Australian Publishing cover sheet

Australian Publishing cover sheet
Article title:
AustLit: A Resource for Print Culture Research
Carol Hetherington
Institutional Affiliation:
Content Manager
University of Queensland
Contact Details:
Duhig Building Level 7
The University of Queensland
Brisbane Qld 4072 Australia
Telephone (07) 3365 4741 (International Prefix + 61 7)
Facsimile (07) 3365 7390
Email [email protected]
Biographical Note: Carol Hetherington is currently employed as Content Manager of
AustLit and as an editorial assistant for Australian Literary Studies. She has worked
for many years as a research assistant and bibliographer within the English
Department at the University of Queensland, and as a librarian in the University of
Queensland Fryer Library.
Abstract: Research into Australian literary production is hampered by the lack of
reference resources. Results from past research are largely scattered and often
inaccessible or needs up-dating. AustLit is a constantly updated on-line bibliographic
database, a national collaboration between eight universities and the National Library
of Australia, launched in 2002. Because of its currency, its ability to store and retrieve
information about publishers and printers, the publishing history of books,
newspapers and journals and its ability to incorporate new research into specially
focused, individually searchable subsets, AustLit is well-placed to fill this gap; it can
both support and benefit from research into Australia’s print culture.
AustLit: A Resource for Print Culture Research
Australian literary production has until relatively recently been a neglected area of
literary studies. However, the ‘History of the Book in Australia’ (HOBA) project
(which produced a first volume in 2001 with another due this year), the establishment
of an Australian print cultures network, and indeed the creation of this new Journal of
Australian Publishing, are evidence that research in this area has been recognised as
necessary and desirable.1 One inhibiting factor in the pursuit of such research is the
absence of thorough, comprehensive and up-to-date reference tools. In this paper I
would like to examine some of the ways in which AustLit, although primarily a
literature database, has the potential to fill this gap in print culture resources to a
significant extent. With some notable exceptions, there are few reference sources for
information in this area. Work has been done on small presses and little magazines
(see in particular Denholm and Stuart), and recent work done in publishing studies
area, and as part of the HOBA project, is invaluable. However individually excellent
publications are diminished by their separateness; their value weakened by their
isolation from each other. Information about Australian publishers and the history of
individual publishing firms is particularly hard to come by. (Working in the area of
Australian literature, I’ve often looked enviously at works such as the Dictionary of
Literary Biography’s volumes on British and American publishing houses.) As far as
I know, there is no standard reference work or definitive subject bibliography that can
bring together the many essays, articles and chapters produced by scholars in this
area; their important research remains diffused and scattered.
AustLit is a relatively new and innovative player on the Australian information
scene.2 A collaborative project on a national scale, launched in 2002 and
incorporating the results of several separate specialist research projects, it is
unprecedented in its comprehensiveness. Its implementation of a new data model
allows it to combine the flexibility of electronic library catalogues, and abstracting
and indexing services such as APAIS, with the annotative and descriptive aspects of
scholarly print bibliographies and reference works such as companions and
dictionaries of biography. AustLit has the potential to incorporate the results of past
research, bringing them together in one large, easily searched, constantly updated
whole, thus facilitating new research. Several features of AustLit’s structure combine
with its online ‘currency’ to make it an important resource for publishing studies and
See The History of the Book in Australia. Ed. Martyn Lyons and John Arnold. St
Lucia, Qld: U of Queensland P, 2001. The Print Cultures Network, organised from
within the Australian Studies Centre at the University of Queensland, hosted a forum
in June 2004 entitled ‘Behind the Bookcase’. The information leaflet distributed at the
forum stated that ‘the Print Cultures Network is a result of a successful bid to the
ARC’s recent Strategic Research Initiatives round of seed funding for “research
networks”. The idea of the Print Cultures network was to provide a forum for bringing
together researchers across the field of “print culture studies” – history of the book,
publishing studies, cultural policy/industries, editing and bibliographical studies,
literary history, newspaper history etc. – and information experts in libraries and the
AustLit database.’
