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James Sykes Battye (1871-1954) was the first chief librarian of the 'Victoria' Public Library in Perth, Western Australia. He was a leading historian, librarian and public figure in Western Australian and also served as a Chancellor of the University of Western Australia.
In 1951, the West Australian newspaper described him as the Principal Librarian and Secretary of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia.
He was born at Geelong, Victoria, on 20 November 1871. His father Daniel Battye, was a wool-weaver from Yorkshire in England. His mother was Maria, (née Quamby). He married Sarah Elizabeth May in Melbourne on 15 May 1895.
Battye came to Western Australia from Victoria in 1894 to take up the position which he held until his death in 1954.
Although not directly within his professional role, he developed a strong interest in Western Australian history and began collecting material from early in the century. He died 15 July 1954.
The J.S. Battye Library is named in his honour. "Battye" is a local term for the library and also his History of Western Australia, published at the time of the Western Australia centenary celebrations in 1929.
Metropolitan Cemeteries Board:
James Battye was born in Geelong, Victoria and educated at Geelong College and the University of Melbourne. He was awarded a B.A. in 1889, and an LL.B in 1893. He came to WA in 1894 on his appointment as Chief Librarian of the new Victoria Public Library in Perth.
The public library, museum and art gallery were administered as one institution and Battye served as general secretary from 1912 until his death in 1954 aged 82 years. He personally selected the library’s impressive and wide-ranging book stock. By 1911 there were over 100,000 volumes in the library. However, finance for the public institutions was limited and as a result the quality of the initial purchases was not maintained.
Battye established a Public Records Committee in 1923 to ensure the preservation of valuable government records. In 1945 he persuaded the government to establish a State Archives within the library.
Battye published three important volumes on the history of the state, Cyclopaedia of Western Australia (1912-13); History of the North-West of Australia (1915) and Western Australia: A History (1924).
He was a founding member of the Western Australian Historical Society in 1926 and Chairman of the 1929 Centenary Celebration Committee. Battye was Secretary of the Wesley Church Trust; President of the Children’s Hospital Board; Chairman of Governors of Hale School and Honorary Secretary of the Victoria Institute for the Blind.
He was active in the establishment of the University of Western Australia, and was a member of the first Senate and Chancellor from 1937 to 1943. He was committed to Masonry, and was appointed Grand Master from 1936 to 1951. He claimed life tenure on his position at the library.
It is a fitting memorial that the J.S. Battye Library of West Australian History (part of the State Library of Western Australia) was named in his honour in 1956.
Battye, J.S. 1912, The Cyclopedia of Western Australia: an historical and commercial review: descriptive and biographical facts, figures and illustrations: an epitome of progress, 2 volumes (illustrated ed.) Cyclopedia Company by Hussey & Gillingham, Adelaide, facsimile edition published in 1985 by Hesperian Press, Carlisle, WA, ISBN 0-85905-072-6
Battye, J.S. 1924, Western Australia: a history from its discovery to the inauguration of the Commonwealth, facsimile edition 1978with an introduction by Brian de Garis, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands; Clarendon Press, Oxford: ISBN 0-85564-136-3
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