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Tribute to E.W. Cole Notebook

  • $18.00

Edward William Cole was born in England in 1832 and died in Victoria in 1918. Entirely self made, he combined philosophy, philanthropy and humour with business acumen in the development of a truly unique retailing empire.

After virtually monopolising Melbourne's book trade for many years, he is remembered today (but possibly not enough, hence this tribute) as a visionary yet eccentric public benefactor. At the multi-level glass-roofed Cole's Book Arcade, books were displayed against a background of glittering baubles, live monkeys, stuffed crocodiles, funny mirrors, carnival exhibits and rainbows (a Cole trade mark). Cole turned a "bookshop" into the cultural centre of the City of Melbourne.

Cole was an inspired merchant (of that there was no doubt) and the popularity and mass appeal of Cole's Book Arcade was phenomenal ... all the more remarkable given the proliferation of what were then some fairly radical philosophies.

The basic theme of all Cole's philsophy was the desirability of a federated world. Various Cole slogans peppered the retail space. Minted coins (used, by way of crowd control, to gain entry to the arcade itself) also bore snippets of Cole's thinking. Here are a selection:

+ Federation of the Whole Word: Desirable, Possible & Inevitable
+ Do good and you will be happy and make others happy.
+ The reign of ignorance and force is going; the reign of knowledge and humanity is coming. < [ed: whoops]
+ Reading & Thinking bring Wisdom
+ United States of the World: One Government. One Religion. One Language. Before the Year 2000. < [ed: whoops again]

... and here's a quote from one of the essays that he would personally hawk from the counters of his Book Arcade:

"The possibility and desirability of the Federation of the World will soon become among all nations a confirmed conviction ... The fact is already fast dawning upon mankind, that the natural differences between nations, mentally, morally, and physically, are very little greater than those between brothers of the same family. Nor will the difference of religion prevent the unity of the race ... The morals and leading principles of all [the principle prevailing] religions are in the main strikingly and astonishingly similar, pointing to the inevitable conclusion that they one and all have been evolved from religious instincts existing in the human mind, and further proving that the mind, in its reasoning, its hopes, and aspirations, is essentially alike in all mankind."


E.W. Cole

Cole's Book Arcade

Cole's Book Arcade


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