe (Tom Mann, Keir Hardie, Jean Longuet and others) are represented through a significant portion of the correspondence as well as in several photographs. There are also manifestos, circulars and membership cards of several early Labor-socialist groups (including the Knights of Labor, Social Democratic Federation, Progressive Political League and several others), and brief minute books for the United Labor and Liberal Party (1894) and the North Melbourne Working Men's Club (c.1897). There are also some items relating to the Tocsin newspaper including receipts made out by Norman and Lionel Lindsay for drawings done for the paper (1897).
Jones's role in the Labor Party and in government (Labor and non-Labor) is evidenced through all aspects of the papers — official records, private correspondence, speech notes etc. The split with the Labor Party is especially well documented.
His business interests are only scantily represented. There are very few family letters.
The collection was arranged by Mr. Ross Gibbs.

David Syme and family. Papers. 1856–1967.

The Syme Papers are a particularly valuable record of the development of one of the major Victorian newspapers, as a family business. The central figure is of course David Syme, whose correspondence (1862–1905) and letter-books (1871–1907) constitute the core of the collection. However, the political influence he exerted through The Age is only minimally apparent, in a small number of letters from public figures, a few entries in the letterbooks. and occasional passing references in correspondence with other members of the family.
The collection consists of correspondence to (and between) various members of the Syme family, notably David and his youngest son Oswald, with some other correspondence relating to The Age business; letterbooks and notebooks of David and his son Geoffrey; documents, plant registers and other papers relating to The Age business; financial records; records of David Syme's residential and rural property enterprises, notably “Killara” in the Yarra Valley (1898–1907), “Mellool” on the Murray River near Swan Hill (1905–19) and “Melbourne Mansions” residential and professional chambers in Collins St. (1904–11); several personal documents, family letters and ephemera; newspaper cuttings and small printed items.
Each distinct stage in the development of the business, is represented. The original purchase of The Age by Ebenezer Syme in 1856, and his partnership with David until his death in 1860 are represented by correspondence and documents of agreements. Following Ebenezer's death, David continued in partnership with his brother's widow and sons, one of whom, Joseph Cowan Syme, joined the staff of The Age in 1868. An almost complete run of correspondence to David from Ebenezer's widow and sons remains, which, together with the replies entered in David's letterbooks, the documents of the partnerships, financial statements and plant records, present an almost complete picture of the development of the business for the period 1860–1891. In 1891 David Syme bought his nephew's share in the business and continued as sole proprietor until his death in 1908, a stage represented primarily by the letterbooks and financial records. The operation of David Syme & Co. as a trust company following David's death, its incorporation in 1948 and subsequent operation as a public company are represented by papers relating to the establishment of the trust and the complex process of incorporation, and correspondence to Oswald Syme.
In addition, there is a small collection of papers of C. E. Sayers, consisting mainly of correspondence and rough notes, relating to work on his biography of David Syme, David Syme: A Life, Melbourne, Cheshire, 1965.
The collection occupies 17 boxes. A full descriptive list is currently in preparation and will become available early in 1976.
The papers have been arranged by Miss Julie Ager.

H. G. Turner Papers.

Henry Gyles Turner was born in London in
1831 and as a youth was apprenticed to William Pickering, the publisher and bookseller. In 1851 he accepted an appointment in the London Joint Stock Bank, but following an offer by the Bank of Australasia in Melbourne, he sailed in 1854 by S.S. Argo for Victoria. In 1870 he was appointed manager of the Commercial Bank of Australia, which he raised to the status of one of Australia's leading banks by the time of his retirement in 1901.
Turner's early association with William Pickering no doubt stimulated his literary talents, which he pursued throughout his career, although it was only during his retirement that he was able to devote himself fully to his major interests.
His principal published works are The Development Of Australian Literature (in collaboration with Alexander Sutherland, 1898), A History Of The Colony Of Victoria (2 vols. 1904), The First Decade Of The Australian Commonwealth (1911) and Our Own Little Rebellion: The Story Of The Eureka Stockade (1913).
During his lifetime, Turner was a member of many societies and institutions, including the Melbourne Shakespeare Society, the Australian Literature Society, the Unitarian Church, in which his sister, Martha, was a preacher, and from 1905 until his death in 1920 was President of the Trustees of the Public Library and National Gallery. He was also a contributor to several journals and newspapers including the Melbourne Review (1876–1885) of which he was one of the originators and editor during the last four years of its existence.
The Henry Gyles Turner Papers reveal little of his life as a banker apart from articles in banking journals, but fully reflect his literary, historical and religious interests. The collection contains the original manuscripts of A History Of The Colony Of Victoria and The First Decade Of The Australian Commonwealth. There are some 60 addresses to the Melbourne Shakespeare Society, Australian Literary Society, the Beefsteak Club, Unitarian Church, the Public Library, Melbourne, and other organisations, and several volumes of press cuttings. Much valuable autobiographical material up to 1890 is provided in his Personal Memorabilia, the account of his voyage to Australia and subsequent visit to England in 1877.
The correspondence section of the papers is relatively small, but like the remainder of the collection is a reflection of his particular interests, and provides some commentary on his published works and the Australian literary scene in general by prominent contemporaries.
The collection was arranged by Miss Clarice Kemp.
John Thompson