John Dashwood Holmes (1907–1973) was born in Sydney and educated at Christian Brothers College, Waverley, and the University of Sydney. He was admitted to the New South Wales Bar in 1933 and built up a large practice, especially in constitutional law, commercial law and equity. He lectured in constitutional law at the University of Sydney (1940–50) and wrote a number of textbooks. He was appointed KC in 1948 and in that year was junior counsel for the Commonwealth in the Bank Nationalization Case. He was appointed a judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court in 1965 and elevated to the Court of Appeal in 1966.

Holmes’ first wife was the daughter of George Mackaness, the notable book collector. In the 1930s Holmes began to collect Australian books, pamphlets, broadsides and newspapers. He compiled a bibliography on the growth of Australian Federation that was never published.


The Library purchased the Holmes Collection in 1952. Holmes donated further material in 1953 and 1957.


Printed Material

The Holmes Collection contains over 5000 books, pamphlets, broadsides, posters, periodicals and newspapers. It has a strong core of material relating to Federation in its widest sense, embracing not only the Federation movement but literature on customs duties, boundaries and Asian immigration, as well as general political and constitutional history. Among the strengths of the collection are early Australiana, parliamentary and legal publications, aviation, local histories, crime and criminals, novels and plays, poetry, World War I, biography, and an extensive set of New South Wales Bookstall Company publications.


Holmes acquired a miscellaneous collection of Australian manuscripts, with a particular focus on Federation. They include:

MS 263 Joseph McDonagh. Diary kept during the shearers’ strike at Wilcannia (1894); scrapbooks

MS 265 Log of American brigantine Malta on voyage from Boston to Sydney (1833–35)

MS 266 Andrew Ross. Notes of speeches made during the Federation campaign in New South Wales; newspaper cuttings

MS 267 Donald Cormack. Notes, cuttings and circulars on Federation, federal finance and the 1896 People’s Federal Convention at Bathurst

MS 274 J. Allan Padman. Accounts of experiences as a wheat farmer in Western Australia (1928–29)

MS 428 Andrew Ross. Manuscript on Aboriginal tribal fights

MS 429 Andrew Ross. Chronicles of the book of Federation

MS 890 John Dunmore Lang. Four letters from Francis Forbes to Lang (1831–35); a manuscript by Lang on Federation; questions submitted to Sir Thomas Mitchell (1854)

MS 1532 William Clennon. Two letterbooks recording the engagement of Pacific Islanders, mainly from Mackay and the surrounding district (1891–92)

MS 1550 Voltaire Molesworth. Letters received by Molesworth while serving in World War I.

Personal Papers

Most of the papers held at MS 304 are bibliographical. They include the unpublished Bibliography of Federation (1841–1901), a bibliography of the New South Wales Bookstall Company, notes on the Polynesian labour traffic, the New State movement, the Anglican Church in Australia, and letters from collectors and booksellers. MS 954 comprises transcripts of selected High Court cases (1932–45). MS 1550 contains some correspondence by Holmes (1940–42), miscellaneous notes, documents, transcripts, photographs, and a cutting book containing articles and verse by Holmes (1926–34).


The printed material in the Holmes Collection was integrated into the Library’s Australian and newspaper collections. At the request of Sir John Ferguson, the New South Wales Bookstall Company publications were kept together and shelved with the Ferguson Collection. Manuscripts collected by Holmes have mostly been catalogued individually, but some have been filed in MS 1550. The personal papers are held together at MS 304, MS 954 and MS 1550. A typescript list of MS 304 is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.


McLaughlin, John K., Holmes, John Dashwood (1907–1973), Australian Dictionary of Biography online