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Book - It Can't Happen Here

From the Collection of Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village 89 Merri Street Warrnambool Victoria

Description
Title: It can’t happen here
Author: Sinclair Lewis
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, London
Date: 1935

Hardback board book covered with mustard-brown linen, with a clear plastic protective cover over it.

The book’s title is printed across the front cover and on the spine. Also on the spine the author’s name, a symbol, and a white adhesive label with a typed library call number. On the loose front endpaper is an oval, purple stamp with text. Paper labels are on the inside endpaper.

The book, a novel, is part of the Pattison Collection originally belonging to the Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute, and the Warrnambool Public Library.
Size
H 19.7 x W 14 x D 3.5 cm
Object Registration
8082
Keywords
flagstaff hill, warrnambool, shipwrecked coast, flagstaff hill maritime museum, maritime museum, shipwreck coast, flagstaff hill maritime village, great ocean road, book, pattison collection, warrnambool library, warrnambool public library, warrnambool mechanics’ institute, ralph eric pattison, warrnambool books and records, corangamite regional library service, warrnambool city librarian, mechanics’ institute library, victorian library board, warrnambool children’s library, american novel, jonathan cape, sinclair lewis, harry sinclair lewis, 1930 nobel prize for literature, it can’t happen here
Historical information
This book “It can’t happen here” is a novel written by Sinclair Lewis. It was first published in 1935 in America.

About SINCLAIR LEWIS (1885-1951)

The author was born as Harry Sinclair Lewis in 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. He was renowned as an American novelist, playwright and short story writer. His first writings were romantic poems and short stories. Six of his novels were published by the time Lewis was 36.

Lewis won the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for his book “Arrowsmith” but declined because he had been helped in the writing of it by science writer Paul de Kruif, who received 25% of royalties on the sales. However, Lewis is listed as the sole author.

Lewis received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930 for his “vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters." He was the first author from the United States to receive this award.

Lewis graduated from university in 1907. He worked as a reporter and editor for several publications. He was a prolific writer, publishing dozens of works and numerous articles, and became popular for his satire. Lewis married and divorced twice and died alone from a heart attack due to advanced alcoholism) near Rome on 10th January 1951, aged 66.

This book was part of a large group of books referred to as the Pattison Collection, which belonged to the Warrnambool Public Library, part of the Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute.

About RALPH ERIC PATTISON and the ‘PATTISON COLLECTION’

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

By 1886 the Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute (WMI) had grown to have a Library, Museum and Fine Arts Gallery, with a collection of “… choice productions of art and valuable specimens in almost every branch and many wonderful national curiosities are now to be seen there, including historic relics of the town and district.” It later included a School of Design. Although it was very well patronised, the WMI was led to ask the City Council to take it over in 1911 due to lack of financial support.

In 1935 Ralph Pattison was appointed as City Librarian to establish and organise the Warrnambool Public Library as it was then called.

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 when Pattison accepted the 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 areas 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 from 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 NEW WARRNAMBOOL LIBRARY

When the WMI 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 WMI. At this time some of the items were separated and identified as the ‘Pattison Collection’, named after Pattison.

Eventually, the components of the WMI 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.
When Made
1935
Made By
Jonathan Cape (Maker)
Significance
Lewis’s book is significant for its association with the writer, who was the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (1930).

This book is significant for its connection with the Pattison Collection which, along with other items at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, was originally part of the Warrnambool Mechanics' Institute’s 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.
Inscriptions & Markings
Adhesive label - “PAT / FIC / LEW”
Inside front loose endpaper stamped in purple “WARRNAMBOOL MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE”
Front endpaper label from Warrnambool Public Library and Corangamite Regional Library Service
Last updated
19 May 2019 at 11:05PM