Monthly Archives: July 2016

MRBW Day 9

Melbourne Rare Book “Week” actually goes for 11 days, culminating this weekend in the  ANZAAB Australian Antiquarian Book Fair (Melbourne Rare Book Fair), held in the University of Melbourne’s historic Wilson Hall.

I am flying to Manchester for the Urban Sketching Symposium tomorrow and will miss the two days of the Rare Book Fair.

Today I sketched at two events.


State Library Victoria

Des Cowley

22Jul2016 MRBW Day 9am

Despite there being no agreed definition of what an artist book is, it is generally defined as a book made by an artist and intended as a work of art. This session looked at a selection of books made by artists, drawing from State Library Victoria’s collection of over one thousand artists’ books


Law Library of Victoria

The Law Library of Victoria brought together eminent members of the legal community to share their passion for books. Held in the iconic Supreme Court Library, the session celebrated the importance of the written word and the beauty of the book in people’s lives.

 22Jul2016 MRBW Day 9pm

It seemed very fitting for my final sketching session documenting Melbourne Rare Book Week events was held in my workplace, the Supreme Court Library. I have sketched in the library in the past. But they are more detailed studied drawings of the books, shelves and ladders of this beautiful space. They are available as Greeting cards from my Esty online store (I am away until 17 August and will take orders after then) or at stockists around Melbourne

IMG_001622Oct14 shelves229Oct14 old Commercial law bookalissa duke library shelves




The past 9 days have been a wonderful experience for me, as a sketcher and book lover. I have met an amazing array of people who are passionate and generous in sharing their knowledge of their specialist area of books. Thanks to everyone who has discovered and followed my blog, some who have introduced themselves to me at events. A special thank you to Kay Craddock, Chris Browne and the people who worked so hard to produce this event. It was humbling and exciting to be involved.  See you all next year.

MRBW Day 8


CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF ROALD DAHL ( the centenary of his birth)

Melbourne Library Service

A whole day of events for all ages at Southbank Library. There is a display for Roald Dahl books including first editions and other interesting Dahl books. In the evening Chris Browne gave a talk on the publishing history and the important landmarks in Dahl’s output for children and adults. There is also a guest speaker reading from books.

I attended and sketched at the daytime sessions for children. They clearly loved their visits to the library and the interaction with the staff and the love of the books there. There were about 35 children from 2 –  5 years (and their parents and some babies) at the Dahl-themed stories, short film  and other rhymes and songs. A new generation of book lovers in the making.

 Below are some of my sketches in watercolor pencil. It was a fun and challenging event.
Everyone was on the go, or sitting (but not still) for short amounts of time.
Some reading time, film watching and dancing.
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20Jul2016 MRBW Day 8 storytime20Jul2016 MRBW Day 8 film

20Jul2016 MRBW Day dancing 20Jul2016 MRBW Day 8 5


MRBW Day 7

I could only attend two of the nine Melbourne Rare Book Week events today – but gosh they were good !


Hince on Wine

Michael Hince

20Jul2016 MRBW Day 7pm22


I had used Google Street view to see what the building looked like and knew that I wanted to draw it ! I arrived over an hour early and stood across the road , leant up against a tree and drew the building. I put some pencil lines down first, (I usually do for buildings so that they fit on the page) and then built up layers of watercolour pencil.

20Jul2016 MRBW Day 7

In the cellars of the beautiful Armadale Cellars , fourteen of us were entertained and informed  by Michael Hince, wine writer, broadcaster and historian. Over a glass of wine and some food we listened as he talked  about wine in print in Australia from the late 1950’s to today . A lovely way to spend a Wednesday morning.


Melbourne Athenaeum Library

Anne Kucera

20Jul2016 MRBW Day 7pm merged

Melbourne-based artist Anne Kucera talked about the  world of the Moveable Pop-Up Book. Her own amazingly complex and inventive books are on display at the Athenaeum Library. And Anne has created one of the Athenaeum.

