The entrance to the library today
The Melbourne Athenaeum Library, a spacious, quiet and light-filled centre for book-lovers started as a collection of donated books in a small rented house at the corner of Queen Street and Bourke Street.
An annual subscription of one pound enabled members to become part of an educational and cultural hub. Lectures, classes and a museum were part of the plan but the library was regarded as the heart of the Institution, a place of knowledge that embodied the aims of the institution: 'the diffusion of scientific and useful knowledge among its members and the community generally.'
Among the first books donated were those of Henry Gisborne, a vice-president elected at the founding meeting in 1839. Read about Henry's gift of books by Matthew Gisborne, a member of the Melbourne Athenaeum's Committee of Management: The First Books.
In 1843 the Library was moved to the ground floor of the Mechanics' Institution's new, two-storey building in Collins Street.
Over the years there were many improvements to ensure members had a comfortable, well-stocked Library. A separate Reading Room was established, providing regional and overseas newspapers and magazines – a highly-valued asset in a colonial town. By 1845 the library contained 650 volumes and membership had grown to 224.
The history of the captivity of Napoleon at St Helena, by Hudson Lowe
London, published by John Murray, 1853
If you would like to become a member of the Melbourne Athenaeum Library see the website for further details and to search the catalogue:
Melbourne Athenaeum Library website
Melbourne Athenaeum Library catalogue