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Gerald and Gwenda Fischer

MSS 0158

Biographical Notes

Gerald Fischer was born on 28 July 1923 at Aldgate, South Australia He attended Aldgate Primary School before secondary education at Muirden College, with an emphasis on clerical skills. At the age of 15 he took a job as a junior clerk in a wood veneer factory at Torrensville before being conscripted into the Army in 1942 at the age of 18. He served for five years in the infantry and an artillery regiment before discharge from the Army in 1946. With the help of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, Gerald resumed his formal education, matriculated and then enrolled at the University of Adelaide, being awarded a B.A. degree with an emphasis on history in 1954.

In 1950 he was appointed Archives Assistant at the Public Library of South Australia and became qualified in librarianship and archives administration. In 1958, he worked in the Australian Reference Section of the National Library of Australia for six months before returning to take charge of the Archives Department. In 1961 he was appointed State Archivist, a position he held until October 1968. In his capacity as State Archivist, Gerald became involved with Douglas Pike and the development of the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) was responsible for South Australiana: a journal for the publication and study of South Australian historical and literary manuscripts. In 1968 Gerald was appointed Archivist of the University of Sydney, during which he investigated University records management systems on three-month sabbatical in Europe.

In 1963, at the age of 40, Gerald married Gwenda Sargeant, the University of Adelaide Law Librarian. On his retirement Gerald and Gwenda returned to South Australia, built a home in Lyndoch and after happy years there made their final home in Brighton, where he continued the publication of many small works from his hand set private publishing house ‘Pump Press', publishing a regular Historical Facts and Events Mainly South Australian, from 1986 to 1996.

Gerald passed away on Thursday 26 August 2010

Adapted from the Obituary by Peter Crush published in Archives and Manuscripts, August 2010

Gwenda Fischer (nee Sargeant) was born on 2nd December 1921 in Coburg, Victoria. She attended the local primary school and was Dux of her class in 1934. Family circumstances prevented her from going to University. She gained commercial skills at Melbourne Business College and in the late 1930s easily got positions in Melbourne offices, followed by two years living in England doing secretarial work. She returned to Melbourne in the mid-1950s and worked for the Council of Adult Education, where she was encouraged to matriculate and then study for an Arts degree while working as a secretary for the University Law School.

In 1959 she moved to Adelaide where she was invited by the head of the University Law School to set up an academic library for the School while studying part-time for a law degree (awarded 1965) During this time she received a Carnegie Grant to study law librarianship at the University of Washington where she was awarded a Master’s degree in 1962.

In 1969 the Fischers moved to Sydney, where Gwenda worked as Librarian at the Law Society of N.S.W. and was a founding member of ALLG, the Australian Law Librarians; Group. On their return to Adelaide in 1980, Gwenda was appointed a Visiting Research Fellow in the Faculty of Law and worked to compile the periodic index CANZLLI (Current Australian and New Zealand Legal Literature Index).

Gwenda died in November 1998.

Contents Listing

Overall contents - 2 m.

Series 1. Gwenda Fischer: Biographical

Obituaries / memoirs
Certificates: birth, marriage, AMEB, University of Adelaide B. Law (1965), Library Association of Australia
Family history research

  • Ethel Mary Sargreant (Mother)
  • Sully / Always / Thorogood families
  • Book: Mariners, Miners & Musicians: the Sargeant-Wilson family in Victoria 1850 … / Ken Sargeant Vol. 1 2nd ed (1995)
  • Genealogies

Biographical sketches by Gerald Fischer
Photographs: Gwenda and Gerald

Series 2. Gwenda Fischer: Personal Correspondence

Letters from mother, sister, sister-in-law etc 1951-53
Letters written by Gwenda from England 1951-53
Letters from Gerald to Gwenda when overseas 1964
Letters from mother 1970s, and from mother and sister Betty
Letters from sister 1980s -90s
Letters from mother and other family 1970s-90s
Letters to friends (2 folders)
Letters to Gerald on Gwenda’s death
Personal correspondence 1950s-98

Series 3. Gwenda Fischer: Diaries etc

Diary of a visit to England 1951-53 (notebook with letters and enclosures, and typescript)
Account of a visit to San Michele

Series 4. Gwenda Fischer: Education and Early Career

Brunswick North West Primary / Metropolitan Business College, including a small wooden and silver plaque: Dux of the Rural School 1934

