Level 3 Mortlock Wing State Library of South Australia North Terrace Adelaide SA 5000

Catalogue of the York Gate Library and its compiler Edward Augustus Petherick

The internationally significant York Gate Library was acquired by the RGSSA in 1905. Its catalogues, published in 1882 and 1886, are unusual being arranged by subject rather than by author.  

York Gate 3 1882 Title Page

The bibliography was published as "Catalogue of the York Gate Library formed by Mr S. William Silver : An Index to the Literature of Geography, Maritime and Inland Discovery, Commerce and Colonisation". It was initially compiled by Edward Augustus Petherick (1847-1917) and published in 1882. A second, much larger edition, contained more than 6,000 titles when published in 1886. The RGSSA purchased the complete York Gate Library after Mr Silver died in London in 1905 and his collection formed a large part of our valuable Library. Silver acquired another 1700 or more titles between 1886 and 1905, but these were not published in a catalogue. However, they were added to the RGSSA card catalogue after the collection was acquired and are being gradually incorporated into the online catalogue of the Library.

The catalogue of the York Gate Library is unique in that it is far more than just a list of the authors, titles and references. As the library is largely based on geography the catalogue is divided into seventy- eight Divisions relating to a wide range of subjects including geography, economics, travel, exploration, botany and many other subjects.

More information about S. W Silver can be found in the 'Treasure' associated with S W Silver's portrait.

rgsp 017.2 P486

Augustus Petherick, an ‘Australian’, born EDWARD AUGUSTUS PETHERICK, 1847, was a bookseller, publisher, bibliographer and book collector. Petherick was born on 6 March 1847 at Burnham, Somerset, England. The family sailed from Bristol in the Kyle and arrived at Melbourne in March 1853 with 400 books. Edward could read at 5 and while working for his father attended Alfred Brunton's School at Fitzroy part-time until 1860.

In August 1862 he joined the bookselling and stationery firm of George Robertson, who was impressed by Edward's precocious knowledge of books and enthusiastic application to his duties. In his spare time he acted as secretary to the Sunday school at the Oxford Street Congregational Church, Collingwood, and its Penny Savings Bank and Young Men's Society.  In 1870 Robertson chose Petherick to reorganize the London office. He soon transformed the branch and remained manager till 1877 when the possibility of Robertson's retirement required him to return.

In 1865 William Silver had begun to collect titles for a catalogue or bibliography of Australia but put it aside in 1870. In 1878 he wrote: 'the business of the London department being well organised, I took up the work again; but finding I could do little without the books, I began to collect them—as they came within my grasp, and the savings of a limited salary'.

William Silver then recruited his friend Mr E A Petherick FRGS, ‘a gentleman who has made the history and bibliography of this branch of literature his especial study' to compile a catalogue of his collection.

In 1882 Petherick won public recognition as a bibliographer by publishing the Catalogue of the York Gate Geographical and Colonial Library. Its success prompted William Silver to enlarge his collection with help from Petherick whom he commissioned to prepare a second edition sub-titled 'An index to the Literature of Geography, Maritime and Inland Discovery, Commerce and Colonisation'. In 1894 Petherick’s cataloguing and book selling business went bankrupt, but he eventually traded his way out of that matter.

By 1894 Petherick had approached Edward Braddon and Duncan Gillies with an offer to present his own collection to 'Federated Australia', with him appointed librarian of the collection at a nominal salary. The offer was considered in December 1895 at a meeting of Australian agents-general who asked the Imperial Institute to house the collection. Although the institute was unable to co-operate Petherick clung to the idea of presenting the collection to the Australian people. When the Commonwealth came into being in 1901 he wrote on 15 March to Prime Minister (Sir) Edmund Barton proposing that the collection be added temporarily to 'the High Commissioner's Office' in London with himself as its custodian and buyer for the Federal Parliamentary Library. His approach was premature, and no action resulted. In 1905 on Silver's death Petherick was instrumental in persuading Silver’s widow to sell the York Gate collection to the Royal Geographical Society of SA.

The above is from the archive collection of the Way papers, held in the National Library of Australia; correspondence - in the UK in 1905 between Augustus Petherick, the SA Agent General in London and the widow of William Silver on the history of the sale of the York Gate Library to South Australia.