05 May 2011

Forthcoming Publication: 'Book Life: The Life and Times of David Scott Mitchell'

Book Life: The Life and Times of David Scott Mitchell by Eileen Chanin explores Australia's greatest book collector, whose personal library was bequeathed to the people of Australia in 1898 and established what is today one of the country's preeminent research libraries.

D. S. Mitchell (1836-1907)
(Australian Dictionary of Biography)
Mitchell - who had a hansom cab permanently booked for his Monday visits to book dealers - initially collected in the areas of early printing, medieval manuscripts, and Elizabethan and Romantic literature. He developed an interest in collecting Australian literature by the mid-1860s, which morphed into an obsession for anything Australiana by the 1880s. By the time of Mitchell's death in 1907, his collection numbered some 60,000 items comprised of books, maps, manuscripts and works of art. Mitchell, in addition to his collection, also bequeathed 70,000 pounds (the equivalent of 5.8m pounds today) for collection development and preservation purposes. The Mitchell Library (part of the State Library of New South Wales) officially opened in Sydney in March 1910.

View of Corridor, Mitchell's Residence, ca. 1907
(Courtesy State Library of New South Wales)

Book Life is to be the basis of an upcoming panel session called 'Knowing the Real David Scott Mitchell', part of the Sydney Writers' Festival being held from 16 to 22 May (the Mitchell panel meets on 18 May). Copies of Book Life may be ordered through Australian Scholarly Publishing.

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