State Library of South Australia

Through the eyes of a volunteer – Sir Josiah Symon’s Library

Date: 14 December 2015

Tucked away high up in the back of the beautiful Mortlock Wing, the jewel of our Library, is the crown of that jewel - Sir Josiah Symon's Library. After all, Josiah was the name of an ancient Jewish king!

Josephine Dundon Volunteer Ambassador in the Symons Library
Josephine Dundon, Volunteer Ambassador, in the Symon's Library
The Symon is my favourite place in the Library. It's well worth a visit to see the collection of a gentleman who was a politician, lawyer, father and champion of the underdog in the legal system of the day.  In fact, it was said that you could get away with murder in South Australia in the early 20th century if you had the forethought to engage Symon as your counsel!


The collection includes:

  • a Bible in Latin from 1565
  • a book recounting celebrated trials connected with the private lives of the aristocracy in the UK from 1849 (surely some juicy tales there!) and
  • Josiah Symon's personal copy, annotated by him, of a Draft of the Australian Constitution from 1891. There is even the desk on which he marked up his drafts. 

He was an avid collector of literature and even wrote his own book on Shakespeare. However my favourites are the stunningly beautiful and huge volumes he collected on travel and exotic places around the world as they were known in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries - some amazing precursors to today's travel guides but on a grand scale with large illustrations, photographs and maps.

Jo and her fellow ambassadors are taking a well-deserved break over Christmas and New Years. Tours will resume on 12 January 2016, when the Symon Library opens between 12pm to 2pm most weekdays. Our ambassadors are happy to show you around and share stories about the man and his family.

To find out more about Sir Josiah Symon, go to our Benefactors and donated collections Library Guide.

Story by Josephine Dundon, Volunteer Ambassador and Tour Guide


Contact Us

Phone Us: +61 8 8207 7250
Ask Us a research query
Visit Us: Corner North Tce
& Kintore Ave, Adelaide

Media queries
Venue hire queries

View our contact details

Copyright & this website | Disclaimer | Privacy | Tell us what you think | Accessibility | FOI | Sitemap

Page last updated: 2:57 PM 21 Dec 2015

Page URL:

State Library of SA - South Australian Government