Banjo Paterson: discovering more about the man behind the words

Karyn Starmer 18 June 2020 1
A B Paterson

Photograph of A B Paterson in The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses signed by Paterson. Photos: Supplied.

While most of us know the lines to his poems, little is known about the man, A B ‘Banjo’ Paterson, the famous Australian bush poet, author of ‘The Man from Snowy River’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’. But as the National Library of Australia prepares to digitise its newly acquired collection of personal papers, previously held by the Paterson family, the world will get to see more of the man behind those famous verses.

The collection, held by four generations of the Paterson family before its acquisition by the National Library in 2019, includes over 16 boxes of handwritten diaries, notebooks, drafts, correspondence and even an unpublished memoir.

National Library of Australia Director of Philanthropy Dr Conor McCarthy said this is the last major collection that was not held in a public institution.

“We were excited to get this material. Banjo Paterson is such an iconic figure and these papers give us a much richer view of his life and times,” Dr McCarthy said.

The collection represents a considerable part of Paterson’s work and life. There is a large group of his writings in the form of manuscript and typescript drafts of verse, prose, articles and radio plays. Some drafts are fully formed, while others are notes jotted down in journals and diaries. There are also papers and photographs relating to Paterson’s military service in both the Boer War and World War I, as well as photographs, newspaper cuttings, ephemera, scrapbooks, and memorabilia.

The collection includes an early version of ‘Waltzing Matilda’, and family correspondence revealing an affectionate and personal side to the famous poet including a letter from fellow writer Henry Lawson, written on prison letterhead. Lawson was in prison in 1905 for unpaid debts and was asking Banjo to help raise £12 to get him released.

Dr McCarthy says the library has not yet unpacked all of the treasures.

“We will catalogue the items as we digitise the collection but so far we have found some really unexpected things like invitations featuring a banjo logo and a beautiful photograph of Banjo with his daughter at her wedding.”

National Library staff

National Library staff undertake work to digitise the vast collections and make more materials accessible online.

The National Library will soon commence work on the digitisation of the papers and the Library is running an appeal to raise money for the digitisation program.

“Digitising our collection is an important part of the work we do here at the Library. Digitisation means that our collections are available to all Australians, no matter where they live, and ensures they remain available for future generations,” Dr McCarthy said.

“The Library’s digitisation program has been supported by the ongoing, generous contributions from donors across Australia and around the world. This year, we are inviting supporters to help us to preserve and share this nationally important collection of ‘Banjo’ Paterson’s papers.

“Philanthropy has played an important role over many years in helping us to share the treasures of our collection online. Previous donations have helped us to digitise everything from advertising posters to the records of the women’s suffrage movement.”

An early version of 'Waltzing Matilda'

An early version of ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

The Library started digitising its collection material in the early 2000s and is a world-leader in digital capture, managing digitisation projects at scale and caring for the resulting digital objects into the future. All digital objects are freely available online through Trove.

To support the National Library in its preservation and digitisation of the papers of A B ‘Banjo’ Paterson, please visit National Library of Australia.

Banjo Paterson: The Man Behind the Words

Who was Banjo Paterson?In a new series, Assistant-Curator of Manuscripts, Bronwyn Ryan, gives viewers a glimpse into Banjo Paterson’s last remaining papers not already held in a public institution.This week Bronwyn discusses who A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson was behind the words. As well as being a lawyer and poet, he was a husband and father, and the collection includes some of his personal letters to members of his family and a selection of candid family photographs.Support the National Library of Australia to preserve and digitise the newly acquired papers of A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson so that Australians, now and in the future, can explore and appreciate his life and work.Give to the 2020 Appeal: https://bit.ly/2MRO8PG#BanjoAppeal2020 #AustralianDreams

Posted by National Library of Australia on Thursday, 11 June 2020


What's Your Opinion?


Please login to post your comments, or connect with
1 Responses to Banjo Paterson: discovering more about the man behind the words
Alex Fulford Alex Fulford 9:28 pm 16 Jun 20

Love his poetry, just got a CD of Jack Thompson narrating his poetry. My original tape with Roy Billings wore out.

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top

Search across the site