A full account AustLit’s scope, history and funding is available on the AustLit
website: <>
print culture research. They are: the ability to store and cross-reference information
about publishing and printing organisations; the ability to support searches for works
by particular publishers (unique to AustLit); the ability to represent the publishing
history of a literary work and the ability, through subsets, to target specific research
areas and subject focus. I shall discuss each briefly.
AustLit records are made not only for authors but also for organisations involved in
the creation of literary works, particularly publishers and printers; they can contain
very comprehensive information including different forms of their name, details of
their birth and death (or establishment and demise for organisations), biographical
details (or organisational history), links to other authors or organisations related in
some way, and direct links to listings of relevant archival material available through
the Register of Australian Archives and Manuscripts (RAAM) and the Guide to
Australian Literary Manuscripts, as well as works published by them. Take the
example of publishing firm George Robertson & Co., established in Melbourne 1852
and ceasing operation in 1922. The firm’s name appeared in a variety of forms on the
the books it published – George Robertson & Co.; George Robertson and Company;
G. Robertson; Geo Robertson; Robertson; George Robertson. AustLit brings these
together in a single entry which also shows that the firm published 200 works within
the scope of AustLit, gives a brief history of the company, and has hyperlinks that
relate the firm to the record for the founder George Robertson himself and to
Robertson & Mullens which was formed in 1922 when the firm merged with Melville
& Mullen. Links are also provided to archival information and biographical and
critical material.3
AustLit also distinguishes between the two George Robertsons, the Melbourne
publisher (1825-1898) and the George Robertson (1860-1933), co-founder of Angus
& Robertson.
The opportunity to bring together the complex histories, name changes and
relationships of publishing organisations has presented Austlit with an exciting
challenge. Work on this aspect of publisher records is still in the early stages and a
concerted effort is being made to ensure that our name authorities for publishers and
printers are securely in place, together with brief organisational histories, hopefully
providing a solid foundation for future research. Basic information from existing
reference sources is added as part of this process; other information is gathered from a
wide range of sources as part of the routine indexing of current and retrospective
material. Thus constantly evolving composite profiles of publishing organisations are
built up, drawing on material from obvious and easily located sources such as the
Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, Lurline Stuart’s Australian Periodicals
with Literary Content, 1821-1925 and Michael Denholm’s two volumes on small
presses, but also from more obscure, out-of-print or less easily obtained sources such
as footnotes to journal articles and book chapters (which are not indexed by other
Australian indexing services, such as APAIS etc.) An example here is the journal
Publishing Studies, published by Thorpe for the Royal Melbourne Institute of
Technology Graduate Program in Publishing Studies which ran for seven issues
between 1995 and 1999. It contained articles based on original research in all areas of
publishing – on the short-lived publishing firm Dolphin Publications, on feminist
presses, on drama publishing since World War II, on pulp fiction in the Bleek
collection in the National Library. Only four Australian institutions (two in the ACT
and one each in Victoria and New South Wales) have all seven issues of this journal
(not indexed in APAIS) making access to the fruits of this research very difficult.4
While AustLit cannot remedy this situation it can alleviate it; not only can the issues
be indexed but many key details can be incorporated in AustLit records and used to
clarify and augment other related records. Information contained in Louise Poland’s
article ‘Out of Type’, on Bessie Mitchell Guthrie and Viking Press (1939-1944),
recorded as part of the routine indexing of Hecate, has been used to create a record for
the short-lived press itself and a record with biographical details for Bessie Mitchell.
It also resolved a confusion over the two Vikings (the small Australian and the large
American) enabling AustLit to make a distinction between the two not made in other
catalogues and bibliographies, and allowed enhancement of the records for the
‘Prelude Series of Australian Poems’ illustrated and published by Mitchell. In this
way, scattered and sometimes partial, information, fed into the larger whole
illuminates and develops other information already within the resource or recently
added to it. (It is worth noting that neither Bessie Mitchell, nor Viking Press, nor
indeed the Prelude series are mentioned in Michael Denholm’s books or in the Oxford
4 See for example, Diane Brown, ‘Feminist Publishing in Australia: Sisters
Publishing 1979-1983.’ Publishing Studies 4 (1997): 7-11; David Carter, ‘“An
Important Social Duty”: The Brief Life of Dolphin Publications.’ Publishing Studies 6
(1998): 3-13; Kerry Kilner, ‘The Publishing of Drama in Australia 1946 to 1998.’