We learnt that he audience for early movable books were adults, not children. The first known movable in a book was created in 1240. Throughout the centuries they have been used for such diverse purposes as teaching anatomy, making astronomical predictions, creating secret code, and telling fortunes. It was not until the very late 18th century that these techniques were applied to books designed for entertainment, particularly for children.





MRBW Day 6

The sixth day of Melbourne Rare Book Week and a truly diverse range of talks to attend and sketch at.

State Library Victoria  Alisa Bunbury

19Jul2016 MRBW Day Five 1merged

A few fortunate people gathered around a table to view John Lewin’s Birds of New South Wales, published in 1813, was the first natural history book and the first illustrated book printed in Australia. We heard about the story of Lewin’s early natural history illustrations and this rare publication  and viewed other amazing illustrated bird, animal and insect books from Lewin and early Australian illustrators.

I did not feel like drawing with my Lamy Safari Joy ink pen, and wanted something a little softer so I used my watercolour pencils taking the colour off the tip of the pencil with the waterbrush and painting on the page.


Monash University Library

Stephen Herrin

19Jul2016 MRBW Day Five 2

Illustrated books delight children and adults alike. Pictures can often affect how the reader reacts intellectually and emotionally with the book. This talk was a whirlwind tour through the history of illustrated books, showing highlights in various genres and some of the techniques involved.

I sketched with a 2B pencil


Graeme Davison and Geoffrey Blainey

19Jul2016 MRBW Day Five 3


Professor Geoffrey Blainey has been described as the “most prolific, wide-ranging, inventive, and, in the 1980s and 1990s, most controversial of Australia’s living historians”. It is 50 years since the publication of his most famous book The Tyranny of Distance by Sun Books in 1966. The book was a bestseller and its title entered the language. It provoked a vigorous debate among historians on the origins of Australian settlement. Yet it also deserves to be remembered as a landmark in Australian publishing, for it was then unusual for a serious study of history to be first published as a paperback by a relatively new and unknown Australian publishing house.In this session, Professor Blainey recalled the genesis of the book and Graeme Davison, Emeritus Professor of History at Monash University, assessed its impact on the writing and publishing of Australian history

 ink pen used here !


Melbourne Library Service staff

19Jul2016 MRBW Day Five 4a 19Jul2016 MRBW Day Five 4b

A storytelling session of some of the more macabre Grimm Brothers fairly tales. We discovered the original versions of some of the stories that we thought we knew well. We heard about the history and meaning behind the stories, while enjoying some delicious cheese and wine.

I was drawing in the dark here, a challenging thing to do. I have been challenged during this week to include the person giving the talk in my sketch. I have achieved a slight likeness very few times. When I attend an event, I introduce myself to the organisers (and sometimes the speaker) before they begin. I explain who I am and that I will be sketching the event. I show the previous days and let them see that I am not drawing portraits, but capturing the feeling of the event and being there.  For this final event I went back to watercolour pencil.

MRBW Day 5

Today there were five Melbourne Rare Books Week events on. I attended three and sketched at two . Ii was a BIG day for me as the last event of the day was my talk and  through my exhibition “You Can’t Draw in Books?”


State Library Victoria  Dr Anna Welch

18Jul2016 MRBW Day Four 5am

Italian poet Dante Alighieri wrote one of the medieval world’s most famous poems, La commedia divina between 1308 and 1320. Seven hundred years on, readers and artists continue to draw inspiration from it. This talk explored Dante’s masterpiece using the State Library of Victoria collection, from early 16th-century printed editions to 21st-century artist’s books. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to view some amazing books.


Dr Lucy Sussex

18Jul2016 MRBW Day Four 5pm

In the 1880s Melbourne was termed ‘Marvellous’, a boom-town. It was one of the wealthiest andlargest cities, world-wide and was the book trade centre of Australasia, supporting outposts of Imperial English publishing, But the great majority of publishing in Melbourne was what we would call independent, usually around a nexus of bookselling, imports, with associated printing plants, leading to local publishing. A fascinating insight !


Melbourne Library Service

Alissa Duke and Chris Browne








The talk explored aspects of drawing in books, from early manuscript illustrations and the presentation of pictures on the printed page to some examples of formal and informal book illustrations in more modern times. We then walked through the four library spaces displaying the books drawn in by me. It was a one hour talk and tour for 25 people through the exhibition. They all seem interested and asked questions during and after.














