E. W. Cole

E. W. Cole


“Be good and you will be happy and make others happy.” ~ E. W. Cole

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 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. Such was its renown that it was visited by writers Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain during their travels to Australia.

Cole’s Funny Picture Book (1879), a compilation of words and pictures designed to inform, amuse and inspire, was a breakout success, and was kept continuously in print for almost a century. Many grew up with a great love for these books.

Cole was a gifted merchant and the popularity and mass appeal of Cole’s Book Arcade was phenomenal ... all the more remarkable given his adherence to what were then some fairly radical philosophies.

The basic theme of all Cole’s philosophy was the desirability of a federated world. Various Cole slogans peppered the retail space. Minted tokens (used, by way of crowd control, to gain entry to the arcade itself) also bore snippets of Cole’s thinking. 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 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 said: “Be good and you will be happy and make others happy.”

Wise words from a remarkable man.

PS: See ewcole.com an excellent repository of all things E.W. Cole that has been complied by his great grandson Tony Rudd.


E. W. Cole exists in printed form as chapter 13 of RR#1 … available to order HERE


Wikipedia: Edward William Cole | (Text) CC BY-SA


1. Edward William Cole
2. Cole's Book Arcade Circa 1883
3. Cole's Funny Picture Book
4. Cole's Funny Picture Book: Sample Page
5. Improve Your Mind Banner
6. Sample Token
7. Tribute to E. W. Cole REMO Design | 2007
8. Tribute to E. W. Cole at REMO Merchandise HERE 

Back to blog