you're reading...
2007-12, 355, 356, BCSA / Biblionews History, Brian Taylor

A Physical History of Biblionews over sixty years

A Physical History of Biblionews over sixty years, based on a corrected and updated version to 2007 of the Introduction to

Fellows of the Book: A Volume of Essays Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Biblionews [in 1997]

(Studies in Australian Bibliophily Number 5, Sydney: BCSA, 2000).

Brian Taylor

IT SEEMS APPROPRIATE that there should by way of introduction to this volume of essays be some sort of overview of the development of Biblionews over the fifty years of its appearance. The impression has been given in the Preface [to the original volume] that by the year 1997 the journal had indeed appeared for fifty years, but that is not quite the case. Twice, as we shall see, there was a year or a succession of years when the journal did not appear at all, so that the year 2000 is, indeed, closer than 1997 to the fiftieth year of actual publication.

What appears below is not the history of Biblionews which needs to be written sooner or later and which I am sure my predecessor as Editor of Publications, John Fletcher, would have written with profound scholarship and panache, had he lived to see the Golden Jubilee either of the Society or its journal. This one is based on a rather rushed skimming of Walter Stone’s bound collection for the years up to his death—now kept as a Society archive by the Secretary Jeff Bidgood—and my own Editor’s Archive (very defective in respect to early issues) for later issues. It will not look much at all at the development of the subject matter of the contributions to Biblionews, but rather at its external, physical development, the topics of its contributions being mentioned only peripherally.

Biblionews No 1 of April, 1947, was subtitled “A Newsletter to Book Collectors” and its first sentence, addressed to the “Fellows of the Book”, announced that “[o]ne of the cherished aims of this Society is the eventual publication of a regular Journal”. However, the letter went on to indicate that estimates of cost at the time had suggested that such a journal was for the time being beyond the resources of the young society and that meanwhile, until those resources became sufficient, “a Newsletter will go out from time to time in the hope that it will, in a minor way, fulfil the function of a Journal by being written by the members to the members”. Readers were then asked to send their views, news, or queries to either W Stone, or C B Berckelman. The letter was followed by the Annual Report 1946–47, which ended with a list of the office bearers: President, two Vice-Presidents, Hon. Secretary/Treasurer, Minute Secretary (W.W.Stone) and six councillors, none of whom were women—as yet there was no Editor— and the final item was made up of three “Marginalia”, one announcing the death of bookseller Mr George Tyrrell, one saying that Mr Camden Morrisby, who had recently given a lecture on book-plates “confesses to a collection of some twelve thousand specimens”, and the last announces: “Dave Farrell’s book, ‘Sex education’, caused a flutter in the Censor’s dovecotes just prior to its publication. He reports that it is still selling well.” That bit of, for its time slightly risqué, tongue-in-cheek comment suffices to suggest to those of us who knew him that it was already Walter Stone who was the editor of Biblionews. 1

Although “sooner or later” in the opening letter indicates some uncertainty about whether a regular publication could be maintained, the newsletter does appear monthly from now on. The first Biblionews article appeared in Issue No 2 the next month, F A Malcolm’s “Burton and his Nights”. The Newsletter at this stage is two quarto pages in length, typewritten onto wax stencils and roneoed on one side of the not particularly good quality paper used for the purpose at the time. Malcolm’s article takes up one and four-fifths pages of the issue, the remaining fifth being given over to a report of the Annual General Meeting “held in the lecture room of the Public Library of N.S.W., on Friday, 2nd May, 1947”, which consists of little more than a list of the officers elected (W W Stone still being Minute Secretary and there being still no mention of an Editor).2

The subtitle of Biblionews begins to fluctuate with June’s No 3, which is “A Letter to Book Collectors”, then in July it is “Newsletter” again and in August back to “Letter”, then it is back to “Newsletter” for a bit, but then in November No 8 it is “A Monthly Letter to Members”, while No 14 of April 1948, has the almost curt subtitle “Monthly Letter to Members”, so consistency does not seem to have had a particularly high priority.3

