University Library

Special collections

Special Collections contains the University's rare, unique and vulnerable library materials.

Location, Hours and Access

  • Location
    The Special Collections are housed on the second floor of the Reid Library building. Visitors' parking is available in Car Park 3 next to the Reid Library (Hackett Drive entrance no. 1).
  • Hours
    Special Collections is open 1.00pm - 4.00pm Monday to Friday. Service outside these hours is possible if arranged in advance with the Special Collections Manager (telephone 08 6488 4789. Please check the Opening Hours for public holiday and summer vacation hours.
  • Access
    The Special Collections are a national resource and may be consulted on request by anyone with a bona fide interest in the material. You do not need to be a UWA student or staff member. Identify the specific items you require from OneSearch, and ask the staff at the Special Collection Inquiry Desk for access. You will be asked to complete a request form and read the item in the Special Collections reading area. These items cannot normally be photocopied, though digital cameras may be used to photograph some material.
  • Non-registered visitors may be asked to present a current photographic ID issued by a government agency or educational institution and evidence of their address (if this is not incorporated in the photographic ID) when they complete a request form. Some of the collections of personal papers can only be used with the permission of the author or copyright holder. We encourage you to contact us in advance of your visit if you wish to consult early printed books or manuscript collections.

Australian literature

Australian literature, and especially Western Australian literature, is one of the main collecting areas for Special Collections. The extensive collection of books and journals includes the library assembled by Peter Cowan and the collection of Western Australian poetry books amassed by William Grono.

There is also a growing collection of Australian literary manuscripts.

Australian Literature Collection

The Collection aims to cover all literary works produced in Australia or by Australian authors up to 1980. This is supplemented by more general material about Australian history, politics, and culture, with particular emphasis on early accounts of European exploration and settlement, and the indigenous people of Australia.

Anthology of Australian Poetry to 1920

This Anthology has been selected and edited by John Kinsella, poet, novelist, critic, publisher and journal editor. Full text online.

Australian Literary manuscripts

A collection of personal papers from Australian authors like A.B. Facey, Arthur Upfield, Robert Drewe, John Kinsella, Tracy Ryan, Dave Warner, Dennis Haskell and Peter Cowan. The archives of the literary journal Westerly and local publishing house Access Press are also held.

Peter Cowan Collection of Australian Literature

Containing about 3000 volumes, this collection is especially strong in literary works of the later nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries. It also includes material on Australian history, exploration, art and natural history.

William Grono Collection of Western Australian Poetry

Includes more than 700 volumes of poetry by W.A. authors published between 1908 and 2010 that have been collected by poet/lecturer, Bill Grono.

Graham Stone Collection of Science Fiction

One of the foremost authorities and collectors of Australian Science fiction, Graham Stone assembled a large assortment of overseas publications with Australian Science fiction content.


Indian Ocean collections

The Indian Ocean is an integral part of the history and contemporary life of Western Australia. The Indian Ocean Region is a major focus for the collecting activities of Special Collections.

Shipping and trade, colonial and imperial histories, ecological and environmental change are all illustrated and documented in the Special Collections. Major book collections include those assembled by Indian shipping executive D. S. Erulkar and UWA Professor Frank Broeze. Personal papers include those of environmental researchers Ernest Hodgkin and George Seddon and historian Leslie Marchant.

Erulkar Collection

The history of the Eastern Indian Ocean region, especially the maritime history of India, is the focus of this collection. Built around a library of rare books, manuscripts, journals and other materials collected by David Solomon Erulkar, an Indian shipping executive, the collection also includes material from the Library's own collections.

Frank Broeze Memorial Library

The collection of Professor Frank Broeze, formerly of the Department of History at the University of Western Australia, focusses on maritime history and shipping. It includes a considerable amount of Dutch and German material and more general books on modern political and economic history.

Melville Papers

The papers of Lord Melville, Henry Dundas (1742-1811) contain more than 2,000 pages of correspondence and documents relating to the East India Company and Indian trade in the later 18th century. They include correspondence dating from c.1763, material relating to the construction of ships for the East India Company in the 18th century, and reports of the East India Company Special Committee. A finding aid is available on Research Data Online.

Marchant Papers

The collection of Professor Leslie R. Marchant (1924-2004) contains papers, notebooks, correspondence, publications, illustrations, maps, microfilms, audio cassettes, photographic material (photographs and negatives), and other material relating to various academic interests, in particular China and Australia's early maritime history. A finding aid is available on Research Data Online.

Rare books and manuscripts

Some of these collections include items that require special handling and/or permissions for access.