The exhibition will be open for viewing from 14 July until 24 July in the City library during its normal opening hours.

MRBW Day 4

A quiet Sunday, with only two Melbourne Rare Book Week events on today.


17Jul2016 MRBW Day Four am

John Arnold is an Associate Professor at Monash University lecturing in publishing and communications. He has been involved in the second-hand book trade as a dealer and collector for over forty years. In this talk he reminisced on bookshops past and present.  Lots of people in the room nodding their heads as he mentioned various people and businesses. This talk was held in beautiful room in the Old Treasury Building, so I decided to colour the room in this sketch.



14Jul2016 MRBW Day Four 4

Melbourne book collector, Professor Chris Browne, presented an entertaining illustrated talk about Penguin Books, focusing on their interest to book collectors, particularly looking at early Penguins from 1935 to 1970. He pointed out the important role of Penguin books during the Second World War and show how important innovations in book design were introduced by Penguin, He outlined the history of Penguin Books, both in the UK and Australia, illustrated the talk with examples from his personal collection of around 2000 Penguins.

MRBW Day 3


Melbourne Rare Book Week hosted six events today. Some were at the same times, so I had to make a choice about which ones to attend and sketch at. The decision was made easily, as one, A Walk on the Mean Streets, was going to have more sketching potential than the others.

The day began at the Rare Book Discovery Day at Melbourne Museum. It was an opportunity for people to bring along their books, maps and prints to this Antiques Roadshow-style event for discussion and informal appraisals from a panel of leading antiquarian booksellers. I arrived when they opened the doors and sat behind the appraisers.

14Jul2016 MRBW Day Three merged

I immediately realised that my ink pen was empty so I sketched in watercolour pencil. Instead of a quick sketch I stayed there for about an hour, drawing the appraisers first and then adding some people who had bought books along. I was pleased when a family arrived with a stack of books . I had a wonderful time watching, listening to the interesting conversations and sketching.

14Jul2016 MRBW Day Three am merged


After rushing home to refill my ink pen I went back into the city for A Walk on the Mean Streets. I knew in advance that the two presenters were dressing in period costume, which is why I wanted to attend this event. We had a perfect winters day – clear blue sky and sunshine.

15Jul2016 MRBW Day Three pm1

This walk was hosted by Dr. Lucy Sussex, an expert on Australian detective fiction, accompanied by Professor Chris Browne. We walked for two hours, stopping at some of the sites of Melbourne featured in the books of Fergus Hume, the author of The Mystery of a Hansom Cab.


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14Jul2016 MRBW Day Three pm5



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The walk finished at East Melbourne Library biscuits and coffee and with an interview with the ghost of Fergus Hume. We also viewed some early editions of the Mystery of Hansom cab and related titles and learned more about the publishing history.


MRBW Day 1 and 2



Yesterday was the start of Melbourne Rare Book Week. I have an exhibition and I have also been invited to sketch at the events. I will be sketching at 20 of the 55 events of this ‘week’ (which is actually ten days) and posting on my blog each evening.

I have tried to visit the venues beforehand to sketch the building . I hope that will give my sketches context and interest. I plan to draw the speaker and also the audience, adding colour somewhere on the page. I will learn as I go, experimenting at each event .

14Jul2016 MRBW Day One merged



The first event I attended was RARE BOOKS AND RARE TALES OF AUSTRALIA’S ORIENT, a talk by Professor David Walker, a historian who examines the many different ways that Australians have written about Asia. He discussed some of the key books which comment upon the rise of Asia in the late nineteenth century and its implications for Australia. Among these books are invasion stories, spy stories and travellers’ tales. Many of these books are now exceedingly rare.