Occasionally in this first year the articles exceed the usual two-page format, for December’s Issue No 10 consists entirely of F A Malcolm’s six page article “The Romance of Rare Books” with, interestingly and almost uniquely, his signature at the end.4

Today the full title of the journal is Biblionews and Australian Notes & Queries, and the section heading “Notes and Queries” is first encountered as early as Issue No 4 in July 1947, but then disappears again for years. It consisted there of a correction to an article by Walter Stone in Issue No 3 and a request from “Mr Justice J A Ferguson, author of A Bibliography of Australia” for rare or unusual material that could be included in “Volume III of this work, now nearing completion”.

Another innovation was the attachment as a third page to No 8 of November 1947, of an advertisement from Angus & Robertson Ltd Booksellers and Publishers listing 8 books under the heading “Art and Artists of Australia”. This first one was not included in the numbering of the pages, but later they were integrated into the issues through the cumulative page numbering of the volumes. From their second appearance, in No 11 of January 1948, they are under the maroon letterhead of A & R.5 While some, like the Newsletter itself, were on quarto paper, others were later on foolscap and had to be folded in in Walter Stone’s bound volumes.

Issue No 12 of February 1948 contains a notice I have often feared I would have to insert one day myself, but fortunately never have had to yet thanks to our many loyal contributors: “THE EDITOR REGRETS that he has not received an article for this month’s letter.” The issue consists, instead, of nine snippets of news spread over the two pages and an attached A & R advertisement.

October, 1948, saw the first ever special issue, with the subtitle being replaced by “Special Dulcie Deamer Number”, consisting almost entirely of a two-page article “The Story Behind Some of My New Poems” by Dulcie Deamer herself.

By December 1948, 23 issues had appeared over 1947 and 1948, and these were retrospectively deemed to constitute Volume 1 of Biblionews. A Table of Contents was issued on a single quarto page merely listing the titles of the articles that had appeared (only one, if any, had appeared in each issue) in alphabetical order. Also a title page was made available for binding the whole volume; it is partly typed, partly hand printed and partly hand written in copperplate, with what is done by hand not coming out very clearly in the stencilling and roneoing process.6 The “Monthly Letter” is explicitly stated to be “Edited by Walter W Stone”, with his name written in copperplate.

The January issue of 1949 was Vol 2, No 1, and, although the issues continue to appear monthly, page numbering does not revert to 1 with each issue as in Vol 1, but is sequential through the whole volume. As well as the normal June 1949 issue, which is Vol 2, No 6, there is for that month also a Supplementary Number containing an article “Rabelais—His Aiders and Abettors” numbered Vol 2, No 7, and in December too, while the regular issue is Vol 2, No 13, the additional Special Christmas Number7 is numbered Vol 2, No 14.

Volume 3 of 1950 continues with the basic two-page newsletter, and the table of contents for the year continues only to give a chronological listing of the essay titles without any explicit indication of issue number and date. The title page for binding the whole volume is now done in letterpress with the title being “BIBLIONEWS / Journal of the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia”, so it seems that the Society felt now that it at last had its journal.8

A puzzling thing about Walter Stone’s bound copy of Volume 3 is that at the end of it he has bound in an item between card covers: “The Problem of Mould Growth on Books: a Paper Read Before the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia”, by S L Larnach and B D Wyke, Sydney 1945. This, of course, predates the first appearance of Biblionews by some two years, but it is in fact “Reprinted from ‘The Laboratory Journal of Australasia’” of August 1945, so it seems to be an offprint from a scientific journal—or is it a special reprint for or by the Society, and so perhaps its first ever publication?

