Historical information

The Birds of Australia is a 12 volume work, in a total of 14 books. The books were used as an ornithological handbook. They contain scientific text as well as over 600 hand-coloured lithographed plates by J.G. Keulemans, H. Grönvold, Roland Green, H. Goodchild and G.E. Lodge.

The work was written, sponsored and organised by Gregory M. Matthews, F.R.S.C. Erc. who was a wealthy Australian and an amateur ornithologist. His titles included –
-Fellow of the Linnean and Zoological Societies of London
-Member of the British Ornithologists’ Union
-Corresponding Fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union

The volumes in our collection were originally donated to the Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute and Free Library by William Lindsay.

THE LINDSAYS (quoted from the book Of Many Things – A History of Warrnambool Shire by C.E. Sayers)
The Lindsays were amongst the most prominent families in the Shire of Warrnambool, as pastoralists, sportsmen, municipal councillors, community leaders. The first of the family William arrived in Melbourne in 1841 and started business as a livestock agent. The gold rushes sent him to the central Victoria diggings dealing in cattle. This was a business that boomed in the early 1850s, and he prospered.
In 1859 he took over the Quamby run near Woolsthrope from Paul de Castella, the Yarra Valley Swiss vigneron who had brought the leasehold and improvements in 1853 from George Youl, who had pioneered the run.

Quamby was originally 25,000 acres. It was heavily timbered, rough country, much of it swampy, a characteristic of the district. Lindsay used it to fatten cattle which gave large returns with the booming gold diggings towns paying high prices for beef.

In 1862 purchases at auction made Quamby a freehold. In the next six years a further 20,000 acres of Crown land were brought at auction to make the run one of the largest in the south-west district. The great profits from his cattle trading enabled Lindsay to make improvements to the holding, and to Union which was added in 1864. Much of the thick timber was cleared and the worst of the swamps drained.

Union was 15,000 acres of freehold when Kennedy sold it to Lindsay. It was heavily timbered, mostly blackwood, with large belts of wattle and honeysuckle. Much of the heavy native was ringbarked and cleared; much more was swept away by bushfire. It was expensive work, but Lindsay’s bank passbook was heavy with credit, and he did not spare money to make both Quamby and Union heavily developed stock runs. He was as lavish in social living; the bluestone Quamby homestead was one of the most hospitable in the district when William Lindsay was host there; its paddocks carried high quality thoroughbreds: its stables housed steeplechasers and flat racers which won many races on Warrnambool and other courses; its coach houses were filled with carriages which took his guests to the great racing carnivals of the district.

After William Lindsay died in 1897, in his eighty-fifth year, his two sons, William and James, managed Union and Quamby as a joint venture. This partnership ended in 1906 when William took over Union and James kept Quamby.

The following year 10,000 acres of Union were subdivided and sold in lots of 100 acres to 700 acres for dairying and general farming. It was well improved country, much of it alluvial flats. By then many of the paddocks were sheltered with blue gum belts, and they carried good pastures.

The three Lindsays, father and two sons, gave many years of service to the Shire, and to many charitable, sporting, social and community organisations in the Warrnambool district.
William Lindsay senior, was a Shire councillor for 15 years, and President several times. James Lindsay followed his father as a north riding councillor. He served nineteen years, from 1887 until his death in March 1908. He was President four times.
Jimmy Lindsay was one of the most popular men in the south-west of Victoria. He was a fine sportsman: horse breeder, owner and a dashing amateur rider. He lived lavishly and played hard.

For many years he guarded a herd of kangaroos, as many as 100 head, at Quamby. Descendants of the Lindsay kangaroos are still in the district.

James Lindsay’s wife, Margaret Esther was a daughter of Samuel Shaw Parker, the first engineer of the Shire. Nell Lindsay, a daughter, lives in the Bluestone Quamby homestead. Only a little more than 60 acres of the original run still belongs to the property.

William Lindsay junior succeeded his brother as a Shire councillor. He served for 25 years from 1908 until his death in 1934. So, the Lindsays, father and two sons, served as Shite councillors for an unbroken period of sixth-five years.

William Lindsay junior had a life-long interest in horse racing, as breeder, owner and enthusiastic amateur steeplechase rider. He was elected a member of the Warrnambool racing club in 1901 and was president of the club for thirty-two years. He raced and rode horses for the love of the sport. He won the Villiers and Heytesbury Hunt Cup in the 1870s on his own horse, Ventura. In the year he died his horse Flavedo won the Warrnambool Grand Annual steeplechase. It was a sensational race. All of the contestants fell, or lost their riders. When Flavedo baulked at a jump, its jockey R. Sweetman, remounted and completed the course to win the race.

