Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Monday 2 March 2015

Part 1: Nan Chauncy in the Lu Rees Archives of Australian Children’s Literature Inc

Nan Chauncy is one of Australia’s most-respected writers for children during the 1950s and 1960s. The Lu Rees Archives is proud to hold unique materials exploring this writer’s work and life.

Nan’s sixteen books for children were published between 1948 and 1969. The Archives holds all but one, Panic at the garage (1965). Translations during this time were unusual because Australian children’s literature was not widely known. For Nan’s books to appear in 13 languages then is a remarkable achievement. Both Tiger in the bush (1957) and Tangara (1960) appear in eleven different editions. Australian, American and British editions are in addition to these, plus many reprints. We hold 35 different editions and reprints of Nan’s books, but we are still looking for many of her translations as we only hold three in French, Portuguese and Slovakian.

Our research file on Nan complements her book collection and includes many published and unpublished items about her work. We are fortunate that Nan’s brother, Kay Masterman, lived in Canberra and knew Lu Rees well. He was very active in the Children’s Book Council of Australia ACT Branch and its national body. Kay created and collected many photographs documenting people, places and incidents in Nan’s life. He gave these to the Archives, and Lu Rees referenced each and arranged them in a photograph album. This album presents us with preservation challenges, but we have the negatives and duplicate photographs. Some of these photographs appeared in Berenice Eastman’s beautifully researched biography, Nan Chauncy: A writer’s life (2000). Conference proceedings, biographies, and critical essays all feature in our reference collection along with theses on Nan and all provide additional resources for study and research. 

Nan Chauncy’s research file occupies two large folders and includes correspondence, photographs, and other unusual items such as the handwritten talk entitled ‘Nan Chauncy: 1900-1970’ presented by Kay Masterman. This was delivered at a seminar held in Canberra on 9 March 1975. This talk has been recorded, with the Archives holding a digitised copy. It has also been published, in edited form, three times. The recording is part of the Archives’ historically important collection of digitised audiotapes. These cover the period from 1975 to 1998 and feature 112 authors, illustrators, publishers and critics talking about Australian children’s literature. These audiotapes, and digitised photographs of those speaking, uniquely record the development of Australian children’s literature during its growth period.

Who doesn’t enjoy pouring over images of people, times and places? Not only does the Archives hold her brother Kay Masterman’s photographs but also photographs from Walter McVitty, an individual widely respected for his knowledge of Australian children’s literature. The Archives is also fortunate to hold several important collections from Walter, including the Walter McVitty Photograph Collection. These cover the period ca. 1890 – ca. 1997. As a prolific writer about Australian children’s literature, Walter often took photographs or collected these from other sources to feature in his writing. His collection features nine photographs relating to Nan Chauncy. Walter also collected background material about authors for the many books he published. The Walter McVitty Research Collection holds three folders on Nan Chauncy among his 182 files on Australian authors and illustrators.

From this small sample of material about Nan Chancy, it is clear that the Lu Rees Archives offers important material, not just on Nan, but also on the entire field of Australian children’s literature. The Archives is not a static collection, as from time to time, new editions and additional studies appear. These then enhance the important place Nan Chauncy holds in the field of Australian children’s literature. The Archives is proud to hold this collection of unique material so that her work can be studied and enjoyed for all time.

Join me next week as I reveal how the Lu Rees Archives began, its milestones and achievements and future challenges.
Belle Alderman
Emeritus Professor of Children's Literature
University of Canberra

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