Just before it in Walter Stone’s bound volume is a printed page (p. 15) cut from Tattersall’s Club Magazine of June 1950 containing “A Letter to Book Collectors” which was “Contributed by H F Chaplin, member of Tattersall’s Club, to ‘Biblionews’, journal of the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia”. I can find no Biblionews item by Chapman under that title. Perhaps it is his “What can I collect?” in the August 1947 issue No 5, and the Tattersall’s Magazine editor has confused it with the earlier subtitle of Biblionews. If so, it is clear that the Society and its journal/newsletter were getting to be known well outside their own circle in those early days.

In July 1952, Vol 5, No 8, was a “Special Irish Supplement” for which the Society was indebted to “His Excellency, Dr T J Kiernan, Ambassador of Ireland”, since it consisted entirely of a list of books which “are being presented to the Public Libraries in each State of the Commonwealth”. The list had originally appeared in the weekly newsletter of the Irish Embassy and was available to anyone who wished to avail themselves of it. “The Ambassador readily agreed to have a special issue prepared for the Society.” As well as a long list of books in English, it includes a somewhat shorter one of books in Irish Gaelic. This issue runs from p. 22 to p. 29 with the list taking up seven of the pages. The other innovation, apart from the external source of the issue, is that the whole has been roneoed in blue, not black (and not green!).

The next issue, Vol 5, No 9 of August 1952 brought with it a subtle but not uninteresting change: whereas a running header “Biblionews” had been being used in previous issues of this year, this now becomes “BiblioNews”, and so it remains for a long time to come.9

From Vol 6, No 2, of February 1953 we learn (p. 8) that Biblionews is issued monthly and is included in the subscription of 10/6 (ten shillings and sixpence) p.a. “Articles and notes are urgently needed.”

On into the 1960s Biblionews remains a one-article-per-issue journal, though at times two issues are published in one, as in the case of Vol 17, Nos 1–2, for January–February 1964. This six-page issue consisted almost entirely of G D Richardson’s “The Archives Act of 1960. Condensed from an address to the Book Collectors, September 25, 1963”. Otherwise there are only a few lines of information about the journal and the Society, which inform us that the annual subscription had by now doubled from 10/6 to one guinea (one pound one shilling) and that “[a]dvertisements are accepted and bulk circulars mailed out with the Journal to the full list of members at a charge of 30/- [thirty shillings], considerably less than the cost of postage to a similar number of recipients.” So the Society is beginning to wax entrepreneurial. Perhaps this is the point at which to look at the genesis and early development of advertising in Biblionews.

As we have seen, advertising began almost from the beginning with the Angus & Robertson single sheets sent on the firm’s—or, to afficionados, the Firm’s—maroon letterheaded paper and attached to the issue’s two, or occasionally more, sheets. The very first “designed” advertisement actually incorporated into the journal that I have come across appears on p. 9 of the March 1961 issue (Vol 14, No 3); it is for Licensed Dealer (in all sorts of antique items) Leonard L Barton of 122 Jersey Road, Woollahra NSW and is marked off from the rest of the issue’s text merely by two parallel lines. It appears again on p. 31 of the September 1961 issue (Vol 14, No 9), this time within a hand ruled rectangle, and frequently after that.

Gradually in this phase of the journal’s development a little more elaboration of advertisement design is attempted. The next I have found is in the December 1963 issue (Vol 16, No 12). It is set in a hand drawn rectangle of broken lines and advertises “Sydney’s Newest Secondhand Bookshop” owned by Margaret Woodhouse at 244 Miller Street, North Sydney.

After the March 1964 issue (Vol 17, Nos 1–2) Biblionews suddenly ceases to appear at all. Jeff Bidgood has told me that Walter Stone went overseas around this time and there was, evidently, no one to carry on the work of Editor.

