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Rare books and special collections: Wine literature

The State Library has a significant collection of rare books and manuscripts from all over the world. They have been donated or purchased over many years, often with the assistance of the Friends of the State Library of South Australia.


The State Library has the largest collection of materials on the topic of wine in the Southern Hemisphere, encompassing thousands of items including books, pamphlets, periodicals, wine labels, company records and many other examples of exquisite oenography. The largest collection of wine books is in the Thomas Hardy Wine Library which is on open access for easy browsing. An excellent introduction to the Library's resources on wine can be found in Oenography: words on wine in the State Library of South Australia by Valmai Hankel PSM in 1993.

Useful publications

Material on wine and wine related topics can be found by a search of the Library catalogue under subject headings such as wine and winemaking; wine industry; wineries; viticulture; viticulturists and specific varieties of wine, such as Riesling. There are some excellent trade directories in the Ready Reference collection at the call number 663 covering the wine industry around the world.

The major publication is The Australian and New Zealand wine industry directory published annually by Winetitles which provides:

  • overview of the year and statistics
  • list of wineries
  • industry suppliers
  • organisations, teaching and research institutions
  • distributors and wine brands
  • calendar and wine shows
  • wine writers and publications.

Other important publications are:

  • Harpers wine and spirit directory (SLSA holds 1997-2008) lists companies in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It also has an international trade directory listing companies by country around the world. It is not comprehensive, but is extensive.
  • Wine report includes international information about recent vintages, harvests, producers, wine science and wine investment.
  • Wines and vines: directory and buyer's guide (SLSA holds early issues and 1987-2008) is an American listing of the wineries of North America


The Library has a selection of wine related periodicals, many of which are listed in the Library catalogue under the subject Wine and wine making - periodicals or Viticulture - Australia - periodicals:

CSIRO Journals (Online database, onsite access only) present the latest research by leading Australian and overseas scientists and covering a broad range of subjects. Titles include Australian journal of soil research, Crop & pasture science and Environmental chemistry. The State Library does not cover technical works in depth: for these topics enquiries should be made to the Australian Wine Research Institute and the University of Adelaide Roseworthy campus.

Wine literature of the world website

This Wine literature of the world website was created by the Library to bring its wonderful collection of wine-related materials to the world. Images of books dating from the Middle Ages to the present day can be seen as well as photographs, images of wine labels, moving images, and audio clips. There are menu options to 'Make an enquiry' and 'Donate to the collection' along with a search facility and a link to the Library's online catalogue. Its themes and their sponsors so far are:

  • The Top Dozen - Nepenthe Vineyards
  • Grapes and wines of the world - BRL Hardy 
  • Oz water into wine - SA Water
  • The SA story - Orlando Wines 
  • Worldfest - Malaysia Airlines 
  • Sip and Sup - wine labels and menus - South Australian Tourism Commission 
  • Salute to the consumer - Winepros
  • Design on wine - AQ Australia 
  • Wine lore and laughter - Yalumba 
  • Wine Quiz - Tatachilla and St Hallett

Former State Library Rare Books Librarian, Valmai Hankel, talks about the wine literature collection. Keith Conlon introduces the video and briefly talks about the Bradman Collection. Courtesy of the Channel Nine Postcards program.

Thomas Hardy Wine Library

The Thomas Hardy Wine Library was established in 1968 through the generosity of BRL Hardy and the Hardy family, and through an annual grant is a growing collection of books on all aspects of wine, particularly recent publications. The collection is housed on open access, and is catalogued in the Library catalogue.

The great strength of the Thomas Hardy Wine Library is in its coverage of contemporary works on wine, which come from almost every wine-producing country in the world. Topics covered include wine tasting, cellaring, cork-screws, tastevins, temperance and toasts, and even novels such as Clochemerle in which wine plays an important part. Most of these books are in English, but there are some titles in French, German, Italian and other languages. State Library staff select the books to be added.

A range of reference works is also held in the Hardy collection such as:

Wine labels

Wine labels can be works of art in themselves, and may contain valuable pieces of information, some of it technical, that may be difficult to trace elsewhere. Since 1972 the State Library has been collecting wine labels, mainly South Australian, but also from interstate and other parts of the world. There are currently about 10,000 labels in the collection, which can be accessed through the Information Desk for use in the Reading Room. Over 250 of these labels are digitised on the Library's Wine literature of the world website under the theme Sip and Sup.

The Library's collection allows a historical overview of the development of wine label design. One of Australia's earliest-known wine labels which stated that the bottle contains 'Australian wine' from the 'Camden Park' vineyard in New South Wales of 'James and William Macarthur'. This attractively-designed label is circular, with a vine covered in bunches of grapes as a border, and room enough for more specific information to be added by hand if necessary.

While there are private collectors of wine labels, or vinititulists, all over the world, there are apparently few institutional collections of any note. Many additions to the collection since then have been made by individual consumers, and the Library welcomes donations of wine labels.

As well as labels from the major companies there are labels from small wineries, some of them taken over, others no longer in existence. Some proudly proclaim that it is the maker's first release, others sadly that it is the last. There are also labels from amateur winemakers as well as from private bottling groups - many of these labels are entertaining in words as well as pictures, even slightly risqué.

A major boost was the gift of the impressive collection of art work for wine labels and packaging by Adelaide's Wytt Morro who designed work for many Australian winemakers from the 1950s on. Wytt Morro was responsible for what are probably the most beautiful wine labels designed and printed in Australia - those used to distinguish the bottlings of eight selected vintages, from 1949 to 1956, of Woodley Clarets.

The Library's collection of wine labels shows how design and information, as well as nomenclature, have changed over the years. Labels have been commissioned for particular occasions, ranging from individual birthdays to national conferences, centenaries of towns and the opening of bridges. A variety of images adorns today's labels - birds, flowers and landscape paintings are particularly fashionable. There are other problems in wine labelling, particularly relating to areas of origin and percentages of grape varieties, with which the industry continues to grapple.

Archival and pictorial


The Library has a wealth of unpublished South Australian material which is catalogued in the Library catalogue by the name of the person, organisation or business which collected the material. The Library holds the archival records for a number of wine companies and wine makers including Leo Buring Ltd (BRG 248), W. Salter and Son producers of Saltram (BRG 1), B. Seppelt & Sons Ltd (BRG 188) and the well known wine label designer Wytt Morro (BRG 233).


The Library catalogue includes over 100,000 digitised images, a number of which relate to South Australia's winemaking history. Most of these can be viewed online. Search using keywords.

Cellarmaster Collection

Donated by Cellarmaster Wines in 1989, it is a collection of 900 wine books with strengths in books published before 1800, and in books in languages other than English. A link to our catalogue showing the titles in the collection can be found here.

Other interesting websites