THE REQUEST FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS that went out from our Secretary/Treasurer some time ago, has enabled us to gain a better idea of what the actual membership of the Society is. Inevitably we found that some people who had continued to have issues sent to them could not or did not wish to remain members. In some cases they had passed away without our knowing, in others they felt they had become too old to continue to look after their collections and had disposed of them. However, the losses there have been somewhat compensated for by new members who have signed up, and we welcome them to the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia and hope that they will enjoy reading Biblionews and—just as importantly—will at some time or other contribute items to our journal.
On occasions when I have approached members and suggested they contribute something to the journal, they almost take fright and give me to understand that they do not think they are capable of writing anything of high enough quality. That is to a point understandable, as many of the articles are written by members and non-members who are pretty expert in their field, and some have an academic background that shows. But the Society is a ‘broad church’, as our our Prime Minister once described his political party, and Biblionews is not essentially an academic journal but is first and foremost there for members to share with our readership their knowledge of and pleasure in collecting books in their field or fields of interest.
As Editor I do try to make sure that any item submitted for publication is at a reasonable standard of clarity and correctness. Everything is copy-edited to correct typos, ambiguities etc. that might affect the clarity of what is written. Sometimes I add explanatory material in square brackets, especially for the benefit of readers overseas. Where possible, the corrected item is sent back to the contributor for their approval. As Acting Editor Neil Radford indicated in his editorial in last year’s December issue, while we have been receiving most of our contributions from New South Wales and Victorian members, we would like to see contributions from elsewhere, particularly as we continue to have members in every state and territory of Australia. And there are members and readers in New Zealand, Britain, North America and on the Continent—just recently the library of the University of Wuppertal in the industrial Ruhr region of Germany asked that it continue to receive Biblionews—I therefore urge readers to try their hand at an article or some smaller item so that the breadth of our ‘church’ is reflected in the variety of our contributors. While it helps if contributions are sent to us electronically as emails or attachments to emails, typewritten or legibly handwritten contributions can be submitted by post and will be scanned or typed onto disk (as was the case with Helen Kenny’s letter in this issue). Illustrations may, of course, accompany any contribution, either scanned in or photocopied.
The present issue contains the usual ‘mixed bag’ of items.
The first item is an account of the Show and Tell meeting held traditionally as our December, so Christmas, meeting and in 2006 as the last meeting in our Sydney suburban venue. I, as Acting President, took notes on the various contributions, subsequently wrote them up and sent them to the contributors, who corrected them and sent them back to me, so there should be no misrepresentations.
Then follows a speech given on 19 August last year by BCSA member Professor Elizabeth Webby, at the time Professor of Australian Literature at the University of Sydney, to launch Katherine Barnes’s new book The Higher Self in Christopher Brennan’s Poems. Some readers may remember seeing, as well as the cover picture of her, the two-page spread titled “Lost for words” (pp.4f.) about her in the Review section of the Weekend Australian newspaper of December 2-3, 2006, bewailing the fact that, on her imminent retirement and replacement by Peter Pierce, the not-to-be-replaced Professor of Australian Literature at Queensland’s James Cook University, the Sydney chair would be the only one left in Australia.
Both Professor Webby’s speech and Katherine Barnes’s book will be of interest to those who collect Brennaniana. In the 338th (June 2003) issue of Biblionews I mentioned in my article “Odd bits of Brennaniana” (pp.43-56.) a thesis on Brennan by the French scholar Simone Kadi that I had bought from a second-hand bookshop and have since given to the University of Sydney Library, which did not have it. It is sad to note from Professor Webby’s speech that Simone Kadi has recently died. I take this opportunity too to mention that in my note 4 there (p.51) I speculated on how much German Brennan might have had when he arrived in Europe. In the meantime a Brennan enthusiast, who is a fellow member of a sailing club frequented by my Germanic Studies Department colleague Dr Udo Borgert and whom I only know of as “Jock”, has via Dr Borgert drawn my attention to the following quotation from a Curriculum Vitae compiled by Brennan in 1930: “…June 15, 1892, the good old NDL [Norddeutscher Lloyd shipping line, BT] Habsburg (5000 tons) carried me off to Europe, still unable to speak German …’.” (Quoted from Terry Sturm (ed.), Christopher Brennan (St Lucia: Queensland University Press, 1984).) I was actually speculating on Brennan’s ability to read German when he arrived in Europe, while in his CV he is commenting on his ability to speak it when he left Sydney, so it is not impossible that he “swatted” the language during the weeks-long voyage on board this German ship to acquire at least a reading knowledge, but that is still mere speculation.
Kevin Fewster’s talk on the new edition of his Bean’s Gallipoli was given at this year’s March meeting, the first one held in our new central-Sydney venue. Dr Fewster is Director of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum and is thus an extremely busy man. His talk was given from rough notes which he had typed up and which he subsequently, at my request to publish it in Biblionews, emailed to me, as he did not have the time to recast it as an article. Using these notes and material relevant to them in his book, I have attempted to expand the notes into the article as published here with his approval. Since the book was not released till the Monday after our Saturday meeting and his other presentations followed its release, the Sydney members at the meeting were privileged to be ‘in on the ground floor’, so to speak.
With interest in Anzac Day as the day of commemoration for all who have fought in Australia’s wars increasing greatly again in recent years, there are doubtless readers who collect in this area, though quite especially books about the Great War, and all three editions of Kevin’s book will be important in such a collection along with the the others alluded to in the article. Of particular interest may be Gallipoli: The Turkish story written with V Basarin and H Hurmuz Basarin, which, unlike most Australian publications on that war, looks at it from the Turkish perspective. I might mention here as well three books by my Sydney University colleague Dr John F Williams that might easily be overlooked, namely his Anzacs, the Media and the Great War (Sydney: UNSW Press, 1999), German Anzacs and the First World War (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2003) and Corporal Hitler and the Great War 1914-1918. The List Regiment (London and New York: Frank Cass, 2005), the latter two of which in particular look at it from a German perspective.
In a letter from Nigel Sinnott published in the previous, March issue about a new publication of his he offered to send a copy for review. Our Reviews Editor Neil Radford’s review of that publication appears in this issue.
Our Notes & Queries section contains a letter from longtime member Helen Kenny about her acquaintance with the cartoonist George Sprod. It was sent as an incidental accompaniment to her corrected version of my account of what she said in her contribution to the December Show & Tell meeting. However, I thought it was such a valuable personal memoir of this man that I asked her permission to publish it with a minimum of editing by me and received her approval.
The item about the appearance of Fredericka van der Lubbe’s book underlines one of the valuable roles that Biblionews can play, namely giving people a chance to bring some of the initial results of their bibliographic researches to public attention sooner than might otherwise be possible.
The one-off item about booksellers’ catalogues may provide some newer collectors with an avenue to obtain information about a few possible sources of acquisitions for their collections. I recommend the information in the All Arts Bookshop & Gallery advertisement in this and recent issues of our journal for the same purpose.
And then the question of “Leporello” is revisited.
Finally, some newer members—and even some older members—may wish to fill some of the gaps in their collection of Biblionews issues. Since we hold some residue and have received copies no longer needed of earlier issues, it seemed only sensible to offer them to members, as is done in the final item on back issues of Biblionews.