All of the Lindsays were passionately fond of the thoroughbred horse. Nell Lindsay talking to the author in the drawing room of Quamby homestead - with many memories for her of its lavish years – said of a brother that he was put on a horse when he was two years old and never got off.

William Lindsay junior made Union into a fine, high-producing property, breeding cattle and horses. He added to the bluestone house that David Kennedy started, established plantations of pines and gums, and made an attractive garden.


Warrnambool's Mechanics' Institute (or Institution as it was sometimes called) was one of the earliest in Victoria. On 17th October 1853 a meeting was held where it was resolved to request the Lieutenant Governor of the Colony to grant land for the erection of a Mechanics' Institutes building. A committee was formed at the meeting and Richard Osburne chaired the first meeting of this committee. The land on the North West corner of Banyan and Merri Streets was granted but there were no funds to erect the building. The Formal Rights of the Warrnambool Mechanics' Institute's encompassed its aims and these were officially adopted in1859;

"This Institution has for its object the diffusion of literary, scientific, and other useful knowledge amongst its members, excluding all controversial subjects, religious or political. These objects are sought to be obtained by means of a circulating library, a reading room, the establishment of classes, debates, and the occasional delivery of lectures on natural and experimental philosophy, mechanics, astronomy, chemistry, natural history, literature, and the useful and ornamental arts, particularly those which have a more immediate reference to the colony."

The Warrnambool Mechanics' Institute opened its first meeting room in November1854 in the National School building at the corner of Banyan and Timor Streets. The Institute was funded by member subscription, payable on a quarterly, half yearly or yearly basis.

Samuel Hannaford, the Manager of the Warrnambool Bank of Australasia, was the first Honorary Secretary of the Mechanics' Institutes, and an early President and Vice-President. He also gave several of the early lectures in the Reading Room. Another early Secretary, Librarian and lecturer was Marmaduke Fisher, the teacher at the National School. Lecture topics included The Poets and Poetry of Ireland', 'The Birth and Development of the Earth', 'The Vertebrae - with Remarks on the pleasures resulting from the study of Natural History' and 'Architecture'.

In 1856 the Reading Room was moved to James Hider's shop in Timor Street, and by 1864 it was located in the bookshop of Davies and Read.

In the 1860's the Mechanics' Institute struggled as membership waned but in 1866, after a series of fund raising efforts, the committee was able to purchase land in Liebig Street, on a site then called Market Square, between the weighbridge and the fire station. A Mechanics' Institute building was opened at this site in August 1871. The following year four more rooms were added to the main Reading Room and in 1873 the Artisan School of Design was incorporated into the Institute.

The same year Joseph Archibald established a Museum; however it deteriorated when he was transferred to Bendigo in 1877. In 1880, with Archibald's return to Warrnambool, the Museum was re-established, and in 1885 a new building was built at the back of the Institute to accommodate the re-created School of Design, the Art Gallery and the Museum.

In 1887 the Museum section was moved to the former court house in Timor Street (for some time the walls of the building formed part of the TAFE cafeteria but all is now demolished)).

In 1911 the Museum was transferred back to the original building and the management of the Mechanics' Institute was handed over to the Warrnambool City Council. The Museum and Art Gallery became one and housed many fine works of art, and the Library continued to grow. The building was well patronised, with records showing that at the beginning of the 20th century there were between 500 and 800 visitors. During World War One the monthly figures were in the thousands, with 3,400 people visiting in January 1915.

The Museum was a much loved Institution in Warrnambool until the contents of the Museum and Art Gallery were removed to make room for the Warrnambool City Council Engineers' Department. The contents were stored but many of the items were scattered or lost.

When the original building was demolished the site became occupied by the Civic Centre, which included the new City Library. (The library was temporarily located in the old Palais building in Koroit Street.)

In the process of reorganisation the Collection was distributed amongst the community groups:
-The new City Library took some of the historic books and some important documents, historic photographs and newspapers.
-The Art Gallery kept the 19th Century art collection and some of the artefacts from the museum.
-The Historic Society has some items
-The State Museum has some items
-Some items were destroyed
-Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village has old newspapers, Government Gazettes, most of the Mechanics' Institute Library, ledgers and documents connected to the Mechanics' Institute Library, some framed and unframed art works and some photographs.

