Cole in his study, in his Arcade, in Bourke-street – in his element.

In his 1902 book Hobbies, Cole wrote:

‘One good kind of the collecting class of hobby is that of a good scrap-book, or a series of them. … I am a great believer in this sort of collecting, and having had special facilities and a great liking for it, I have collected not less than 50,000 cuttings on 500 subjects, and arranged in 500 boxes, so that I can easily select them again, when opportunity offers, those which I think best. As for myself, my life has been a curious and largely isolated one, although in charge of the most numerously attended literary establishment south of the line, if not in the world; I have been an enthusiastic reader all my lifetime, and have read but few novels. My hobby in reading has been to search for information, facts, truth beautifully, clearly and concisely stated, about the world and its inhabitants, and things in general. I have never played nor attended to the playing of games; for although I think innocent games a great blessing to most people as a recreation if used in reason, in my case I have thought it a waste of time, and seemed to have other work to do. I have not mixed with society, for the same reason; consequently, in this isolated, somewhat unsociable, yet happy life of mine, many hobbies have grown up, and probably I have almost as many of them as anybody around. My principal hobbies have been — 1st, The studying of the various religions of mankind; 2nd, The starting and running a peculiar institution called a Book Arcade; 3rd, Preparing and publishing “Much-in-little” books for the people; 4th, Publishing and distributing essays and medals on “the Oneness of Man and the Federation of the whole World.” I have had several minor hobbies; one is — the collecting information about the monkeys of the world (the most interesting of animals), engraving blocks of them, and keeping 40 to 50 of them for years to study their character for the purpose of writing a book. Another hobby has been the taking of hundreds of “sittings” during the last ten years with various so-called spiritual mediums, for the purpose of trying to understand what the peculiar – yet real, little-known and astonishing – phenomenon called spiritualism really is; whether it is spirit communication, as it is claimed by many to be, or only some hidden action of the mind not yet understood. I could mention others of my hobbies, but these will suffice, as I do not wish to tire the reader.’ (Pages 29 – 31)

My book-filled Palace of Intellect