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2008-09, 359, Brian Taylor, Editorial

Editorial- September 2008

THIS ISSUE of Biblionews is appearing very late indeed, very much because a rather long illness during September left me with a number of unmet deadlines involving some quite complicated tasks. I apologise for the tardiness, especially as it meant that certain events that would have been of interest to readers, such as the ANZAAB 35th Australian Antiquarian Book Fair held at Malvern Town Hall in Victoria from 24 to 26 October, could not be advertised in time.

This issue was to be a “Bulletin issue” in view of the demise early this year of that once so important long-lived Australian icon, but not all the material for it has yet come in. Also, it was to contain the reports from the Annual General Meeting that was to be held in Sydney in September. However, the weather on the day of the AGM was so appalling and a major fire on one of the trunk access roads to the Sydney CBD caused such traffic chaos that we had to advise our elderly speaker not to come and we did not get a quorum, so that only a rather informal meeting could be held. The AGM has now been postponed to the December meeting, and the annual reports should appear in the December issue of Biblionews.

Geoffrey Burkhardt’s article “The enemies of books” and Jürgen Wegner’s item “75th anniversary of the Berlin Book Burning”—on 10 May 1933—in the June 2008 issue of Biblionews reminded us that this is an anniversary year that should make us book collectors ponder the issue of the destruction of books as a result of extreme ideological censorship. But it is also the 70th anniversary year of the “Anschluss”, the annexation of Austria by the Nazis on 13 March 1938, the day after the German army crossed the border into the land of Hitler’s birth. I had been intending to structure the December issue around items relevant to these two anniversaries, but have now, for the reasons given above, brought this forward to the present issue.

Jürgen Wegner has provided us with a longer item, which, though in essence a book review, can for our purposes be classified as an article about totalitarianism and books.

There follows my reconstruction of an interview I conducted with the printer Emil Witton, who was mentioned in my article in last year’s September–December double issue. Emil, a member of a quite distinguished German Jewish family, was forced to emigrate to Australia to escape persecution and to complete his apprenticeship and ply his trade here in Australia. (In another context he said he was in retrospect grateful for being forced out, as he had had a better life in Australia than he would have had even in postwar Germany.) Unfortunately, Emil died before he could read my account of what he said, but it has since been corrected and approved by his family.

My own article constitutes a considerable revision of the second part of a talk given to the Society on 2 June last year. I have included in it some material from another talk, “Books that escaped from the Anschluss: The libraries of Austrian Jews who emigrated to Australia”, given to the Post-Graduate Seminar of the Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Sydney on 19 October 2007. This factor plus the finding of some more inscriptions has caused this piece of “detective work” to become rather long, though I hope not too long for readers’ interest to be sustained.

As mentioned at the beginning of the first of my two detective work articles, that work was inspired originally by Biblionews items from Jürgen Wegner and Jon Prance. Sadly, the latter did not live long enough to read that first article. The Reverend Robert Willson, a friend of Jon and his father Claude Prance, both members of the BCSA before their deaths, has, at my request, kindly provided a memoir of the two men. I apologise to him that, owing to a computer glitch, his contribution was not published in an earlier issue.

I had wondered in recent years why I had not received any more contributions from Arthur Chick, one of the few members from Queensland whom I had been receiving them from and who had impressed me with his knowledge of the art and craft of the book. Michael Clouten, a new member from that state, told me was intending to make contact with Arthur, whom he had admired from afar, but passed on to me subsequently the news that Dr Chick had recently passed away. He volunteered, with the assistance of Arthur’s family, to provide us with an obituary, which he as done. Though I too had not made the direct acquaintance of Arthur Chick, I did have the pleasure of meeting Michael Clouten at the Uralla Book Fair at the end of September this year, where he, an accountant, was “moonlighting” as a bookseller.

Colin Steele has again favoured us with a book review, in fact a single review covering two books, of which Fishburn’s Burning Books fits nicely with this month’s overall theme.It is always heartening to have feedback on articles previously published, and British bookseller Peter Moore, who long advertised in the pages of Biblionews, has emailed an interesting response to Frank Carleton’s article in the June issue. In spite of its length I have put it into the Notes & Queries section. Heartening too is the news I received from Charles Stitz that his appeal in the June Notes & Queries for back issues of Biblionews has had success. I hope that encourages other members to use the N & Q section for such purposes.

Brian Taylor

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