I love a bit of investigating. 

A colleague working on the significant manuscript component of the JK Moir Collection (MS 16310) is currently sorting and rehousing the photographic material. Comprising negatives and photographs, this component illustrates the dedication John Kinmont (Jack) Moir gave to his collecting practices.  

In amongst the piles of photographs, an image of an old cottage caught my eye and I was curious to learn more about its significance to Moir.

Black and white photograph of an old cottage
Old cottage [undated] JK Moir Collection, Australian Manuscripts Collection, MS 16310 [uncatalogued image]

Adam & Eve Hotel 

The photograph was housed in an envelope annotated with the following:

‘Old cottage which stood alongside Adam & Eve Hotel. Had the reputation of being one of the oldest buildings in the City’ 

Annotated envelope
Original envelope for above photograph

Adam & Eve Hotel – what an intriguing name! And how is it connected to Jack Moir?  

After a bit of research, it turns out the Adam & Eve Hotel once stood in Alfred Place, which connects Collins Street to Little Collins Street between Russell and Exhibition Streets. The Library’s Maps collection holds a Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works plan that shows the site of the Hotel in 1895. 

This was the working end of Collins Street, where doctors and dentists set up their practices and, by the 1860s, there were boarding houses and even a school for ladies. It was a bustling location, filled with greengrocers and gardeners, who would have sold their wares in the nearby Eastern Market and perhaps stopped for a refreshment or two at the Adam & Eve Hotel.  

Adam Lindsay Gordon 

More investigation was required. Checking the Library catalogue, more references to the Hotel were found. Its connection to JK Moir and his love of Australian literature became clear. 

This image is of a wooden door and the note on the back of the image reads: ‘Adam L. Gordon’s Room. Adam & Eve Hotel.’   

Two side by side images: On the left, a cropped black and white photograph of a closed door. On the right, the back of the photograph with annotations.
Adam L Gordon’s Room – Adam & Eve Hotel (1935?), gelatin silver photograph,
JK Moir Collection, La Trobe Pictures Collection, H4830/1

It was Moir’s great interest in Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon that may have inspired his obsession with Australian literature. Over a three-year period, he created an anthology of Gordon’s works and there is a significant quantity of imagery relating to him in the photographic collection, including his tombstone.  

Sepia coloured photograph of a tombstone: 'The Poet Gordon'
Adam Lindsay Gordon’s grave, Brighton General Cemetery, Victoria, (between 1950 and 1954?), gelatin silver photographic print, JK Moir Collection, La Trobe Pictures Collection, H34941

JK Moir  

John Kinmont Moir (1893-1958) was a professional book collector. He was born in Queensland, but moved to Melbourne and then to New South Wales, as his father found work as a land manager. Back in Melbourne in the 1920s, Moir trained as a bookkeeper, accountant and credit manager, retiring due to ill health in 1957. 

In 1938, Moir was one of the founding members of the Bread and Cheese Club, a society that promoted and published Australian writers. Buying a disused hotel in Richmond in 1945, Moir filled it with books of prose and poetry and opened it to writers, researchers and collectors. 

Black and white photographic portrait of a man standing in a garden
[Portrait of J. K. Moir] by unknown photographer, [194-?], National Library of Australia,

While he had a passion for collecting books, Moir was well known for not being much of a reader, preferring the gentle art of letter writing, at which he became prolific. Seeing himself as a proponent for Australian literature, Moir attempted to acquire every novel or collection of verse by an Australian author. This extended to collecting images relating to Australian literary figures – their portraits, their homes, their tombstones and graves. As a result, there are hundreds of negatives and prints that require organisation and preservation. 

JK Moir Collection at State Library Victoria. 

Components of the JK Moir Collection are housed in the Rare Printed, Pictures and Australian Manuscripts Collections. At the time, it was one of the largest donations to the Library, arriving in two batches, in 1954 and then in 1957. There are approximately 8000 books, 3200 pamphlets, 60 boxes of manuscript material, hundreds of photographs and negatives, research files and memorabilia. The manuscript material is the last to be sorted and rehoused. When that work is done, the cataloguing of this significant collection can begin. 

Note: The manuscripts component of the JK Moir Collection is currently being processed in Preservation prior to being catalogued and will be available for access in 2021, however you can explore the JK Moir Rare Books collection and Pictures collection

More to explore

Album of Bread and Cheese Club Portraits from the Library’s Pictures Collection

Records of the Bread and Cheese Club 1956-1978 from the Library’s Manuscripts Collection

Further reading 

Arnold, John 2000 Moir, John Kinmont (Jack) (1893-1958), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, Melbourne University Press, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moir-john-kinmont-jack-11143 

Arnold, John 1991 An Extraordinary Man: John Kinmont Moir, La Trobe Journal, Number 47 & 48, State Library Victoria, http://www3.slv.vic.gov.au/latrobejournal/issue/latrobe-47-48/t1-g-t9.html

Byrne, E 2008 Alfred Place, eMelbourne (Encyclopaedia of Melbourne online), School of Historical & Philosophical Studies, The University of Melbourne, http://www.emelbourne.net.au/biogs/EM01685b.htm 

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