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  • State Library of Victoria

    Victor Hugo — From Page to Stage

    18 JULY — 9 NOVEMBER 2014


The Exhibition

Take an unforgettable journey from the 19th-century Paris of Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables to today's blockbuster stage musical in this world-first exhibition.

See 100 pages of Victor Hugo’s 1862 Les Misérables manuscript, using our interactive digitised version now on display. The 945-page handwritten volume has returned home to the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, as the manuscript can only be displayed for short periods in order to preserve its precious pages. The digitised version lets you discover passages that weren't included in the published novel, including additions and corrections in Hugo’s own hand.

 The exhibition also features rare items from the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Maisons de Victor Hugo, Musée Rodin, Cameron Mackintosh Archive and others:

  • original drawings and watercolours by Victor Hugo
  • costumes and designs from the musical production and Academy Award-winning film
  • rare scripts, scores, designs and posters from the 1985 Royal Shakespeare Company theatre production
  • stunning, interactive displays, that let you sing, dress up and take centre stage.

Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance to explore the most popular French story of all time. Exclusive to the State Library of Victoria, and coinciding with Cameron Mackintosh's acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schönberg's Les Misérables currently playing in Melbourne.


Photography and filming is not permitted in the main gallery, due to preservation requirements, but is allowed in the interactive gallery. Please refer to signs in the exhibition or ask a staff member for further information.

Exhibition shop

While seeing the exhibition, visit the pop-up shop run by Readings to browse the range of merchandise on sale, including the fully illustrated exhibition catalogue.

Image gallery

See, and learn more about, selected items from the exhibition in our image gallery.


View an online interactive of Hugo's original manuscript, with expert video commentary, produced by The Age.

Visiting information

Dates: 18 July to 9 November 2014
Hours: daily 10am–6pm, Thursdays to 9pm
Venue: State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne

We recommend that you allow 60–90 minutes to fully appreciate the experience. Standard prams and small bags can be taken into the exhibition; lockers ($2–4) are available for larger bags. Amenities are available within the exhibition. Please note that once you exit the exhibition, re-entry is not permitted.

For more on planning your exhibition visit, see the Ticketek FAQ and our Library website.

Watch our video for a short overview of the exhibition.

Presented by
Principal Partner
Major Partners
Supported by the Victorian Government

Victor Hugo

Born in Besançon, France, Victor Hugo (1802–1885) is considered one of the greatest and most important French authors of all time. Best known for his novels Les Misérables (1862) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) he is also famous for his poetry, theatre, novels, essays and drawings.

Throughout his life, he actively defended the common man, and sought to abolish the death sentence. First published at the young age of 15, he was soon after recognised by the King for his poetry and entered politics as a congressman in 1845. It was during this time he began writing his masterpiece, Les Misérables. After an attempt to overthrow Napoleon III in 1851 he was forced into exile and in 1860, after nearly a decade of intense political turmoil, he set out to revise and complete this epic novel.

When the first two volumes of Les Misérables arrived in Paris in April 1862, all 6000 copies sold in a day. Public readings were organised when copies sold out. Everyone was reading it, from the literary intelligentsia to the common people. It was also quickly translated into nine languages to reach a global audience. After only three months, 100,000 authorised copies (and countless editions on the black market) had been sold worldwide, making the novel into an unprecedented literary bestseller of western literature. In 1870 after the fall of Napoleon III, Hugo returned to France and was hailed a national hero.

Victor Hugo’s legacy and the iconic story of Les Misérables endure to this day with various adaptations being created around the world. There have been at least 48 films, 14 animated films or TV series, radio plays, 12 television miniseries, numerous comic books, and at least 286 editions of Les Misérables published, sung and spoken.

The stage musical of Boublil and Schönberg's Les Misérables is in itself a worldwide phenomenon. It is the longest running theatre performance in London and has been seen by over 65 million people in 43 countries and in 21 languages. It returns to Melbourne in June 2014.

Discover more about Victor Hugo, Les Misérables and Hugo's influence on 19th-century art, politics and literature in our Victor Hugo: Les Misérables – From Page to Stage research guide.


