Overview of the RGS Library
The Library of the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia
contains over 25,000 volumes and is one of the most significant collections
of rare geographical books and manuscripts in Australia. The oldest
book in the library is a beautifully bound version of Ptolemy’s Geographia
published in 1482. In addition there are 26 other book published before 1599
including two Ortelius atlases (1571 and 1598). Other rare atlases include
two Colom atlases (c1650 and 1670) and Mercator’s atlas (1635).
The manuscript collection contains many significant items including three
Sir Joseph Banks’ manuscripts (1766, 1768, 1811), John McDouall Stuart’s
diary of his fifth expedition (1861/62) and two letters written by Colonel
Light. Many of the Library’s rare items have been displayed in exhibitions, catalogues of these can be found on the
The Society's Library is largely based on four private collections that
have given it a broad base in historical geography, colonial history, anthropology and travel :-
- York Gate library (acquired 1905, approximately 7,500 titles)
- Thomas Gill’s library (acquired 1923, approx. 2,400 titles)
- Dr. F. L. Benham’s library (bequeathed 1939, approx. 4,000 titles
- Jim Faull’s local history collection (donated in 1990, approx. 100 titles)
Most of the items in these collections are included in the library's
New books continue to be purchased for the library and we are always
grateful for appropriate donations. The Centenary Library Fund was
established in 1985 to assist with making special purchases. Donations to
this fund of $2.00 or more are tax deductible.
Public enquiries are welcome.
Many books and periodicals are available for loan to members.
Tuesday to Friday 10 am to 1 pm. (By prior
arrangement Library material can be made available for reading in the State
Library’s Somerville Reading Room).
08 82077266 Email:
The library is staffed by volunteer librarians
and library technicians.
Current volunteers:- Kevin Griffin (Library Manager),
Phyl Twigg, Michael Dover, David Wald, Kathy Boyes, Glenys Letcher, Susan
Woodburn, Fairlie Sampson, Jenny Treloar.
The Library and the Society’s office are located
on Level 2 of the Mortlock Wing of the State Library of South Australia,
North Terrace, Adelaide. (Postal address: PO Box 3661, Rundle Mall,
Tours of the Library
These are available by prior
arrangement. A general tour will usually include rare books on discovery and
exploration with some dating back to the sixteenth century, examples of
early natural history books (eg two books on Australian insects with
hand-coloured illustrations both published in 1805), early South Australian
maps, artefacts including Colonel Light’s level and furniture made by John
McDouall Stuart. A tour of the top gallery of the Mortlock Wing is
usually part of a general tour. The gallery, which is not usually open to
public access, includes about 9,000 books, many of which were originally
part of the York Gate Library which the Society purchased in 1905.
Many of the Library’s rarest items are held in the State Library’s Rare and
Restricted Room and can only be included in tours by prior arrangement.
Examples include: Joseph Banks’ manuscripts, John Gould’s famous volumes on
the birds and mammals of Australia and original watercolours of George
Tours on specific subjects can also be arranged.