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The ACR is a searchable archive of fiction reading in Australia since the 19th century. What novels and stories did Australians read, and in what forms? You can use ACR to search for detailed information about authors, titles, publishers, libraries, periodicals, and readers. Its three main sources of information are library holdings and loans, diaries and letters, and newspapers and magazines.

Newspapers and Magazines

Feature 1

Serials, Stories and Sketches
19th century Australia was 'the land of newspapers', as the journalist Richard Twopeny called it in 1883, and most fiction was consumed in the columns of the dailies and weeklies, and in magazines. The ACR newspaper archive features the Johnson-Woods' List of fiction serials in fifteen Australian newspapers and magazines of the 19th century. Online access coming soon.


Feature 3

Daily Reading
The Australian Common Reader collects and arranges information about the reading patterns of Australian readers in the past sourced from diaries and letters. The ACR Diaries archive is searchable via author, work, diarist, and date, and is cross-searchable with the Libraries archive. Additional information about individual reading practices and experiences is also included.

At present, the Diaries archive holds information from two diaries: Annie Baxter Dawbin and William Bunn. Others are being sourced and added. Access database »


Feature 2

Borrowing History
The Australian Common Reader collects and arranges information about the reading patterns of small populations in the past (typically country towns, suburbs, and colonial cities) sourced from library catalogues and loans registers. The ACR Libraries archive is searchable via author, work, library, borrower, and date, and is cross-searchable with the Diaries archive. In addition, users can undertake more complex quantitative analyses of reading.

At present, the Libraries archive holds loans information from 7 Australian libraries. Further loans information and catalogue holdings will be added. Access database »


Fiction and the Australian Reading Public, 1888-1914

September 1, 2008
Tim DolinPapers, Reading

For a brief moment in the history of the modern West, between about 1880 and 1920, narrative fiction in books, newspapers, and magazines dominated the rapidly growing markets for transnational mass-produced popular entertainment in English, before being challenged successively by cinema, radio, and television.

Victorian Domestic Fiction and the Settler Reader: Annie Baxter Dawbin, 1834-1868

June 8, 2008
Tim DolinDiaries, Papers, Victorian Fiction

At the forefront of the new empiricism in literary studies has been the call for a “larger idea of literary history” and a counter-intuitive idea of how to approach critical reading.

The Secret Reading Life of Us

June 8, 2008
Tim DolinPapers

It is no secret that Australia, when it was formally constituted as a nation in 1901, was already a nation of readers; nor that most Australians read, and still read, fiction.


    Random Quote

    “This is essentially the land of newspapers. The colonist is by nature an inquisitive animal, who likes to know what is going on around him. The young colonial has inherited this proclivity. Excepting the Bible, Shakespeare, and Macaulay's 'Essays,' the only literature within the bushman's reach are newspapers. The townsman deems them equally essential to his well-being. Nearly everybody can read, and nearly everybody has leisure to do so. Again, the proportion of the population who can afford to purchase and subscribe to newspapers is ten times as large as in England; hence the number of sheets issued is comparatively much greater. Every country township has its weekly or bi-weekly organ. In Victoria alone there are over 200 different sheets published. Nor is the quality inferior to the quantity. On the contrary, if there is one institution of which Australians have reason to be proud, it is their newspaper press.”

    R.E.N. Twopeny, Town Life in Australia (1883). Ringwood: Penguin [1973: 221]