Rare Books

This is a restricted-access collection of items which includes early imprints, limited editions, illustrated folios and books considered rare and/or fragile. The purpose of this collection is to ensure the long-term preservation of this kind of material. The Rare Book Collection covers a wide range of subjects, but is particularly strong in European history, literature and theology of the medieval and Early Modern periods. A significant number of the books in the collection were donated by the Friends of the Library.

Malvina Evalyn Wood Collection

This collection contains scarce items published during the periods 1850 - 1920 that once resided on the open shelves but which do not fall within the scope of the other collections in Special Collections. Many of these items were acquired during the time of the first University Librarian, Miss Malvina Evalyn Wood.

Manuscript Collection

Special Collections houses a wide range of manuscript material: items from the pre-printing era, printed works in their original manuscript form, and personal papers of authors and researchers. Included in the Manuscript Collection are Australian literary works, correspondence, medieval manuscripts, and an unpublished history of the University of Western Australia. Some finding aids are available on Research Data Online [under Special Collections].

Blackall Legal Manuscripts

Included in the manuscript collection are more than 40 legal documents mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries. Many are written on vellum and they date from 1387 to 1904.

Literature and theatre

In addition to the Australian literature and UWA theatre collections are other named collections in the field of Literature and theatre.

Somerset Maugham Collection

This collection, compiled by Australian collector William Riley, incorporates copies of all Maugham's major works including many first and limited editions, proof copies, signed and inscribed copies, books from Maugham's own library, and ephemera. There are approximately 600 monographs in the collection, and in excess of 2,000 items in all.

The ephemera consists of over 60 journal volumes containing reminiscences by and about Maugham; reviews; biographical sketches; souvenir programmes, handbills and posters related to his plays; some correspondence from Maugham; portraits; and letters to and from William Riley concerning Maugham and the collection.

Alec King Collection

Alec King was a former UWA staff member from the 1940s to the 1960s. His collection contains about 500 volumes of twentieth-century English literature, primarily poetry. There are a number of valuable first editions of Auden, Eliot, Joyce and C. Day Lewis, including some signed copies.

Theatre Collection

The basis of the Theatre Collection was a donation by the Playhouse Theatre in 1982. This donation encompassed material from the mid-1950s to 1982. It includes copies of plays (published and unpublished), typescript copies, prompt copies, programmes, playbills, posters, press releases and clippings, and reviews. Although it is primarily related to drama, there is also some material dealing with opera, ballet and film.

University collections

The University of Western Australia

These collections include published material from academic and administrative sections, publications about The University, and masters and doctoral theses.

The University Archives holds unpublished administrative records and selected personal papers from academics.

University Collection

The University Collection contains published material produced by bodies associated with the University of Western Australia, notably the Guild of Undergraduates and Faculties and Centres. It also houses works published about the University and its activities.

Unpublished administrative documents are not normally included in the University Collection. The only significant exceptions are minutes and agendas of the University's main decision-making bodies, and examination papers. The University Archives are responsible for collecting the administrative records of the University.

Thesis Collection

The Library maintains a separate collection of postgraduate theses (mostly masters and doctoral) as a record of research carried out at the University of Western Australia. The earliest thesis in the collection is a Master of Arts dating from 1915, only two years after the University opened. UWA theses can be found using OneSearch and most recent theses are available full text online. Earlier theses are kept in Store and require a store request.

The UWA Centenary Theatre Collection

The members of UWATCH (UWA Theatres on Campus History) presented the foundation collection to the University as a centenary gift in 2013. The collection comprises programmes, posters, photographs, reviews and costume designs for UWA theatre productions by students and graduates. Most of the items have been entered on the AusStage database. A related collection is the Performing Arts at UWA papers.

UWA Publishing

The archive of all publications from UWA Press, now known as UWA Publishing, is held in Special Collections. Publications date from 1935.

Donations and Friends of the Library

Donations and Support

You can support the work of the Special Collections through donations of material, funds and research expertise.

Donations have included the archives of composer Jennifer Fowler, and an important early illustrated book on surgery (1678) by Ambroise Paré, donated by Dr Richard Williams.

Funding and offers of support are also welcomed for other purposes, including preservation and conservation, digitization, and sorting and listing of collections.

Friends of the Library

The Friends of the UWA Library are active in raising funds to buy rare and unique materials for Special Collections.

These have included maps like the Polus Antarcticus of Jan Jansson (1650) and local artist Gareth Morse's drawings of the construction of the Duyfken replica.