'Melba's Gift Book of Australian Art and Literature' produced about 1915 to raise money for the Belgian Relief Fund. It contains colour plate illustrations by well-known Australian artists including Norman Lindsay, George Lambert, Hans Heysen, Edward Phillips Fox, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite, Charles Nuttall and Arthur Streeton and also entries by various Australian writers including Ethel Turner, Henry Lawson, C.J. Dennis, Bernard O'Dowd, Mrs Aeneas Gunn and Louis Esson. There is also a colour reproduction of a portrait of Melba by Florence Rodway. Melba was an avid supporter and collector of Australian art and some of these artists were represented in her own private collection.

Melba worked tirelessly for the World War I war effort in Australia, as well as in North America. She was personally affected by the War, losing five of her own relations at Gallipoli, as well as many friends in England. Her numerous benefit concerts raised huge sums for local and overseas causes, with countries such as Belgium the immediate focus of projects such as her Gift Book. Melba had a particular affection for Belgium having been the location of her operatic debut which set her on her hugely successful operative course.She became a highly visible public figure at this time, both due to her performances and also her patriotic speeches at concerts and in the press, aiming to rouse the Australian public to action. She earned a nickname at this time, the 'Queen of Pickpockets', for never losing an opportunity to extract money from people for the war cause. For her services towards the war effort King George V made Melba Dame Commander of the British Empire. It was a new honour instituted by King George V to reward citizens of the empire for outstanding war work.

Physical Description

Hard cover pale green covered book with in print of Melba's insignia and title 'Melba's Gift Book' on the cover. It has 176 pages and 33 plates, many in colour and adhered loosely to the pages. The inside frontispiece has a loosely glued reproduction colour portrait of Melba by Florence Rodway. the book contains short stories, poems, black and white illustrations and cartoons.


This gift book demonstrates Dame Nellie Melba’s World War I fundraising activities as well as her genuine interest in and support of Australian art of which she was a collector.

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