Guide to the Papers of Pietro Baracchi


MS 8913

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: ©2003.

Collection Summary

Baracchi, Pietro, 1851-1926
Papers of Pietro Baracchi
Date Range
1880-1973 (bulk 1880-1925)
Collection Number
MS 8913
0.28 meters (2 boxes + 1 folio box)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Content

The papers relate to both the personal and public life of Pietro Baracchi and other members of the Baracchi family over a considerable number of years. There are diaries, scientific notes, records of field trips, photographs and pamphlets. The scientific component is small, but the observations are of great importance. The formal and informal portraits of Baracchi and his son Guido Baracchi and their families date from c. 1888 to 1973. The diaries of his visit to Europe, including his native Italy, in 1922 to 1924, have descriptive accounts of his travelling companions and their experiences together.

Baracchi contributed an article on astronomy and geodesy to the Federal handbook : prepared in connection with the eighty-fourth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held in Australia, August, 1914, and the accumulated letters and material in connection with the article are in the papers. There are also transcripts of letters Baracchi wrote to friends on his overseas trip.


The collection is available for reference.

Copying and Publishing

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Pietro Baracchi, National Library of Australia, MS 8913, [series and/or file number]'.


The papers of both Pietro Baracchi and his son Guido were donated to the Library under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme by Baracchi's granddaughter Gilda Baracchi. These papers were donated to the National Library in instalments since 1976.

Guido Baracchi (1887-1975), a foundation member of the Communist Party of Australia, was a Communist Party official and political activist. His papers are located at MS 5241.

Biographical Note

The astronomer Pietro Baracchi was born in Florence in 1851 and died in Melbourne in 1926. He took a degree in civil engineering and served briefly in the Italian army as a engineer.

Baracchi came first to New Zealand in 1876 and finding no professional openings there he came to Australia later that year, joining the Victorian Public Service. While working at the Melbourne Observatory in 1882 he was selected to go to Port Darwin to take part in a project to determine Australian longitudes. Baracchi was appointed acting government astronomer in 1895, and his appointment as Victorian Government Astronomer was confirmed in 1900. For some time he was president of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science. He selected Mt Stromlo as the site for the Australian Observatory in 1911. One of his great interests was Halley's Comet.

Baracchi was best known to the general public as official weather forecaster for the colony. He fought hard to have observatories relieved of meteorological duties and this was achieved in 1907.

He was elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1884, and in 1897 the Italian monarch conferred upon him the Order of Knight Commander of the Crown of Italy.

Biographical Reference(s)

Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 7, 1891-1939.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Correspondence, 1896-1924

The small group of correspondence in this series includes a copy of a letter from Ferdinand von Mueller (1896), cables to Baracchi from Dame Nellie Melba (1903, 1908), a letter to his son Guido (1918), a letter of appreciation from the Board of the Observatory (1916), letters of introduction from the Prime Minister's Department for his trip overseas (1922), and typescripts of letters from Baracchi to friends while on his trip (1922-1924).

2 Files

Series 2. Diaries and notebooks, 1898-1925

There are eighteen of Baracchi's small notebooks in this series. The text in each notebook and diary is not extensive, but the content in most is important for the unique detail it gives of his work in meteorology and astronomy. He kept a diary at the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Sydney (1898), and there is a diary from the time he established the astronomical observatory at Mt Stromlo (1911-1913), with annotations and notes as part of a global program to record the position of the stars. He kept notes of his tours of country Victoria inspecting collecting points for meteorological data, notes for the lectures he conducted on meteorology, and notes of items he read on astronomy including Halley's Comet. There are notebooks for scientific notes and data, and a calculation of the lunar calendar.

There are financial records and notes on his son Guido's illnesses and operations, and Guido's time in prison. Included also in this series are the travel diaries of his overseas trip (1922-25), and jottings on his travels.

4 Files

Series 3. Federal handbook, 1913-1914

The correspondence from Australian astronomers and others in connection with data for his article on Astronomy and Geodesy for the Federal handbook is in this series. The Federal handbook was prepared in connection with the 84th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held in Australia, August, 1914. Also included are relevant articles and papers, and a listing of them. Correspondents include the Sydney, Adelaide and Perth Observatories, the Commonwealth Statistician, The Department of Lands, the Mitchell Library, John Tebbutt, Ernest Scott, and Walter Galey.

1 Folio Packet

Series 4. Photographs, c. 1888-1973

There are approximately 80 formal and informal portraits mainly of Pietro and Guido Baracchi and their families. Many of the prints are albumen or silver gelatin-toned. There are five large individually hand tinted portraits of Pietro and a number of studio portraits of his wife and family taken by Melbourne photographic studios at the turn of the century. Portraits of Guido include a number of him as a child and later ones with his family. Also in the collection are unidentified photographs of Pietro's Italian relatives, and a 1916 portrait of Mabel and Cynthia Brookes.

3 Files and 3 Folio Packets

Series 5. Publications, 1896-1922

The seven different titles in the series are mainly on the subject of astronomy and meteorology. There are Baracchi's contributions to the 1898 Sydney session of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, including his presidential address and papers on Cloud observations in Victoria and The testing of reflecting surfaces. The Scientific Australian, December 1896, has a biographical article 'Men of today' on Baracchi, and there is a 1920 New South Wales Government pamphlet The total solar eclipse of September, 1922: local notes on selection of sites in Australia. There is a small Italian book of poetry, Cento Sonetti (1903) and a pamphlet La Penisola Balcanica nel momento attuale: impressioni di viaggio.

1 File

Series 6. Miscellaneous papers, 1903-1922

The miscellaneous series has Baracchi's Naturalization certificate (1922), copies of manuscript articles by Guido Baracchi on 'Love and death' (St Moritz, n.d.) and 'The human adventure' (RMS Omrah, n.d.), photocopies of many of the diaries, a biographical entry from the Cyclopedia of Victoria (1903), and The stars on the ensign of the Australian Commonwealth (n.d.) by Pietro Baracchi, Sapsford and Company, Brisbane.

1 File