Famous visitors

King George signature

The first name in the book is simply signed, with a flourish, “George”.

It was a new book then (in mid-1901) no doubt bought for the occasion. And George was a worthy first autograph – later becoming His Majesty King George V, but at the time of signing merely His Royal Highness George, Duke of Cornwall and York.

Single-named Royals are now dotted throughout the book, but it also bears the marks of a great number of lesser mortals who had made the arduous journey to Australia, by sail in the early days, and visited our nascent University.

Below George’s name on that first page are the marks of the future Queen Mary and her entourage. The next name, two years later, is early Australian “royalty” – Dame Nellie Melba, our globally famous opera star.


Other famous names include a passing parade of Governors, Premiers and Prime Ministers and a veritable Who’s Who of leading academics from the world’s greatest universities.

The history of an institution such as ours can be told in many ways. This book, a beautifully bound volume in excellent condition given its age, is a living piece of our past and our future, still in use.

Its importance as an historic record, and a potentially valuable one at that, has been recognised by current Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Høj AC whose office has asked the Barr Smith Library to research it further as part of our sesquicentenary. That work is continuing, and the book will, in time, be available in digital form on the University archive, Adelaide Connect.

Tagged in 150th, Lumen Autumn 2024