Purchase your exhibition tickets now at the Library's foyer box office, 10am–5pm daily (til 8pm Thursdays) or via Ticketek â€“ online or on 132 849.

Ticket typePrice 1
Concession 2$12
Friends of the Library$10
Child (age 3–16)$12
Family (2 adults, 3 children)$42

Group (pp, min 10, +1 comp ticket for groups 20+)


School group (pp, min 10, +1 comp ticket)


Victor Hugo corporate hospitality packages

Entertain, inspire and engage your guests with an exclusive after-hours viewing of the exhibition, accompanied by an exquisite French food and wine package. Call us on 03 8664 7327 about creating an unforgettable bespoke package for you.


1Ticket prices include GST and booking fees. Transaction fee applies.

2Concession prices apply to the following cardholders: Full-time student with ID (16 years+), Health Care Card, Seniors Card, Pension Card, International Student Card



The world-first exhibition Victor Hugo: Les Misérables From Page to Stage will enchant fans of the book, musical and film.

As both a UNESCO City of Literature and the musical theatre capital of Australia, our magnificent State Library is the natural home for this exhibition.

The City of Melbourne is proud to support this exciting showcase, which features rare items from the collections of Maison de Victor Hugo and the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The original 1862 manuscript of Les Misérables, a French national treasure, will be exhibited exclusively at the State Library. It is the first time that the manuscript has left Europe.

I encourage you all to visit the State Library and lift the curtain on all things Les Mis.

Robert Doyle
Lord Mayor


The exhibition complements many learning areas, including English, the arts, literature, history, French language and more.

Exhibition entry only

Our engaging education programs have been designed to inspire and educate students from mid-primary through to senior secondary level.

Students receive a free learning guide on arrival and have the opportunity to explore the exhibition, discovering some of the universal and enduring themes to come out of Victor Hugo’s work.

Book your school group through Ticketek by calling: 1300 364 001

Workshops + exhibition entry

Book into one of the Library's workshops and receive free entry to the exhibition.

Primary students: Page to stage workshop

Students will have the chance to get hands-on in a set design workshop, bringing to life their favourite scene from the exhibition.

Book this workshop

Secondary students: Page to stage workshop

Students will work with innovative technology to create their own digital comic, inspired by Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables.

Book this workshop

Teaching resources

Use our curriculum-aligned teaching materials in your classroom and help students understand the world of Victor Hugo’s characters, make connections between the text with events from Victoria’s history and explore adaptations of the iconic story.

Rare Books Librarian wearing white gloves showing students a rare book


Presented by

Principal partner

Major partners

Supporting partners

International lenders

This exhibition was made possible with the generous support of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Maisons de Victor Hugo in Paris and Guernsey, Musée Carnavalet, Musée Rodin, Maison Litteraire de Victor Hugo, and Cameron Mackintosh Limited. 

Program partners

A Melbourne Unesco city of literature event

An f20 creative France event

Supported by the Victorian government

About the Library

Established in 1856, the State Library of Victoria is Australia's oldest public library and one of the state's most prominent cultural and heritage destinations. Our mission is to be a place where all Victorians can discover, learn, create and connect.

Located in the heart of Melbourne, we welcome more than 1.7 million people of all ages each year and receive over 3 million website visits. Our rich collection, spectacular buildings, knowledgeable staff and year-round program of activities and events mean there is always something for visitors to enjoy.

Visit our website to learn more about us or subscribe to our enewsletters to stay up to date.

Find us at:

Address: 328 Swanston St, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: 03 8664 7000

Website image credits

  • Émile Bayard, ‘Cosette’, engraving by Bellanger, 1886, reproduced in Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (London, G Routledge and Sons), 1887. Rare Books Collection, State Library of Victoria.
  • Gustave Brion, ‘Javert’, 1862, reproduced in Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (London, G Routledge and Sons), 1887. Rare Books Collection, State Library of Victoria.
  • Eugène Devéria, ‘Victor Hugo’, 1829, engraving by James Hopwood the Younger, reproduced in Oeuvres complètes de Victor Hugo, ‘Les Misérables’, vol. 1, Fantine (Paris, Société d’Éditions Littéraires et Artistiques, 1927). State Library of Victoria.