Another GGS treasure from the School Archives

Among the many treasures in the GGS rare book collection are the thirteen volumes that comprise Gregory Mathews’s (1876–1949) exhaustive work The Birds of Australia. Beautifully illustrated with hand-coloured lithographs, the set was published over a 17-year period from 1910–27. It was the second monumental work recording and depicting the continent’s avifauna, complementing John Gould’s seven-volume work (1840–48) of the same title. Mathews included more detail about nomenclature than Gould.

The books were presented to the school by Thomas Austin (GGS 1889–93), a keen ornithologist. After his death in 1937, the Sydney Museum was the recipient of Austin’s collection of over 5000 eggs relating to 750 species of Australian birds, collected between 1907 and 1919. Natural history was a popular pastime for students at GGS and an Ornithologists Club existed for many years. Proper scientific observation and recording-keeping was encouraged. The 1914 Corian noted that Thomas Austin advised, ‘It is not a good thing to encourage boys to collect in a haphazard and useless fashion.’