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Robertson, George


Was born at Glasgow, Scotland, in 1825. When four years of age his parents took him to Dublin where subsequently he became apprenticed to a firm of publishers. He worked for a time with Currey and Company, booksellers and afterwards in Scotland. In Dublin he had become friendly with Samuel Mullen (q.v.) and the two young men decided to emigrate to Australia. They reached Melbourne on the Great Britain in 1852, bringing with them a collection of books. Robertson opened first in Russell-street but soon moved to Collins street, and about 1861 built a three storey building at 69 Elizabeth-street. The business was developing fast, principally on the wholesale side. In those days there were no publishers' representatives in Australia, and the great problem for the bookseller was to forecast what would be popular, and order a sufficient number of copies to meet the demand. About 1873 large premises were built in Little Collins-treet, with provision for stationery, book-binding, lithography, etc., and branches were opened in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Auckland. In 1890 Robertson retired and the business was carried on by his son, Charles Robertson. It was eventually formed into a company which in 1922 was amalgamated with Melville and Mullens under the name of Robertson and Mullens Ltd.

George Robertson died on 23 March 1898. He was married twice and left a large family. He was purely a business man and did not enter much into the life of Melbourne, though generous to hospitals and charities. His personality remains elusive, but he did great service to the public by bringing much good literature to a young colony whose culture had of necessity to be imported. The need for encouraging local literature was not then fully appreciated, but Robertson published some interesting Australian books, including Kendall's Leaves from Australian Forests, Gordon's Sea Spray and Smoke Drift, and J. Brunton Stephens's The Black Gin and other Poems.


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