Publishing Studies 6 (1998): 43-52; Marg McCormack, ‘A History of Sybylla Press’
Publishing Studies 4 (1997):18-25; Richard Stone, ‘A Nice Little Thing, or a Cosmic
Calamity? The World of a Pulp-Fiction Writer as Seen in the Bleeck Collection in the
National Library of Australia.’ Publishing Studies 6 (1998): 53-61.
AustLit can support complex searches to retrieve data about print culture not available
elsewhere. Although there are inevitable limitations, because some restrictions on
scope and quantity of indexed material must apply, reasonable answers to many
questions about publishing figures and trends can be found. Searches, for example, for
numbers of novels published by women in a given time frame, numbers of short
stories published in newspapers and periodicals in a particular year or numbers of
children’s picture books on particular themes can all yield meaningful results.5
Authority control over the names of publishers and printers, something not practiced
in other on-line catalogues and bibliographies, ensures that reliable searches for works
by a particular publisher can be undertaken. A search of the National Bibliographic
Database (NBD) by publisher’s name keyword, the only type of publisher search
available, would, for example, with George Robertson (keyword ‘Robertson’),
produce an enormous amount of undifferentiated data. In AustLit, George Robertson
& Co is distinct from Robertson &Mullins and from Angus & Robertson. It is
possible to bring up records of literary works published by each. Similarly, a
publisher’s name keyword search for Sun Books (keyword ‘Sun’) in the NBD would
be a nightmare. In AustLit it is quite easy to find Sun Books, to locate the eighty-nine
literary works published by them and to be directed also to the record for Macmillan
Australia (later Pan Macmillan Australia), of which they are now an imprint.
The third feature of AustLit’s data structure of particular interest to students of print
culture is its ability to represent the publishing history of a work, tracking, in a
detailed and descriptive way, individual texts from creation and production to revision
and reception. AustLit is the first large-scale application of the FRBR cataloguing
model anywhere in the world.6 Rather than treating each published item as a separate
entity, as does conventional library cataloguing and previous database indexing, the
FRBR model returns to standard bibliographic practice and represents the publication
history of works by incorporating the concepts of the ‘work’, the ‘version’ and the
‘publication’ into a single record.
This is best explained in the following diagram using Kate Grenville’s novel Lilian’s
Story as an example:
A recent search conducted for one of our users looked at figures for short stories
published in 2003. The resultant figures can be a useful guide to trends, with the
following provisos: some newspapers, and some periodicals such as regional writing
periodicals, local publications and student magazines have not been comprehensively
indexed. Some anthologies and selections may not have had their full contents listed
yet. Results: Search one (for short stories published in all publication types –
anthologies, newspapers, selected works etc.– in 2003): 725 stories (149 in electronic
publications, ninety were republications, sixteen were children’s stories). Search two
(for short stories in newspapers and periodicals in 2003): 429 (106 were in electronic
publications, one was a children’s story).
This is the ‘Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records’ model developed
by the International Federation of Library Associations.
Lillian’s Story
Allen & Unwin
Allen & Unwin
Allen & Unwin
Whereas a library catalogue, for example, would list each of these editions
separately, in AustLit the various editions and translations are grouped under the
broader category of the ‘work’. AustLit records then use the term ‘version’ to signify
how that abstract concept is realised. Thus Lilian’s Story has been ‘realised’ in three
versions: as the original version of the novel in English; as the revised version of the
novel in English; and as the Italian translation by Laura Pugno. ‘Publication’ is the
term used to track how these versions are physically manifested, once or several
times: for example, the first English version was published once, in 1985, the second
(revised) English version has been published three times, in 1986, 1991 and 1997, and
the Italian version has been published once, in 1998.
The AustLit record for Lilian’s Story, represented below, lists the five different
publications and explains their relationship with an annotation on the second
‘version’, noting that the novel was first published in 1985 but that after discussion
with her American editor, Grenville made significant alterations to her text, including
the addition of twelve further pages.
