Edward Petherick

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Edward Augustus Petherick, CMG, (6 March 1847 – 17 September 1917) was an Australian book collector, his collection became the basis of the Australiana section of the then Commonwealth National Library (now National Library of Australia).

Petherick was born in England and moved with his family to Australia when he was five years old. He was employed by the bookseller George Robertson from 1862, travelling to London in 1870 as a buyer. In addition to his work for Robertson, Petherick was privately engaged in compiling a bibliography of Australian and Pacific material. With his contacts in the book trade Petherick soon began collecting.

In 1887 Petherick set up the Colonial Booksellers' Agency in London but in 1894 the company was bankrupted. Assistance from family and friends, however, enabled Petherick to preserve his extensive private collection.

During the next 17 years Petherick tried to interest the Commonwealth of Australia in buying his collection. While never in doubt about the significance of the Petherick Collection, the Commonwealth found itself in a difficult position. Petherick had made it a condition that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library employ him to continue his monumental bibliography. Aged in his early sixties, Petherick was considered too old to be employed by the Australian Public Service. Finally, in 1911 the Commonwealth Government passed the Petherick Act, enabling the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library to employ Petherick as Archivist for an annuity of £500.


Serle, Percival (1949). "Petherick, Edward Augustus". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. 

Additional references from the Dictionary of Australian Biography:

  • The Argus, Melbourne, 18 September 1917
  • Debrett's Peerage, etc., 1917
  • P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography.

Additional references from Australian Dictionary of Biography:

  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth), 1910
  • C. McDonald papers MS40 (National Library of Australia)
  • Petherick papers MS41, MS760 and letter files (National Library of Australia)
  • Petherick bibliography of Australia and Polynesia (National Library of Australia).

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