Sharing a love of books

Dr Alan Brissenden

For as long as he can remember, Alan Brissenden, AM, has been passionate about rare and old books – and that’s proving truly beneficial for the University of Adelaide’s Barr Smith Library.

A former Reader and Chairman of the English department, Alan, 84, has been making monetary donations, and giving books, including some of his prized collection of theatre programs, to the library for years.

It’s a significant contribution that he intends to continue after his death. “I’ve given lots of books to the Library already and in my Will any books the Library wants to take from my collection, after my children have had a go, they can,” he says.

"The University has given me so much over the years and this is a small way of giving something back."

Alan’s introduction to literature came from his school-teacher father who taught at a tiny bush school near Cowra, New South Wales. Alan was among his pupils and the subject became his life work.

After graduating from Sydney University Alan completed a PhD on Jacobean drama at the University of London, before winning a role in the University of Adelaide’s English department in 1963.

“It wasn’t really a job because I enjoyed it so much,” says Alan.

“My main teaching area was Shakespeare and Elizabethan drama, with Australian literature as well.”

He was actively involved in the Theatre Guild and Radio Adelaide, and directed the Early Imprints Project in South Australia, which was part of a global program to catalogue books printed before 1801.

Another major interest is dance and Alan has been a critic since 1950. Alan still writes for the Australian and The Adelaide Review. He co-authored Australia Dances, published in 2010, the latest of various books he has written or edited during his career.

Alan retired from the University in 1994 and is now an Honorary Visiting Research Fellow – a role that gives him free access to his treasured Barr Smith Library.

For more information on creating a legacy and leaving a gift to the University in your Will, please contact our Planned Giving Officer on +61 8 8313 5800 or

Tagged in donor story, philanthrophy, legacy giving