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2006-03, 349, Book Reviews, Colin Steele

Book Review: ‘Patrick White: A Bibliography.’

Patrick White: A Bibliography.

By Brian Hubber and Vivian Smith. Quiddlers Press in association with Oak Knoll Press. 322pp.Available in Australia and New Zealand from Quiddlers Press,PO Box 3034, Auburn Vic 3123, Australia. $A95.00ISBN 0-9581949-2-0

Patrick White (1912-1990) is one of Australia’s greatest writers and was a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973. Hubber and Smith’s excellent descriptive bibliography of this controversial figure, both in letters and politics, has been in preparation for some considerable time. Indeed, it began while Patrick White was still alive. As the authors state in their introduction, White was sympathetic towards the bibliography but it did not assume the importance for him of his biography, namely David Marr’s Patrick White: A Life (Random House, 1991).

The length of preparation has ensured an admirable comprehensiveness. Brian Hubber, the Curator at Geelong Art Gallery, was previously the Rare Books Librarian at the State Library of Victoria, and has a special interest in Australian bibliography and history of the book. Vivian Smith is a well-known Australian poet and critic and has been a recipient of the Patrick White Literary Award. This descriptive bibliography documents all editions and translations of White’s works, lists reviews of first and other significant editions, and includes accounts of the composition and reception of each work.

White always maintained, as the authors indicate in the Introduction, that he should solely be judged by his published output. He destroyed his manuscripts and often bought up copies of his early books for the same purpose: “the final versions of my books are what I want people to see, and if there is anything of importance in me, it will be in those”.

White was therefore much more interested than many authors in the physical production of his volumes both in the text and design. White’s relations with book designers, cover illustrators and editors played a crucial part in the final products. Hubber and Smith thus state, “if White put so much of himself into the artefact, it is incumbent on the bibliographer to describe—and the literary scholar to analyse—the level and nature of this authorial input”.

The White bibliography has as its core, twenty-seven “chapters”, each devoted to a single publication. Other sections, particularly the Appendices, cover his non-book material such as musical works, plays and screenplays and poetry.

Patrick White: A Bibliography will appeal to booksellers, collectors, textual critics, literary historians and White readers. Hubber and Smith hope that their aggregated data on White, “will raise new questions regarding the influence of White”. Quiddler’s Press are to be congratulated, with co-publisher Oak Knoll Press, in publishing an essential reference work on White and one which White himself would surely have appreciated both physically and textually.

Colin Steele

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