Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ferdinand François Baillière (1838–1881)

by Laurel Clark

This article was published:

Ferdinand François Baillière (1838–1881), bookseller and publisher, was born on 11 July 1838 in London, youngest son of Hippolyte Baillière and his wife Karanaputch, née Hagon. Ferdinand's formal education is not known but it is likely he had experience in the book trade from an early age. His uncle Jean-Baptiste Baillière founded a bookselling and publishing company in Paris. Ferdinand's father, who owned a bookshop in Regent Street, London, also became a publisher, running the business until his death in 1870. The business, later Baillière, Tindall & Cox, became prominent in medical publishing; in 2005 the multinational Harcourt company was still publishing under the Baillière name. Two of Ferdinand's brothers went to New York in the nineteenth century and entered bookselling and publishing.

Ferdinand left England in 1860 and reached Melbourne on 30 October, commissioned to purchase works on Australian exploration and history for the British Museum. His first address was Temple Court. The business was then at 85 Collins Street East and from 1865 at 104 Collins Street, where it remained until he died. Little is known of his bookselling activities, although he issued three catalogues and sold books to the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria and the University of Melbourne. His shop was described by the Bulletin as 'the constant resort of many of the literary and medical celebrities of the city'. At Christ Church, St Kilda, on 21 December 1861, Baillière married with Anglican rites London-born Sophia Frederica Medex.

In 1862 Baillière issued the Journal of Landsborough's Expedition from Carpentaria, in Search of Burke & Wills. The imprint of this book and all subsequent publications listed Melbourne, London, Paris, New York and Madrid. A further work, J. M'Douall Stuart's Explorations Across the Continent of Australia (1863), announced on the title page that Baillière was 'Publisher in Ordinary to the Victorian Government', a claim difficult to substantiate. He brought out fiction as well as verse, but was best known for his gazetteers for Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland and post office directories for Melbourne and Queensland, issued from 1865 until 1880.

Ever the entrepreneur, Baillière published more than fifty-five works, including books by notable colonists such as Marcus Clarke, (Sir) Thomas a'Beckett, (Sir) John O'Shanassy, Richard Daintree and R. Brough Smyth. Baillière also produced his own journal, the Medical & Surgical Review (Australasia), in 1863-71, and sold medical instruments. He was associated with the charlatan James George Beaney, issuing ten of his books. Having obtained, possibly improperly, an official commission for Beaney to use when he travelled to England, in a celebrated court case in 1880 he sued the doctor for failure to pay for his services, thus airing the scandal. But he lost the case. In July he became insolvent.

Baillière was killed when the Brighton express train to Melbourne was derailed on 30 August 1881. Beaney attended the accident and pronounced his adversary dead. Baillière was buried in St Kilda cemetery with Anglican rites. His wife, daughter and son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • The Medical Embassy to England: Being a Report of the Trial Bailliere v. Beaney (Melb, 1880)
  • Australasian, 31 July 1880, p 147
  • 3 Sept 1881, supplement, p 4
  • Argus (Melbourne), 1 Sept 1881, p 5
  • L. Clark, Aspects of Melbourne Book Trade History: Innovation and Specialisation in the Careers of F. F. Baillière and Margareta Webber (M.A. thesis, Monash University, 1997).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Laurel Clark, 'Baillière, Ferdinand François (1838–1881)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 20 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 July, 1838
London, Middlesex, England


30 August, 1881 (aged 43)
Victoria, Australia

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