My favourite title of the evening was Battle of Mordialloc written in the 1880s to awake the readers to the possibility of invasion of Victoria by forces from Japan, China & Russia. (Mordialloc is a outer Melbourne suburb……). The book I want to read is Madame Izam: a Tourist story…

15Jul2016 MRBW Day Two merged

The second event I attended was BOOKS FROM A TURBULENT TIME: a talk by Des Cowley and Richard Overell from State Library Victoria. They discussed the single greatest bequest of rare books that came to the State Library Victoria in 2015. They shared their insights into the John Emmerson Collection, and discussed some fascinating items from this extraordinary donation of 17th and 18th century material.

I sketched while I sat in the audience and once quietly moved to the back of the room. These two events were held at the same venue and I saw a few familiar faces. There was wine and food and lots of interesting conversation after the talks.

Melbourne Rare Book Week books & sales


I hope that you enjoyed my exhibition “You Can’t Draw in Books?”  at Melbourne City Library as part of Melbourne Rare Books Week .If you have not seen the exhibition and are curious about any of the drawings in  the books, email me and I will send a photo of the image.

These previously valueless books,  about to be discarded, now have a value and are all available for purchase. Below is a price list of all the books in the exhibition . (I was going to post thumbnail images, but the technicalities overwhelmed me)  Locate the book that you would like to purchase and email me at aduke(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign) I will send a Paypal invoice or arrange other bank account payment. Delivery/collection is after 16 August as I am on holidays sketching in England until then.

Please note : You are purchasing the whole book, condition as is. It is yours to decide to take pages out and frame them or have the book open on the shelf or shelve the book and read it one day and get a nice surprise on one page. (If you choose use the pages and remove them and I am happy to take the book back and draw in it again).

Display cabinet in Foyer

1 Outlines of English History (Elizabeth 1)                100

2 The Nights of London                                                100

3 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland                          100

4 The Story of English Literature (Dictionary)          100

5 Warne Dollar & Cent Ready Reckoner                   70

6 Ellery Queen’s Book of Mystery Stories                70

7 Boswell’s London Journal 1762-1763                    60

8 Richard III                                                                    70

9 The Pan Book of Etiquette and Good Manners   50

10 Australian Wine Vintages 2009                             50

Behind Information Desk

11 Maisie Dobbs                                                            80

11A The Racer                                                                80

11B A Tour by Car Through England, Scotland and Wales    150

11C On Her Majesty’s Secret Service                         40

12 The Undomestic Goddess                                      80

13 Australian Garden Guide                                         80

14 Cooking with Wine and Cheese                            80

15 Cooking with Meat                                                  80

16 Traitor’s Purse                                                         50

17 I was Amelia Earhart                                               50

18 Stanley Gibbons Postage Stamp Catalogue 1961 50

19 Practical Typewriting                                               80

20 Blue Skies                                                                   50

21 The Venetian Mask                                                  50

22 Memoirs of a Geisha                                               100

LONDON A-Z London Street Atlas and Index,

23 Paddington                                                                70

24 Wombles – Orinoco                                                70

25 Battersea Power Station                                        70

26 London Bus                                                               70   SOLD

27 Telephone Box                                                         70   SOLD

28 Harrods                                                                      70


29 Supply of Seed Potatoes                                         80

30 Acts of the Parliament of Victoria Index              not for sale

31 Hare Preservation Act                                             150        SOLD

32 Wine Grape Charges Act                                         100

33 Whaling Act                                                               100

34 Apple and Pear Organization Act                          100

35 Egg Export Charges Act                                           100   SOLD

36 Dairy Produce Export Control Act                        100      SOLD

37 Antarctic Treaty Act                                                   150

38 Lighthouses Act                                                        80

39 Honey Levy Collection Act                                     150    SOLD

40 Passports Act                                                            80

packing for my UK sketching holiday

This week is a short post. It has self explanatory sketches of my packing for my UK holiday in two weeks time.
Below is my art gear – not a lot different than usual. I will carry my pencil wrap and one Moleskine on the plane, sketching all the way. However I am taking extras of many of the items in my check in luggage.

10Jul2016 sketch kit 10Jul2016 sketch kit2


The next pages are my clothes. I find this a very useful exercise. I have been able to look at the last time I travelled (three years ago to Barcelona and the UK) and what I packed then.
10Jul2016 clothes 2

10Jul2016 clothes 1