More complex records than this can be easily represented, including, where
appropriate, details of reprints, serialisations, abridgements and adaptations. Many
classic Australian works of the nineteenth century – Clarke’s His Natural Life and
Kingsley’s Geoffry Hamlyn to name two – have complex publishing histories of this
type. Previously, students had to rely on scholarly editions to untangle and clarify
their different, varying texts.7 Now results of this scholarship can be recorded and
displayed in AustLit.
Textual variations in contemporary literature, such as that outlined above in the
example of Lilian’s Story, are more common than is often supposed: Chris Koch has
revised and rewritten parts of several of his earlier works; poets, including Les
Murray, frequently revise poems between publications.8 While this is more important
See Lurline Stuart’s edition of His Natural Life (UQP, 2001) and Mellick, Morgan
and Eggert’s edition of The Recollections of Geoffry Hamlyn (UQP 1996), both in the
Academy Editions of Australian Literature series.
Koch’s first novel The Boys in the Island was revised twice, in 1974 and 1987. In his
Author's Notes to the second revised edition Koch describes the effects of the
revisions on the novel as ‘considerable’ and continues ‘The shape of The Boys in the
Island should now be finally clear; and this edition is the only one I wish to survive,
or to be read.’ Commenting on revisions Across the Sea Wall in the Author's Note to
the 1982 edition, Koch states: ‘the cuts and alterations are not fundamental, but they
are extensive ... My hope now is that the earlier version of this work will be consigned
to oblivion, and that anyone referring to this book, or quoting from it, will go to no
other version but this one.’ Murray’s ‘Evening Alone at Bunyah’ is another case in
point; after its first appearance in Poetry Australia, a new section was added to the
for textual and interpretive criticism, a couple of examples relating to the publication
of Peter Carey’s novels are equally interesting for those working in the field of
publishing studies. Until recently, AustLit, like most other bibliographies, assumed
that all English language versions of Oscar and Lucinda were the same text.9 While it
was public knowledge that the first American edition was withdrawn from sale
because of ‘errors and omissions’ (Harper & Row news flash 30 June 1988)10, it
seems to have been assumed that the second American edition, the first English
edition and the first Australian edition were identical. If fact two, the Faber edition
and the UQP edition, both1988, are missing a chapter which is present in the re-issued
American edition and is re-instated, without comment, in later editions (Faber 1995,
UQP 1994, 1997, 2001). AustLit has recorded this variation and when further
research uncovers the explanation for it, this too will be added to set the record
straight. Variations in the editions of Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang point to
a fascinating case for those studying publishing processes. In a recent paper presented
at ‘Behind the Bookcase’, June 2004, Paul Eggert, a leading figure in the field of
scholarly editing, explored ‘the role of the production team in determining a great
many details of the packaging, presentation and even the wording of an author’s text’.
Using archival material and in consultation with staff of UQP, Eggert detailed
extensive textual variations between the various editions, resulting from editorial
revisions and the mechanics of file dissemination and document control during the
publishing process, pointing to the ‘intractable problem of achieving simultaneous
production of two identical editions’.11 AustLit is not in the business of textual
criticism but it can record and display the results of research like this. At present a
note on the record alerts the user of the service to the existence of these textual
variations. Any further conclusions arrived at by Eggert when his research is
published can then be added.
The publishing history of serial publications – periodicals and newspapers – is also
documented in AustLit. Again the ease of cross referencing and linking of related
publications makes this clear and effective. A special research project in 2003,
‘Australian Magazines of the Twentieth Century’, provided funds to significantly
enhance the records for one hundred twentieth-century Australian magazines.12
Research into the scope, history and editorship of these publications and the
individuals associated with them, and the indexing of the literary content of the issues
combines to give an unprecedented view of print culture in this area: unique
publishing experiments like Tabloid Story and ventures such as the Slessor,
poem and after its publication in The Weatherboard Cathedral, the poem was
substantially revised again and this revision included in subsequent Murray selections,
although it was not included in the 1976 Selected Poems.
