The Australian Literature Society was founded in Melbourne in 1899, its aims being the study of Australian literature and the encouragement of Australian authors. It held regular meetings which included talks, recitations, readings of unpublished works, musical items and reviews. It established a general library of first editions and important Australian works which it maintained for nearly eighty years. It also published a journal Corroboree for a short period (1921-23). In 1928 R.A. Crouch donated money to the Society for the annual award of a gold medal to the author of the best novel published in the previous year. The first winner was Martin Boyd and other youthful winners included Seaforth Mackenzie (1937), Xavier Herbert (1939), Patrick White (1941) and Randolph Stow (1959).
In 1982 the Australian Literature Society was incorporated with the Association for the Study of Australian Literature. The Association continues to award the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal.
The collection was purchased by the Library from the Australian Literature Society in 1980.
The Australian Literature Society collection comprises 550 books, mostly novels but also verse and works on Australian history and current affairs. About 80 of the editions had previously not been held by the Library. They include books by Charles Bean, Guy Boothby, Hilda Bridges, Ada Cambridge, E.W. Cole, Dale Collins, Zora Cross, Edward Dyson, Joseph Furphy, Beatrice Grimshaw, Jeannie Gunn, William Hay, Ion Idriess, Rosa Praed, Douglas Sladen and Kylie Tennant.
The remainder of the works were acquired because the Library required additional copies. Among the other authors represented in the collection are Barcroft Boake, E.J. Brady, Mona Brand, E.H. Burgmann, Douglas Copland, Bernard Cronin, Eleanor Dark, Frank Dalby Davison, C.J. Dennis, Enid Derham, James Devaney, Louis Esson, Essex Evans, J.K. Ewers, H.M. Green, Victor Kennedy, F.T. Macartney, Leonard Mann, A.D. Mickle, Ian Mudie, Walter Murdoch, Bernard O’Dowd, Katharine Susannah Prichard, Percival Serle, A.G. Stephens, E.V. Timms, Ethel Turner, Patrick White and Frank Wilmot.
The books have been catalogued individually and integrated in the Australian collection. A summary list of the titles is available.
The State Library of Victoria holds records of the Australian Literature Society for the period 1900-82 and papers of two of its secretaries, James Booth (MS 8148) and Alvie Egan (MS 12572). It also holds an unpublished history of the Society by Andrew Millett (1969).
Stewart, Ken. “The Australian Literature Society 1899-1979’, Notes and Furphies, no. 4, April 1980, pp. 3-5