Iconotheca Valvasoriana received by the State Library of Victoria

The ceremony of the gifting of the 17 volume facsimile collection named Iconotheca Valvasoriana to the State Library of Victoria, was held in the evening of 27 September 2010 in the rooms of the Cowen Gallery. The gift was handed over by Dr. Boštjan Žekš, Minister for Slovenes Abroad. It was accepted for the people of Victoria by Peter Batchelor, Minister for the Arts. The ceremony was presided over by the Honorable John Cain, President of the State Library Board, and a notable ex-Premier of the State of Victoria.

The Collection is a significant contribution to the Library’s Rare Books collection, and is soon to be made available for study and research purposes. The State Library is distinguished as Australia’s oldest cultural institution and the largest public reference library in Victoria. It is the first free public lending library in Australia and amongst the earliest free public lending libraries in the world. This accessibility remains a guiding principle of the Library today. It is now a modern reference library, with the greatest digital collection in Australia.

Before the ceremony, Dr. Boštjan Žekš, was officially welcomed by Shane Carmody, Director of Collections and Access, Giovanna d’Abaco, Events Manager and Aleksandra Ceferin, President of the Institute for Slovenian Studies. Dr. Žekš and his team were taken on a tour of the Library by Shane Carmody. He led through various sections of the newly renovated library, and pointed out unique exhibits such as the original suit of armour worn by Ned Kelly, the hero and outlaw of Australian history, and the Mirror of the World collection, where volumes of Iconotheca Valvasoriana will be exhibited.

A broad section of the Melbourne community was invited to the event, including the Consuls General based in Melbourne. Of the 80 guests attending, more than half were members and representatives of Slovenian community, and the majority of other guests were in some way linked with it.

The Honorable John Cain, President of the State Library Board and a prominent ex-Premier of Victoria opened the formal proceedings. Melissa and Leah Fistric sang a beautiful rendition of the Australian and Slovenian anthems, in the fine acoustic space of the Red Rotunda Room at the Cowen Gallery.

The Hon. John Cain greeted the guests and expressed the great appreciation, as the President of the Library Board, that this great collection will be now housed in the State Library of Victoria. He was particularly aware of the fact, that the collection included many unknown graphic works, and would be therefore a great study and research resource. He also recognized the strength and energy of the Slovenian community and its contribution to the life of Victoria.

He invited Dr. Žekš to the podium, who thanked the Institute for Slovenian Studies of Victoria for making this occasion possible.
He introduced Janez Vajkard Valvasor as one of the great scholars of his time in Europe, and pointed out the crucial importance of the book in Slovenian culture: “Slovenes have survived with the help of the books and education. Books were from the beginning our most important weapon. We had Slovenian translation of the bible 400 years before our statehood,” he said.

He spoke about Ljubljana, World Book Capital City in 2010: “Books are within reach of everyone. The written word is wealth, that cannot be taken away.”

He also said that Slovenia decided to gift the collection to the libraries of the world, in order to acquaint them with the treasures of Slovenian culture, as preserved in books.

Dr. Žekš handed to the Minister Peter Batchelor, who spoke next, a special gift to commemorate the occasion – Iconotheca Valvasoriana Catalogue.

“This gift not only represents an important cultural contribution to this country, said Peter Batchelor, but honours the relationship between Slovenia and Australia and further enhances Melbourne’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature. The collection is a printing masterpiece and it is an honour to receive this wonderful gift on behalf of the people of Victoria.”

Peter Batchelor said the State Library of Victoria was the perfect home for this collection.

“The Iconotheca Valvasoriana will join these important cultural gifts and significantly complement the material already in our collections. It is a great honour and privilege to have these volumes and make them available to as many Australians as possible.”

The last speaker was Aleksandra Ceferin, President of ISSV. She spoke of the significance of Valvasor within his Slovenian and European context – as scholar of extraordinary talents and achievements, and as a precursor and pioneer of enlightenment.

“Slovenian was one of the first 12 nations who had bible translated into their own language in the period of Protestantism in the 16th century Slovenian lands, signaling the awakening of Slovenian identity. The creation of Valvasor’s encyclopedic work in the 17th century prepared the ground for the re-emerging Slovenian identity in the 18th century. This great and unique work is not just the history of Carniola but beyond that the history of central Europe, Slovenian, Croatian, Austrian, German…”

Valvasor had left two great legacies, Aleksandra Ceferin said: The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, one of the greatest treasures of Slovenian culture, and Valvasor’s personal collection of European graphic arts of 15th to 17th centuries.

“With the facsimile publication Iconotheca Valvasoriana, Slovenia has ensured that this incomparable legacy is placed within the reach of international public, as treasure of the common European cultural space.

After the speeches, the guests crowded around the exhibited volumes, presided over by a team of librarians. On one side the digital presentation the life and work of J. W. Valvasor was screened, accompanied by the classical music of the 16th century Slovenian-Austrian composer Iacobus Gallus, and at the other end the guests were able to view the website Valvasor.org. Both were projects prepared by the Institute for Slovenian Studies for promoting the event and as a presentation of Valvasor worldwide.

It was a celebratory evening, marked by interest, and lively discussions. Among those present, the general consensus was, that it was a memorable event for the extraordinary gift from Slovenia. Fr. Ciril Božič, Head of Slovenian Catholic Mission in Melbourne, remarked it was a significant and wonderful cultural event for the Slovenian community and their links with Slovenia, as well as their European heritage. Joanne Paddle-Ledinek also observed that it was a wonderful evening, and a matter of great pride in our Slovenian heritage, as well as a great way of promoting Slovenia and its culture. Associate Professor Slobodanka Vladiv-Glover, of Monash University, was tremendously impressed and sees the collection as a rich and rewarding source for academic research.

In 2011, volumes of Iconotheca Valvasoriana Collection are to be showcased in the Library’s public exhibition area.