Our collection of the Printed Catalogues of the Institute is complete with one very important exception. We have access to copies of all but the very first catalogue. It appeared in late 1849 or early 1850, and does not seem to be held in any Australian library, nor to be listed by Ferguson.
There is however clear evidence that it existed. Firstly, in an announcement in the Launceston Examiner on 21 April 1849 that a "catalogue will shortly be printed". Then in the same newspaper on 19 Jan 1850, an announcement that "Catalogues of the library are now printed, and may be obtained from the librarian, during the hours the library is open - price one shilling."
According to the accounts of the LMI for 1849-50, two hundred and fifty copies of the catalogue were printed and sales of catalogues to Oct 1850 had realised income of £3/5/- (i.e. 65 copies had been sold.)
The Annual Report for 1850 gave the total size of the collection as 1293 volumes, and the "fugitive" catalogue would be an invaluable guide to the principles upon which the early collection was organised.
Because a second catalogue appeared in 1858, the original had relatively brief currency and no doubt most copies were discarded at that time. It can only be hoped that a copy may have survived somewhere.
One publication which has survived from 1850 is a pamphlet of nineteen pages entitled 'The Intellectual improvement of the working classes: a lecture delivered at the Launceston Mechanics' Institute, April 4th, 1850', by the Rev. Charles Price. Copies of this pamphlet are held in the National Library, the State Library of Victoria and by LINC Tasmania.
The pamphlet has been digitised by SLV which holds a copy formerly belonging to the Melbourne Public Library (title page illustrated).
The statement of publication is particularly interesting – "Reprinted by desire and at the expense of tradesmen and mechanics of Launceston" – as it goes directly to the original aims and objects of the institution.
Perhaps the mechanics of Launceston were responding to a call to arms from Rev. Price in his lecture. Speaking of Mechanics' Institutes and Schools of Arts he said:
If such institutions do not flourish in every community where the arts of life are practised, it must be the fault of the mechanics themselves. If they do not flourish in any spot, there the labouring classes are falling behind in the onward spirit of the age. The facilities of their formation and maintenance are so many and cheap, that nothing but idle indifference or sordid demoralisation can prevent their rise and progress. Let the will to improve be present, and the way is wide open.(p9)