Celebrating our rare books collection this Children’s Book Week at the Menzies Library

15 Aug 2023

This Children’s Book Week, the ANU Library is celebrating classic children’s fiction with an exhibit from our Mortlake rare books collection in the Menzies Library. The Mortlake Collection contains a wonderful selection of rare and antique children’s books, including some well-known titles like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Robin Hood and some lesser known works, which we are very lucky to have in our Rare Books collection.

Some of the rare books you can see as part of the exhibit in the Menzies Foyer are:

  • Aesop’s Fables, 1545
  • Little Women, 1880
  • Girl’s Own Annual, 1883
  • Baron Munchausen, 1878
  • Japanese Fairy Tales – Princess Splendor, 1885
  • Mother Goose’s stories for children, 1890


See the exhibit

The exhibit is running in the foyer of the R G Menzies Library from Friday 14 August. View the exhibit from 9am to 8 pm Monday, and 9am to 5pm Tuesday-Friday.

No registration required!


About the Mortlake collection

Over a number of years in the 1970s, the ANU Library expanded its academic collection in a somewhat unusual direction—children’s literature. Acquired from an antiquarian bookseller in London, Mr Harold Mortlake, the Mortlake Collection consists of approximately ten thousand volumes of material read in England during the Victorian age, including 19th century Gothic literature and rare juvenile books.

 “The Collection brings to light aspects of life in England from about 1780 to 1914. As a research tool today these items are multidisciplinary. They could appeal to historians, social scientists, artists, as well as researchers interested in philosophy, religion, classical literature or even politics. The possibilities are endless!” – University Librarian, Roxanne Missingham.

The collection is a treasured part of the ANU Library rare books collection and encapsulates a unique and significant moment in history. Books were first marketed to children in the eighteenth century, but it was during the nineteenth century that the concept of the children’s book really took off, with illustrated collections of children’s stories and novels written for children becoming commercially successful. The items included in this exhibit perfectly capture this moment in time and celebrate part of the history of children’s literature.

As part of our Colour a Collection series, you can download a printable booklet of images from books in the Mortlake collection on the Library website.


Also in the exhibit

In addition to the books, comics and games from the Mortlake collection, the exhibit also contains non-English language texts, including Harry Potter in Mandarin, Red Riding Hood in Arabic and other Asian and Pacific language primer texts.


Why we were celebrating Children’s Book Week

Children’s Book Week has been running since 1945, celebrating Australian children's books, authors and illustrators. The theme of this year’s Children’s Book Week – running 19-25 August – is Read, Grow, Inspire. The Awards are open to books aimed at readers aged up to 18.

The books we read as children and young people can have a major impact on our beliefs and opinions, and can stay with us well into our adult lives. Finding pieces of ourselves in the characters we read can be a source of solace in a time of great change as young people seek to find where they belong in the world.

Comment on our social media posts this week letting us know which children’s books have had a lasting impact on you!

You can see the Children’s Book exhibit in the Menzies foyer until the end of August. To explore what other resources we have on children’s fiction, have a look at the collections below.


Rare Books Collection

A valuable part of the Menzies Library’s Rare Books Collection is the Mortlake Collection, which includes many children’s books from the 1800s.


Books and journals

Our catalogue includes a great many resources and materials dealing with children’s literature, including physical and digital books, articles, and journals. Explore our collection via the Library search function.



The Library has an extensive collection of digitised theses from previous ANU HDR candidates, including a number focussing on different aspects of children’s literature.