Publication recommenced in January 1966 but then the issue is numbered Vol 1, No 1, and only on the cover of the following issue, Vol 1, No 2 of April 1966, is it made clear that we are now in the “Second Series”.It will already be apparent that changes have taken place, and there are in fact three major innovations with this Second Series:

1. the journal is now appearing quarterly instead of monthly, and in fact in January, April, July and October;

2. the title is now the one that it has had ever since: Biblionews and Australian Notes & Queries, and there is the new subtitle “A Journal for Book Collectors” (which disappeared from the cover as from the September 1986 issue and only returned with the March 1997 issue, the first issue of the jubilee year);

3. each issue is in a brown card cover, with the title and issue information in letter-set, and stapled on the spine.

As this was the year of the changeover of Australian currency from the imperial to the decimal system, the price per issue is given at the foot of the cover as “Price 7/6 ($0.75)”.

Inside there is a title page with the journal title, but without the subtitle, and issue details are set within a hand drawn double lined rectangle. New, too, is the introduction of a cumulative sequential issue number retrospectively beginning with the very first issue of April 1947 as the 1st issue, so that Vol 1, No 1 of the Second Series is the 215th Issue. Below all of this information is a table of contents in the form: item title, author’s name (where applicable), and opening page number. Both the cover and the text within are typewritten.

The first issue in the new series has 10 items listed in the contents: an editorial (the first ever calling itself that); two articles; information about book sales and catalogues; another article; a book review; information on recent acquisitions by the Mitchell Library (a regular feature that will go on for years and years); Notes & Queries—or on p. 26 itself “Australian Notes & Queries”10—is for the first time a regular section in its own right. Not mentioned in the table of contents are the Obituaries on p. 17, for Foundation President, and President at the time of his death, Colin Berckelman, and Harry Gordon Hughes, “virtual founder of the Victorian Branch of the Society”, and Dr Boyd Graham, “a stalwart of the Society in Victoria”. There had been scattered obituaries in the first series, but from now on they are treated more systematically and continue, unfortunately, to be a regular feature in the journal up to the present time.

On the verso of the title page is now information about the Society, viz. the main office bearers for Sydney an Acting-President and a Secretary (Walter Stone having this office as well as being Editor), and Melbourne, a President and a Secretary, with below that information about membership of the Society (“…open to all those interested in the ‘Art and Craft of the Book’”), now 30 shillings annually, and about Biblionews itself, inter alia: “Advertisements are accepted for inclusion in the WANTS COLUMN at 2/- [2 shillings] a line…”. This column was a feature of the journal for years, and doubtless a welcome source of extra income, but later disappeared.

The last page of this issue contains advertisements for four booksellers (Angus & Robertson, James Dalley of Oatlands, Tasmania, Berkelouw of King Street, Sydney, and the aforementioned Mary Woodhouse), but they are merely set off from each other by horizontal parallel lines, so there is here no attempt at “design”.

We can probably say that only now with the Second Series has Biblionews really become what can be called a journal.

Over the remainder of 1966 there are only minor changes to the presentation of issues: in October the double lines on the sides of the rectangle on the title page disappear, and Walter Stone begins to appear as Editor at the bottom of the t.p. Noteworthy is the fact that the issues are paginated separately, each recommencing with p. 1 and running to around 40 pages each.

In 1967 the colour of the cover changes from brown to buff, and the last two issues for the year appear as one 64-page issue for July–October 1967 (Vol 2, Nos 3–4). Over the following years the cover colour seems to change often and arbitrarily:11 Vol 3, No 1 dated “No.1 of 1968”, i.e. lacking the name of the month, has a red cover and contains, stapled in between pp. 16 and 17, a “Supplement to Biblionews No.1, 1968” on dark yellow paper. The advertisements on the back of p 31 now show some attempt at “artwork”, being surrounded by rectangles of double unbroken parallel lines, of parallel lines with the outer unbroken and the inner broken, or of O’s, and others by incomplete rectangles of asterisks or of what looks like + (plus) and = (equals) end-on.

