Gibson-Hill Collection



A collection of 1,000 published books and journals, originally belonging to Carl Alexander Gibson-Hill’s personal library, was donated to the National Library of Singapore on 18 June 1965 by Mrs Loke Yew on behalf of her son, Loke Wan Tho. It was considered as one of the more outstanding private collections of works related to Malaya, and is held at the Singapore and Southeast Asia Collection of the National Library of Singapore.

Donation of the Collection
Loke, the chairman of Cathay Organisation1 – a chain of cinemas and film production houses, and Gibson-Hill, Director of the Raffles Museum2 had struck up an uncommon friendship through their love of bird-watching and photography, and other shared social responsibilities.3

After Gibson-Hill’s demise in 1963, Loke, who was also the chairman of the National Library Board from 1960 to 1963, had intended to acquire his friend’s collection for the National Library. The plan was, however, curtailed with his own unexpected death in an air crash in 1964. To fulfil her son’s wishes, Mrs Loke Yew née Lim Man Jin (Lim Cheng Kim), donated the collection from the estate of the late Gibson-Hill on behalf of her recently deceased son, Loke Wan Tho, on 18 June 1965. Mr S. Rajaratnam, then Minister of Culture, accepted the gift at the official ceremony held at the National Library open reading room on 18 June 1965.

The collection of books donated to the National Library were originally found in the personal library at the home of Gibson-Hill, and was first made available to the public with the opening of the Southeast Asia Room at the National Library in 1965. Each item in the collection was given a donor note that denotes its status as part of the Gibson-Hill Collection.4

Collection contents
The collection covers three main subjects: flora and fauna, with a special focus on birds and ornithology; travel histories with a special focus on ships and watercrafts; and the arts with a special focus on photography. These subjects are closely tied to Gibson-Hill’s work as curator at the Raffles Museum and editor of the Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.5


The oldest publication in the Gibson-Hill Collection is Linschoten’s Discours of Voyages (1598). At least half the titles in the Gibson-Hill catalogue are travelogues spanning the 17th century to the 20th century. Many are accompanied by fine illustrations, lithographs and award-winning photographs and photogravure.6 The collection also has 53, or more than 40%, of the 121 titles published by the Hakluyt Society between 1847 and 1963.7

In the collection, there is a number of Gibson-Hill’s own published works, including those he contributed during his internment during the Japanese Occupation. It also comprises works cited in his own published works. Though primarily in English, the collection includes works in French, German, Malay, and Chinese.8

A number of the titles in the collection are signed and dated by Gibson-Hill while others have the authors’ compliments addressed to him. Only one title has Gibson-Hill’s personal bookplate.9

There are also at least 25 titles attributed to Loke Wan Tho in the collection. They were retrospectively added to the collection and were not part of the original collection belonging to Gibson-Hill. Most of Loke’s donated titles have a strong emphasis on the latest photographic techniques of the mid-20th century while several are publications by the Singapore Arts Society of a limited circulation. These titles also reflect the common interests and responsibilities shared by Loke and Gibson-Hill in the Singapore Arts Society and the Singapore Photographic Society.10



Author

Bonny Tan



References
1. Cathay’s far- flung S-E Asia Film Empire, by Loke. (1960, November 15). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. He gets top museum post. (1957, February 15). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Tan, B., & Lim, I. (2008). An orientalist’s treasure trove of Malaya and beyond: Catalogue of Gibson-Hill Collection at the National Library Singapore. National Library Board Singapore, p. 8. Retrieved from BookSG.
4. Books gift by Mrs. Loke Yew fulfils wish of her late son. (1965, June 11). The Straits Times. p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Tan, B., & Lim, I. (2008). An orientalist’s treasure trove of Malaya and beyond: Catalogue of Gibson-Hill Collection at the National Library Singapore. National Library Board Singapore, p. 9. Retrieved from BookSG.
6. Tan, B., & Lim, I. (2008). An orientalist’s treasure trove of Malaya and beyond: Catalogue of Gibson-Hill Collection at the National Library Singapore. National Library Board Singapore, p. 79. Retrieved from BookSG.
7. Tan, B., & Lim, I. (2008). An orientalist’s treasure trove of Malaya and beyond: Catalogue of Gibson-Hill Collection at the National Library Singapore. National Library Board Singapore, p. 40. Retrieved from BookSG.
8. Tan, B., & Lim, I. (2008). An orientalist’s treasure trove of Malaya and beyond: Catalogue of Gibson-Hill Collection at the National Library Singapore. National Library Board Singapore, p. 9. Retrieved from BookSG.
9. Tan, B., & Lim, I. (2008). An orientalist’s treasure trove of Malaya and beyond: Catalogue of Gibson-Hill Collection at the National Library Singapore. National Library Board Singapore, pp. 9–11. Retrieved from BookSG.
10. Tan, B., & Lim, I. (2008). An orientalist’s treasure trove of Malaya and beyond: Catalogue of Gibson-Hill Collection at the National Library Singapore. National Library Board Singapore, p. 10. Retrieved from BookSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Science and technology>>General science>>Natural history
Gibson-Hill, Carl Alexander, 1911-1963
Personalities
Book donations--Singapore