Sir Samuel Way (1836-1916) was a notable public figure in colonial South Australia. He was Chief Justice for life and at times Member of Parliament, Lieutenant-Governor of SA, Vice-Chancellor and then Chancellor of The University of Adelaide and the first Freemason Grand Mason. He was also Member of the Boards of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery and the Adelaide Children's Hospital, as well as the first South Australian to be knighted and only the fourth Australian to achieve this honour.
Way was also an energetic book collector, building what is believed to have been one of the largest and best private libraries in Australia of the time. In 1895 he purchased a collection which had been assembled during the 1880s by E.A. Petherick for Matthias Larkin. Larkin was a Melbourne auctioneer, real estate agent and financial dealer who, in 1892, was sentenced to six years imprisonment for embezzling nearly £100,000 from the South Melbourne Permanent Building Society. Way paid a very reasonable sum of £500 to £600 for the Larkin Collection. It consisted of approximately 600 volumes, including many fine and valuable works on Australiana, voyages and discovery.
Petherick, Australia's foremost bibliographer, assembled only three collections in his lifetime: his own which formed the basis of the National Library's Australiana Collection, the Yorke Gate Library now held by the Royal Geographical Society of SA and our own Way/Larkin Collection.
Way remains one of the Barr Smith Library's most generous donors. His magnificent 1916 bequest of 16,000 volumes made a considerable impact, the University Library comprising just 26,000 volumes at the time. Way's Larkin collection was initially integrated into the Library's main collection, before being selected for the Rare Books Collection. The Way/Larkin Collection has now been reassembled as a discrete collection.