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A Brief History of the University of Sydney Library

[Compiled from published texts and articles]

I Beginnings

Image of first book, Lexicon Graeco LatinumIn 1851 the University Senate formed a committee to select books even before any professors were appointed. The first volume acquired was a Greek-Latin lexicon.

Further books and a book case were purchased from local resident Rev Dr Mackaen in 1852 and a list of desiderata was sent to London.

Frederick Hale Forshall "late scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge" was appointed Librarian in 1852. He resigned after 15 months and the position of Librarian lapsed for sixty years, during which time the Library was under the general direction of the Registrar, aided by an "Assistant Librarian".

The library in what is now the University Senate RoomA room on the first floor in the Main Building (now the Senate Room) was prepared for the Library in 1857. A year later the first meeting of the Library Committee considered a list of books needed for the Library, a list of periodicals held, the desirability of a catalogue and revision of library rules. The Committee's first resolution was a recommendation to the Senate that "further bookshelves be provided in the Library for the books for which at the present time there is no room".

In 1878, after decades of sporadic additions, businessman Thomas Walker purchased and presented to the University the private library of the late Nicol Stenhouse, lawyer and leading figure in Sydney's literary and cultural life. The 4,000 volumes precipitated an accommodation crisis and a library building became the University's most pressing need.

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