The Melbourne Literary Club was founded in June 1916. Its object was the study of literature and the encouragement of Australian writers who were unable to find a place for their poetry in mainstream magazines. To this end, the little magazine Birth was inaugurated in December 1916.
Acting as the official organ of the Melbourne Literary Club, Birth printed the poetry of club members and other writers. Never rising above an eight-page publication, the magazine allowed little space for contributions and offered no payment. Nevertheless, a long list of writers contributed poems and reviews during the six years of the magazine's existence. The most prolific contributors were R. A. Broinowski, Bernard O'Dowd, Henry Tate, Louis Lavater, Frederick Macartney and Furnley Maurice. Other contributors included Mary Gilmore, Hugh McCrae, Mary Fullerton, Dorothea MacKellar and Vance and Nettie Palmer. In later issues, the magazine printed reviews of new books (often books written by members), details of the club's meetings and activities, and Frederick Macartney's series of essays called 'The Beginnings of Australian Poetry'.
The first issues were edited by William Mitchell and Gilbert Wallace. Bernard O'Dowd began his three-year term as editor in June 1917. O'Dowd was replaced in 1920 by Frederick Macartney, and Frank Wilmot (Furnley Maurice) edited the magazine in its final twelve months with the assistance of Louis Lavater. Throughout this period Wilmot printed the magazine free of charge on the small press he operated from his home.
When the Australian Institute of the Arts and Literature was formed in 1922 many Melbourne Literary Club members left for the newer organisation. Birth was subsequently published under the auspices of the Institute, but the magazine was unable to continue through these changes. The editors announced in November 1922 that the issue of Birth for that month would be the last.