Historical information

This well-produced but water-damaged book of Longfellows Poetry, was part of the former Warrnambool Mechanics Institute Library and Museum collection. The custody of this collection was assumed by Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in the 1970s. Supporting provenance indicates the book was retrieved from the sea at Loch Ard Gorge soon after the shipwreck of the same name in June 1878. This book was given to the Warrnambool Museum curator Joseph Archibald by its finder, the Warrnambool Standard editor Henry Davis in October 1883. A letter from Mr Davis describing the poignant circumstances of his discovery is also in the Flagstaff Hill collection. A transcript of this letter is displayed next to the book in the Great Circle Gallery at the Maritime Village (reg. no. 2292). The story behind this book prompted Mr Archibald to write to the sole surviving female passenger from the LOCH ARD, Eva Carmichael, asking if the book was hers. Miss Carmichael replied by handwritten letter in January 1884, advising that the volume of poems did not belong to her: “We had a ‘Longfellow’, but our book had a green cover”. This letter is also in the Flagstaff Hill collection (reg. no. 2290.4).

Significance

Statement of Significance: The LOCH ARD shipwreck is of State significance ― Victorian Heritage Register S417

Physical description

A volume of poetry by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is bound in blue-purple cloth on thick board, with black lettering and curling-vine design, framed by gold border. In the centre of the front cover is a raised smooth-white ellipse with crimped edges, now worn bare but with traces of an original brightly coloured floral design. This white centre of supple leather is also framed by a decorative gold border. The upper case lettering on the front cover reads ‘Longfellow’s Poetical Works’. The edges of the blue material are faded and worn. The pages are corrugated by water damage but their original gold-edged condition is still evident. The front and back covers are scored with singed holes approximately 1.5cm diameter, situated about the centre edge of each side and in roughly corresponding positions. These holes may be from an original book-latch or fastening. However they have since been damaged by a hot piercing object, which has blackened the holes and extended the damage into the enclosed pages. The spine of the book features a stylised oak tree in gold, rising from bared roots to serrated leaves and acorns. The letters “LON[DON]” at the top of the spine and “W.P.NI[MM]O” at the bottom. The book cover has separated from the majority of stitched pages, along with a number of title pages, which are now loosed from the binding. The books condition is fragile from a handling perspective, but stable in terms of further deterioration.

Inscriptions & markings

‘Inscribed “Loch Ard June 1 1878” in pencil within ― believed to be a salvage from the shipwreck’ (Mechanics Institute Library auditor, June 1996).