Collection areas

Coloured engraving of a handful of purple orchids with roots.
Purple Orchids, Basil Besler, 1613
  • Orde Poynton Collection

    Dr John Orde Poynton AO CMG (1906-2001) was an English medical practitioner and collector. During World War II he was captured and became a prisoner of war. After the war, he came to Australia and eventually moved to Melbourne. In 1959, attracted by the newly built Baillieu Library, he decided to donate his collection of rare books and prints for the benefit of graduates and students. He also held the position of Consulting Bibliographer at the Baillieu Library.

    Dr Poynton’s donation of close to 4,000 prints was the foundation of the  Print Collection and shaped its scope and direction. The initial donation had been jointly collected by Orde Poynton and his father, Dr Frederic John Poynton (1869–1943) who purchased the prints in London antiquarian shops and sought advice from curators at the British Museum. The collection focuses on European Old Master prints dating from 1460 to 1850. Works of art by high calibre artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Jacques Callot, Rembrandt van Rijn and William Hogarth feature in this major gift.

  • Harold Wright Collection

    Harold James Lean Wright (1885-1961) was a London print dealer and connoisseur who spent his entire working life in the print department of P.& D. Colnaghi & Co. commercial gallery. Wright was a print expert and provided acquisition advice to several institutions in the UK, USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia. His knowledge of the print trade led to the formation of his personal collection, and also brought him into direct contact with contemporary British printmakers. He developed a lasting friendship with the Australian printmaker Lionel Lindsay (1874-1961).

    After his death, Wright’s widow Lily Isobel Wright sold his personal collection of modern and old master prints and used the proceeds to establish two print scholarships which enable an Australian or New Zealand scholar to study prints at the British Museum.  In 1963 Mrs Wright donated Harold Wright’s collection of etching revivalist prints by William Palmer Robins, Henry James Stuart Brown and Lionel Lindsay to the  University of Melbourne (Baillieu Library) and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

  • Pierre Gorman Collection

    Dr Pierre Gorman CBE (1924-2006) was a librarian and academic. He studied at the University of Melbourne, and in 1960 became the first profoundly deaf person to graduate with a doctorate from Cambridge University. His collection reflects his affinity and interest in the town and country of Cambridge, England, and includes prints from the 16th century onwards. In 1995, Dr Gorman presented his collection of over 230 prints on Cambridge to the University. The prints depict a variety of Cambridge scenes and architectural views of Corpus Christi College, of which Dr Gorman was an alumnus. The Cambridge Collection is held in the Rare Books collection.

  • Marion and David Adams Collection

    Professor Marion Adams (1932–1995), a specialist in the field of German literature, was dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1988 to 1993. David Adams (1930–), graduated from the university as an engineer and later pursued his interest in ancient civilisations through an arts degree. The couple’s shared fascination with world cultures saw them amass an impressive collection of artefacts and works of art. They presented a significant gift of antiquities and artefacts from many cultures to the University's Ian Potter Museum of Art in 2009. In 2011 David Adams donated his and Marion’s collection of prints and drawings to the Print Collection.

    The collection comprises of 95 works on paper, with a particular emphasis on early German printmakers, their circle, and German Dadaists and Expressionists, and a group of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

  • Sadeler Albums

    Nine albums containing engravings by the Flemish dynasty of printmakers, the Sadeler family, collected by Elizabeth Seymour Percy Northumberland (1716–1776), the first duchess of Northumberland. The engravings depict an array of themes and imagery from the Renaissance, many are reproductive, and some are duplicated or triplicated. Seven of the albums are identified by their bindings, known as ‘Harleian,’ as coming from the library of Robert Harley, first earl of Oxford (1661–1724), and his son.

    These volumes were purchased at auction by Elizabeth Percy in 1745 and added to her extensive private collection then held in Northumberland House, London.

    The albums were sold by Colnaghi in 1962 and purchased by the Society of Collectors, spear-headed by Professor Joseph Burke, inaugural Herald professor of fine arts at the University of Melbourne.

  • Graphic works of Louis Kahan

    The collection of Louis Kahan’s graphic works began with 129 drawn portraits donated by Louis Kahan (1905-2002) from 1979 to 1983. This array of portraits depicts poets, essayists, philosophers, and political writers, and were created for the University of Melbourne journal Meanjin.

    In addition, 54 further drawn portraits, including politicians and musicians, and a near complete set of Louis Kahan’s printed graphic works (209 individual prints) were later donated by Lily Kahan in 2020.

    As a printmaker, Kahan trained in Paris and was inspired by old master prints by Dürer, Brueghel, Rembrandt, Van Eyck and Holbein, influencing in his early prints. In Australia, Kahan returned to printmaking in 1975. Over time he worked with artist and printmaker Geoff La Gerche, master printmaker Bill Young and Chrysalis print studios, developing the techniques of etching, lithograph and spit bite.

  • Indigenous Australian prints

    The collection received its first donation of Indigenous prints in 2014, created by an Arnhem Land artist, Gela Nga-Mirraitja Wainburrunga (Paddy Fordham) (Rembarranga people, c.1932-2006). This acquisition was the beginning of actively acquiring works by Indigenous Australian artists. In addition to collecting prints from Arnhem Land the collection seeks to acquire prints by Zendah Kes (Torres Strait) artists and in 2015 began to collect works by these artists. Zendah Kes prints complement the old master prints in the collection, by visually narrating cultural stories from the past, through black on white printmaking techniques. Zendah Kes prints blend tradition and cultural identity with contemporary art and the Print Collection fosters this distinctive art.