A book bound in red leather with ornate gold embossing. Eikōn basilikē: the pourtraicture of His Sacred Majestie in his solitudes and sufferings, Reprinted in regis memoriam [by William Bentley] for John Williams, 1649. SLV Emmerson Collection RAREEMM 115/29

Melbourne book-lover John Emmerson assembled one of the finest collections of early modern books in the world, before leaving it to State Library Victoria in 2015.

Here, for the first time, we open up the Emmerson Collection and unlock the stories it holds: stories of royalty, revolution and crisis, and of how books shape people's lives. Let us introduce you to these precious objects and carriers of dangerous ideas: books and beyond.


John Emmerson’s books show how people in early modern England saw their world in turbulent times. They record responses to war, plague and regicide as well as intimate relations between readers, owners and collectors of books.

Our seven stories trace some of those complex worlds, featuring books up close and personal as you’ve never seen them before.

Explore the stories in any order you like, and follow the connections between them. Select any Story to begin.

The fore-edge of a book, bound in worn black leather, held together with a clasp. Eikōn basilikē : the pourtraicture of His Sacred Majestie in his solitudes and sufferings (1649).  SLV Emmerson Collection RAREEMM 115/27


Behind these stories is a web of relationships, captured in data. Explore the Index to dive into the connections between books, people, places and events, and unearth objects from SLV and beyond.

Explore the Index >


This exhibition is an outcome of a research project bringing together experts in early modern studies and the digital humanities with specialist library staff. It is supported by the Australian Government in partnership with State Library Victoria

About this Project >