Rare Book Group


RBG  events follow Covid-19 guidelines

Rare Book Group (RBG)

The RBG has been running successfully since 2012 – it’s history has been captured by Jill Kerby.

Resumption of face-to-face sessions in 2022 is subject to ongoing public health matters and the views of members.  Due to the ongoing need to provide social distancing, sessions can no longer be held in the RGS Library but are held in the Jervois Room, which is on the ground floor of the Mortlock Wing at the southern (North Terrace) end.  To achieve this, we have had to change the dates to the fourth Friday of the month.

This event is free for members of the RGSSA. Non-members are welcome to attend and tickets are available for $10 per person. The RGSSA welcomes new members who wish to make a contribution to the success of the society.  There is a limit of 24 people at each meeting. To ensure a place please book through the following link which will become active a few weeks before each session

Bookings Essential via Eventbrite

2022 Program

February 25 - POSTPONED
March 25 - Field Trip to SA Museum - Illustrating the Antipodes: George French Angas 1844-5

The SA Museum’s exhibition draws together nearly 200 artworks, sketches and books by colonial George French Angas as well as items relating to his life and the places he travelled. It includes works from national and State Cultural institutions (including two from the RGSSA) as well as private collections.

Join curator Philip Jones for an exclusive guided tour of this amazing exhibition. For RGSSA members only.

April 29 - Colonisation and Bibles in early South Australia

In 1836, systematic colonizing brought eight ships with the first European settlers to South Australia. There were agents with those ships who handed out bibles. RGSSA Past-President Rod Shearing will outline under whose direction this was done and why.

Please wear your RGSSA name badge. Masks may be compulsory.

May 27 - George Isaacs – Colonial wordsmith and author of the first novel published in South Australia

Presented by Dr Anne Black

June 24 - Field trip to the SA Museum’s Australian Polar Collection - Mawson, Wilkins and Rymill

Presented by Mark Pharoah, South Australian Museum, this trip will start in the Jervois Room of the State Library

July 29 - The Benham Collection in the RGSSA Library

Presented by Wynton Heading

2019 Program

The Rare Book Room: its RGSSA contents, protection, and preservation.  

28th November

The climate-controlled, high-security Rare Book Room of the State Library holds about 50 items owned by the Society, ranging from single letters to huge volumes of art work.

Hear from State Library staff how the Rare Book room is managed, how audits and conservation take place and look at some of the rare and valuable contents not recently shown at a Rare Book Discussion Group session.


16th and 17th Century editions of voyages to the Americas by the De Bry family.

26th September

The de Bry family in the late 16th and early 17th century published some of the greatest collections of voyages to the Americas by European explorers. Theodor trained under his grandfather and father as a goldsmith and engraver of copper plates in the Flemish town of Liege.

The images portrayed in the copper plate engravings are of the highest artistic quality.  The Society is very fortunate to have all 13 parts of this very rare collection.

Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis.  

25th July

These natural phenomena have fascinated and puzzled observers and scientists alike over the centuries.

The RGSSA library contains some spine-tingling first-hand descriptions of these dramatic events.  Equally interesting are the early attempts to explain them, and to see how the threads were gradually drawn together into the modern theory of Plate Tectonics.

Antarctic Exploration: from Weddell to Wilkins.

27th June

Antarctica was explored by sea from 1822 on- wards, and on land from 1898 by Bernacchi, Shackleton and Mawson, This was followed by the “race” to the South  Pole by Norwegian Amundsen and Britain’s Scott in 1911-12.  What else does our Collection hold on this amazing “last place on earth”, recently visited by our presenter?

Children’s literature in the Society’s Collection

23rd May

Did you know that our library contains an illustrated children’s tale, written in verse by the poet Robert Burns whose statue stands in the forecourt of the State Library?

What other literature does the Society’s collection hold? Why was it included in the Society’s collection?

John and Elizabeth Gould, Ornithology, Art and Entrepreneurship.
By popular demand an additional session – 30 May at 10:30 am

18th April

John Gould is well known for his work in the mid-19th century identifying and recording birds and publishing his beautifully illustrated folios of birds including the eight volumes of Birds of Australia. Gould used various artists for his finished works including Edward Lear and his wife Elizabeth who is not so well known, but who was a major contributor, meanwhile having eight children. Gould visited Adelaide and Kangaroo Island and went on a short expedition with Charles Sturt.

The RGSSA and the State Library of SA have an impressive collection of original books of John Gould’s illustrations many of which will be on display.

Flax and its use from ancient to modern times.
Thursday 28 March

Flax has been cultivated and used in many countries over the ages principally for fibre (linen), seed, and oil. Linen cloth spun, woven and dyed, was used
for thousands of years before paper and printed rec- ords for royal, religious, funerary and ceremonial purposes.

For many, the fibre represented currency, bartered in trade from country to country, prior to the development of money or coin currency.

Newspaper Clippings from 1860 to 1880.
Thursday 28th February 2019

Charles Davies MD had many hobbies including collecting cuttings from several Adelaide newspa-pers, carefully pasting them into 36 volumes of scrapbooks.

Articles were written with all the prejudices of the day and seen through the eyes of those who were there to witness the events of the time.

The Society has a large collection of Rare Books and Maps.