The Warrnambool Mechanics' Institute Library book collection is deemed to be of great importance because it is one of the few collections in an almost intact state, and many of the books are now very rare and of great value.


This book is also part of the ‘Pattison Collection’, a collection of books and records that was originally owned by the Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute, which was founded in Warrnambool in 1853.

In 1935 Ralph Pattison was appointed as City Librarian to establish and organise the Warrnambool Library, as the Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute was then called.

When the Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute building was pulled down in 1963 a new civic building was erected on the site and the new Warrnambool Library, on behalf of the City Council, took over all the holdings of the Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute. At this time some of the items were separated and identified as the ‘Pattison Collection’, named after Ralph Pattison.

Eventually the components of the Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute were distributed from the Warrnambool Library to various places, including the Art Gallery, Historical Society and Flagstaff Hill. Later some were even distributed to other regional branches of Corangamite Regional Library and passed to and fro. It is difficult now to trace just where all of the items have ended up. The books at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village generally display stamps and markings from Pattison as well as a variety of other institutions including the Mechanics’ Institute itself.


Ralph Eric Pattison was born in Rockhampton, Queensland, in 1891. He married Maude Swan from Warrnambool in 1920 and they set up home in Warrnambool.

In 1935 Pattison accepted a position as City Librarian for the Warrnambool City Council. His huge challenge was to make a functional library within two rooms of the Mechanics’ Institute. He tirelessly cleaned, cleared and sorted a disarrayed collection of old books, jars of preserved specimens and other items reserved for exhibition in the city’s museum.

He developed and updated the library with a wide variety of books for all tastes, including reference books for students; a difficult task to fulfil during the years following the Depression. He converted all of the lower area of the building into a library, reference room and reading room for members and the public. The books were sorted and stored using a cataloguing and card index system that he had developed himself.

He also prepared the upper floor of the building and established the Art Gallery and later the Museum, a place to exhibit the many old relics that had been stored for years for this purpose. One of the treasures he found was a beautiful ancient clock, which he repaired, restored and enjoyed using in his office during the years of his service there.

Ralph Pattison was described as “a meticulous gentleman whose punctuality, floorless courtesy and distinctive neat dress were hallmarks of his character, and ‘his’ clock controlled his daily routine, and his opening and closing of the library’s large heavy doors to the minute.”

Pattison took leave during 1942 to 1945 to serve in the Royal Australian Navy, Volunteer Reserve as Lieutenant. A few years later he converted one of the Museum’s rooms into a Children’s Library, stocking it with suitable books for the younger generation. This was an instant success.

In the 1950’s he had the honour of being appointed to the Victorian Library Board and received more inspiration from the monthly conferences in Melbourne. He was sadly retired in 1959 after over 23 years of service, due to the fact that he had gone over the working age of council officers. However he continued to take a very keen interest in the continual development of the Library until his death in 1969.


The Birds of Australia by Gregory M. Matthews is now considered a rare and valuable scientific and historic work on its own.

These 12 volumes were donated in 1934 to The Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute and were included as part of the Pattison Collection.

The Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute Collection is primarily significant in its totality, rather than for the individual objects it contains. Its contents are highly representative of the development of Mechanics' Institute libraries across Australia, particularly Victoria. A diversity of publications and themes has been amassed, and these provide clues to our understanding of the nature of and changes in the reading habits of Victorians from the 1850s to the middle of the 20th century. The collection also highlights the Warrnambool community’s commitment to the Mechanics’ Institute, reading, literacy and learning in the regions, and proves that access to knowledge was not impeded by distance. These items help to provide a more complete picture of our community’s ideals and aspirations.

The Warrnambool Mechanics Institute book collection has historical and social significance for its strong association with the Mechanics Institute movement and the important role it played in the intellectual, cultural and social development of people throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. The collection of books is a rare example of an early lending library and its significance is enhanced by the survival of an original collection of many volumes.
The Warrnambool Mechanics' Institute’s publication collection is of both local and state significance.

Physical description

The Birds of Australia Vol 7
Author: Gregory M Mathews
Publisher: Witherby & Co
Date: 1918-1919
Tan leather bound illustrated work.

Inscriptions & markings

Label on spine cover with typed text RA 598.2994 MAT
Pastedown front endpaper has sticker from Warrnambool Mechanics Institute and Free Library that reads “Presented by W. Lindsay Esq. ‘Union’ Woolsthrope”
Accession Number: 15238
Date Received: 3-34
“W. Lindsay” embossed in gold on front cover, bottom right of book