Small silver medal: 2nd Sn. D.SL. 1/12/1937

References from office work, Melbourne 1937-48

University of Melbourne

  • Essays for BA course
  • Appointment as secretary to Dept of Criminology

Secretary to G.F. Satow, England, 1950s: correspondence, publications etc

Series 5. Gwenda Fischer: University of Adelaide Law Library

Letters etc re Carnegie Grant for study tour of USA 1960-63

University of Washington / Master of Librarianship 1961-2

  • Diary 1961-
  • Course material, essays
  • Letters to mother and family
  • Letters from mother, others
  • Diploma

Materials re education of librarians
Lecture notes for proposed SA Institute of Technology courses 1968
Research notes on Professor Pennyfeather
Research notes on legal position of women
Reprints of articles and paper by Gwenda
Correspondence etc re Current Australian and New Zealand Legal Literature Index (CNZLLI)

Series 6. Gwenda Fischer: University of NSW / University of Sydney

  • Applications for academic appointments 1970-71, and appointment as Assistant Acquisitions Librarian / other appointments
  • Lectures to Library School students
  • Law Society of NSW – correspondence, papers etc (3 folders
  • Letters received on Gwenda’s retirement 1980

Series 7. Gerald Fischer

Ration book: Sargeant Fischer 1952-53

Certificate of discharge from AMF 196


  • University of Adelaide BA (1954), MA (1968)
  • Library Association of Australia 1955-64

Letters received while overseas 1964

Rainfall readings, Lyndoch house 1983-98

Correspondence, ephemera re Book Collectors Society of SA 1980s

Lord Howe Island: papers, articles, maps, correspondence

Transcript of Address by Gerald Fischer to the S.A. Branch of the Australian Society of Archivists, 30/8/1999.

Transcript of interview of Gerald Fischer by Jane Thimke, 2000, for the Australian Society of Archivists and National Library of Australia Joint Oral History Project.

Pump Press ephemera no. [C11] ‘The Pump Press booklet, with photograph of Gerald Fischer working the press

Pump Press Christmas card 1995, inscribed to Gwenda from Gerald with list of Christmas presents

1914-18 War recruiting poster ‘Fall-in’ with design by Norman Lindsay

Projected Pump Press publication ‘Curtains for the Theatre Royal’ which Fischer was unable to complete: source materials, photographs, mss notes

Series 8. Gerald Fisher diaries 1960-2008  3 boxes

(from 1998 the diaries are in the form of letters to Gwenda)

Series 9. Pump Press

From 1955, Gerald Fischer operated the small private ‘Pump Press’ publishing historical pamphlets, poetry, cards and ephemera. Pump Press publications have been catalogued separately for the Rare Books Collection.

The ‘Pump Press’ [small platen press] Housed in the Special Collections Reading Room
Associated type and printing furniture

Series 10. Australian Private presses and printing ephemera

Brindabella Press ephemera, including individual prospectuses for publications; MS notes from Alec Bolton; Christmas card ‘Francis Webb. Five Days Old’ 1973; News from Brindabella Press 1993; Brindabella Press: the Name Regained and Other News 1992; photocopies of obituaries for Alec Bolton 1996

Piscator Press (University of Sydney) and Fisher Press (Friends of Sydney University Library)

Pamphlets, prospecyuses: Piscator Resurgens (1990); theatre programme ‘Quartet’ (Sydney University, Drama Group, Dept of Italian, 1965)


  • 8 bookplates commissioned by Pat Corrigan, Australian businessman and art, photography and design collector, plus original print by Peter Hickey [Sydney Harbour inlet?] 64/68.
  • Bookplate of J.B. Gadsdon (1973)

Geoffrey Farmer publications, signed and dedicated to Fischer

  • The literature of Australian private presses and fine printing: a bibliography (1986) No 19 of 20 signed and numbered copies.
  • A true printer: John Kirtley and Heemskerck Shoals (1990)

David Chambers / Cuckoo Hill Press

  • Christmas cards, leaflets, prospectuses, bookplates, print ephemera

Duyfken Press / Bill Thorn

  • Christmas cards / ephemera

Various Australian private press prospectuses, ephemera, type face booklets, print examples by Barr Smith Library Imperial Press and State Library Stanhope Press

Booklet: Printing / by Harold Curwen (Puffin Picture Book 70)


Cheryl Hoskin
December 2020

University Library

Barr Smith Library
South Australia 5005


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