Collection Number: Souvenirs 10
Title: Autographs and Autograph Books Collection.
Date range of collection: 1905 - 1945
Scope and content note: Autographs and autograph books collected by individuals that include signatures of members of Australia's Defence Force.
Repository: Australian War Memorial
Location: Published Collections, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial
Related collections: Army Unit Souvenirs, Menus, Reunions, Sports Programs, Anzac Day Souvenirs
Processing history: Collection re-housed and re-numbered in 2005.
Provenance: Items in this collection have been collected from a variety of different sources and donors.
Accruals: The collection continues to be updated.
Access: Open. Some items are restricted. Please contact the curator of Published Collections for access. The collection is accessible in the Research Centre Reading Room on the lower ground floor of the Memorial during the Reading Room opening hours. The opening hours are Monday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and on Saturdays from 1pm to 5pm. The Reading Room is closed on Sundays and ACT public holidays. Researches can contact the Research Centre to plan a visit. To access the collection the user will need to register as a client and agree to the Reading Room’s conditions of use. To contact the Information Services department or to make an appointment to visit the Reading Room call 02 62434315 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Restrictions on use and reproduction: For copyright enquiries contact Senior Curator, Published and Digitised Collections.
Preferred citation: [title of item], Autographs and Autograph Books Collection, Australian War Memorial, Souvenirs 10.
- Victoria Cross
- Returned Soldiers
- Colour Patches
- Young Australia League
Autographs and autograph collecting
The word 'autograph' literally means "written in one's own hand". The writing may be done with pen, pencil, chalk, paint, crayon or any other writing device. The product may be a signature, letter, document, manuscript, musical score, drawing or map, among other things. However, in modern language the term "autograph" usually refers to a person's signature, that is, a person's name written in their own hand.
The collection of autographs (or manuscripts) began with the advent of the first forms of writing, from cuneiforms to writings on papyrus and vellum. An early example of the plight of a collector is in the form of Pliny, a Roman nobleman, scientist and historian, who complained that letters of Julius Caesar were very scarce and difficult to obtain. However, it was with the invention of paper that literacy and penmanship skills became available to a larger proportion of the population, and with the increasing number of manuscripts becoming available the collection of documents by libraries, universities and individuals began in earnest.
It was at the great universities of the 12th and 13th centuries, however, that the modern form of autograph collecting took shape. Students took to creating alba amicorum or 'books of friends' in order to remember their time at university. These were small books in which the student, their friends and professors would include quotations, personal mottos, sentimental messages, illustrations and the date and name of the inscriber. As university education was only available to a small number of privileged people, the writers in these books were generally men of significance and great achievement.
However, as the ability to collect autographs is now available to a wider proportion of the population, the practice has spawned many organisations and businesses devoted entirely its advancement. The autographs in this collection are mainly those soldiers during World War One and Two. They provide an interesting example of the high regard in which these voluntary soldiers were held by the Australian population.
The Young Australia League
The Autograph Books series contains an autograph book that belonged to the Director of the Young Australia League, which was used during the League's world tour of 1924.
The Young Australia League was founded by John Joseph Simons of Perth, Western Australia who, as a young man, travelled extensively and became aware of a great gap in the knowledge and understanding of people in other states. He was convinced that young people should be encouraged to travel and get to know each other. As a result, he founded the Young Australian Football League in 1905 to foster ideals of tolerance and friendship and to promote sporting tours for young boys.
The venture proved so successful that in 1909 the league was expanded to include all youth, and so the Young Australia League (YAL) was formed. The creed of the Young Australia League is "Love Service & Tolerance" and with its ideal of education through travel, many successful reciprocal tours were arranged both in Australia and overseas.
Thumb O Graphs
The development of fingerprinting is largely associated with Dr. Henry Faulds (1 June 1843 - 1930), a Scottish scientist. While working as a missionary in Japan in 1878, Faulds discovered fingerprints on ancient pottery and soon after began extensive research - including many experiments to reveal permanence and uniqueness of fingerprints. Faulds first published a paper on the subject in the scientific journal Nature in 1880.
The album for "Thumb O Graphs" kept by Lieutenant Colonel Garnet Ingamells Adcock is a rare example of the Victorian craze for collecting thumbprints. During the first decade of the twentieth century, albums were sold for the precise purpose of collecting the thumbprints of one's friends and family which were known as "Thumb O Graphs".
- Benjamin, Mary A., Autographs : a key to collecting New York : R.R. Bowker Co., 1946
- The Young Australia League Inc. Website, http://members.iinet.net.au/~yal1/index.html, August 2005
- Thumb o graphs. We'll note you in our booke of memory. London: Dow & Lester, [ca. 1905]
- Early Fingerprint Pioneers, http://www.ridgesandfurrows.homestead.com/early_pioneers.html, August 2005