Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Herbert Edward Cooper Robinson (1857–1933)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

Herbert Edward Cooper Robinson (1857?-1933), map publisher, was baptised on 6 January 1858 at Winchester, Hampshire, England, sixth child of Sidney Rudge Robinson (d.1898), medical practitioner, and his first wife Katherine Emily, née Cooper. About 1863 he arrived with his family in Victoria where his father set up practice in Ryrie Street, Geelong. In his early twenties Robinson moved to Sydney where he joined the public service as a temporary draughtsman. On 9 August 1879 he married Augusta Carolina (d.1914), née Dahlquist, at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church. In 1882 he set up in business as Higinbotham, Robinson & Harrison, map publishers and lithographers. Harrison withdrew from the venture in 1887 and next April Higinbotham & Robinson was declared bankrupt; they were discharged in October after paying 4s. 2d. in the £. Robinson rejoined the public service as a contract draughtsman in the Department of Mines.

In 1895 Robinson set up his own map-publishing business in Wentworth Court, moving in 1906 to Phillip Street and in 1913 to permanent location at 221-223 George Street. In November 1917 H. E. C. Robinson Ltd was officially incorporated with seven share holders and Robinson as managing director. Business flourished, especially during World War I when there was a demand for maps showing the progress of the war. From the 1920s Robinson published a notable series of maps of the pastoral stations of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. H. E. C. Robinson's soon became a byword for maps throughout Australasia; as well as its wide variety of sheet, wall and special purpose maps, atlases and street directories, its ground-floor George Street shop sold a large range of imported maps. In 1925 the firm took over the Premier Street Guide and developed it as Sydney's leading guide. Robinson was also the largest partner in the Australian Guide Book Co. Ltd, but relinquished his controlling interest to Cecil Gregory by deed of gift shortly before his death, thereby giving rise to Gregory's Guides and Maps Pty Ltd.

A founder of the (Royal) Geographical Society of Australasia in 1885, Robinson was a member of the Geographical Society of New South Wales in the late 1920s and fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London. He made many valuable contributions to geographical science and was a delegate to the 1923 Sydney Regional Plan Convention. A friend and technical collaborator of Professor Sir Edgeworth David, he helped to produce David's monumental large-scale Geological Map of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1932; his draughtsmen also produced the maps for Donald Mackay's important aerial surveys of Australia from 1930.

Robinson died in St Luke's Hospital, Darlinghurst, on 17 January 1933 and was buried in the Presbyterian section of Waverley cemetery. He was survived by his son and daughter, Mrs Eileen Robinson Brooks, a successful actress. In November 1959 H. E. C. Robinson Ltd became a subsidiary of Angus & Robertson Ltd.

Select Bibliography

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18, 20 Jan 1933
  • Bulletin, 25 Jan 1933
  • M. Goodacre, A Bio-Bibliography of the Firm H. E. C. Robinson (School of Librarianship, University of New South Wales, 1966)
  • H. E. C. Robinson papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • bankruptcy file 10/22513 (State Records New South Wales)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Robinson, Herbert Edward Cooper (1857–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 19 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Winchester, Hampshire, England


17 January, 1933 (aged ~ 76)
Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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