Bruce Woodcock’s bibliography notes the differences; Anthony J. Hassall’s more
comprehensive bibliography does not.
Harper & Row also ran apologies in Publishers Weekly 22 July and American
Bookseller 5 July.
Paul Eggert’s ‘Anatomy of a Booker Prize Winner: The Collaborative Authorship
and Simultaneous Productions of True History of the Kelly Gang’was presented at the
The Print Cultures Network forum entitled ‘Behind the Bookcase’. This was hosted
by the Australian Studies Centre, University of Queensland, in June 2004.
The project was led by Associate Professor David Carter, Kerry Kilner and
Professor Bruce Bennett.
Stephensen and Lindsay journals Vision and London Aphrodite are fully represented.
Work continues on contemporary publications and, as resources permit, on
completing records for historically important publications from the past, some, like
Corroboree and Trident, almost forgotten.
Like the original subsets merged in the formation of AustLit, the ‘Australian
Magazines of the Twentieth Century’ caters for a specific research focus within the
larger database. AustLit was formed by the merging of earlier specialist research areas
projects but they retain their own identity and individuality and can be searched alone
or as part of the larger whole. 13 New subsets can be accommodated. Another new
research subset, added in 2002 and 2003 and of particular interest here, is the
Australian Journal project, incorporating research by Professor Elizabeth Webby. The
entire fiction content of the journal in the nineteenth century is represented,
illustrating patterns of readership, and domestic and imported content in one of
Australia’s most popular and long-lived magazines. During 2004 work has been done
on yet another subset. Dr Cheryl Taylor, based at James Cook University, received a
research grant to develop a subset entitled ‘Writers of Tropical Queensland’,
including among other things the literary journalism of E.J. Banfield and Archibald
Meston, published in national and regional newspapers – the Australasian, the
Queenslander and the North Queensland Register.
AustLit combines features of many reference tools – it is a catalogue, an indexing
service, an encyclopedia and a dictionary of literary biography. It covers a wide area
of Australian literature but can also focus on specific subject areas. It is also a
‘research repository’, where the results of past research are incorporated and new
research can be generated; it is a reference ‘work-in-progress’. As a comprehensive
and cumulative resource, able to be continuously updated, revised and expanded, and
with several features particularly relevant to studies of publishers and the publishing
process, AustLit has the potential to both support and benefit from vigorous research
in print culture.
Works Cited
Borchardt, Dietrich, and Walter Kirsop, eds. The Book in Australia : Essays Towards
a Cultural and Social History. Clayton, Vic.: Australian Reference Publications in
association with the Centre for Bibliographical and Textual Studies, Monash
University, 1988.
Denholm, Michael. Small Press Publishing in Australia : The Early 1970’s. North
Sydney, NSW: Second Back Row Press, 1979.
——. Small Press Publishing in Australia : The Late 1970s to the Mid to Late 1980s.
Footscray, Vic.: Footprint, 1991.
The foundation subsets were Australian Drama, Australian Multicultural Writers,
Children’s Literature and the Lu Rees Archive, Western Australian Literature, South
Australian Women Writers, Australian Literary Responses to ‘Asia’, Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Writers, and SETIS: The Scholarly Electronic Text and Image
Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1978-. Vols 46 and
49 deal with American publishers; vols 106 and 112 with British literary publishers.
Details of series available from gale website <
Code=DLB&edition=> 7 September 2004.
Farmer, Geoffrey. Private Presses and Australia. Melbourne: Hawthorn Press, 1972.
Hassall, Anthony J. Dancing on Hot Macadam : Peter Carey's Fiction. St Lucia, Qld:
U of Queensland P, 1994.
Lyons, Martyn, and John Arnold, eds. The History of the Book in Australia. St Lucia,
Qld: U of Queensland P, 2001
Poland, Louise. ‘Out of Type: Bessie Mitchell (Guthrie) and Viking Press.’ Hecate
29.1 (2003):19-33.
Stuart, Lurline. Nineteenth Century Australian Periodical : An Annotated
Bibliography. Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1979.
——. Australian Periodicals with Literary Content 1821-1925. Melbourne:
Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2003.
Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1996. 2nd
rev. ed. 2003.
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