In 1969 the cover goes grey and carries the running issue number from the inception of the journal, so that the cover of the January issue, Vol 3, No 1, also has “223rd issue”. Two issues later the cover becomes green and remains so until the double issue Vol 4, No 3 & 4, 1970 (227th Issue), when it becomes mid-blue, reverting to green with the next issue, Vol 5,No 1, 1971 (228th Issue) and then becoming light blue with the 229th Issue, the colour it has today, though it still fluctuated for years to come. By the 1970s the Contents list is on a page of its own opposite the verso of the t.p.

Some issues, although not called special issues, were very focussed, e.g. the green-covered 228th Issue (Vol 5, No 1, 1971) contained on pp. 11–20 “Collecting Australiana Today” by J A Ferguson, the compiler of the famous bibliography of Australiana mentioned earlier, and otherwise only what is virtually an obituary of Ferguson by Walter Stone on pp. 5–10, “Sir John Ferguson (1881–1969): Bibliographer, Scholar, Collector”. Below the title of the Ferguson paper the Editor states that it was the second time the item had been printed in Biblionews, the first having been in August 1954, shortly after the talk had been given to a meeting of members; however, this is slightly erroneous, for it had actually appeared the first time in the issue for September 1954 (Vol 7, No 10).

The following 229th Issue was so specialised that it did not even contain a table of contents, since it consisted entirely (pp. 3–16) of C M Hotimsky’s “A Bibliography of Captain James Cook in Russian—1772–1810”.

The next issue, the 230th, also has no table of contents although it contains one article, a Notes & Queries item, and a list of Mitchell Library accessions for the whole of 1972; this oversight is probably due to carry-over from the Hotimsky issue. This kind of error along with the fact that two issues appear around this time combined in one issue suggest that Walter Stone may have been having trouble keeping up with the work of editing the journal and may explain the imminent cessation of its appearance.

The Second Series ceased publication with the 230th Issue (Vol 6, Nos 1 and 2, 1972) and there followed a gap of nearly four years until the 231st Issue appeared as Vol 1, No 1 of the Third Series in 1976. (An overview of the gaps can be gained from the Walter Stone’s Editorial to that issue reprinted in the present 60th Anniversary issue.) Why this happened I have not been able to ascertain. Apart from the suggestion made in the preceding paragraph, the reason may have been in part economic, for the Third Series is at its beginning, in terms of presentation, very down-market compared with the Second. The coloured card cover has been replaced by one of white paper, the letter-press of earlier issues is replaced by typewritten text, albeit done on an electric typewriter. The wording on the cover that remains constant from issue to issue continues in letter-set, while issue details are typed in for each issue. An innovation is that page numbering is cumulative through a volume, i.e. a whole year’s issues, where previously each issue restarted from page 1.

There is from the first year of the new series inconsistency and error in the issue information provided. The second one , the 232nd Issue (Vol 1, No 2) carries the date “June 1976”, but the month disappears by the next issue, which is misnumbered as the 232nd, just as its successor is misnumbered 233rd. In at least some copies these errors have been corrected by hand.12

With the 243rd Issue (Vol 4, No 1, 1979) yellow paper covers appear, though sometimes the same issue can be found with more than one colour of cover, e.g. some copies of the 245th Issue (Vol 4, No 3, 1979) have a white cover, others a yellow one, and with the 243rd the table of contents moves from the bottom of the verso of the front cover to its outside, where it remains to this day except, for reasons of length, in this present 60th anniversary issue.

By 1979, over forty years after Biblionews first appeared and towards 250 issues had been published, there still had never been an index of of the contents compiled, much less published, even though an index had already been mooted when the first volume for 1947–49 was closed.13 Since his arrival in Australia from Britain in the late 1960s to take up university positions, first at Monash and later at Sydney, John Fletcher had been a passionately active bibliophilic and bibliographical scholar, particularly in his contributions to the BCSA in general and Biblionews in particular, for which he had written dozens of articles and other items. Prompted possibly by a comment in Wallace Kirsop’s Towards a History of the Australian Book-Trade (Sydney, 1969), he set about compiling an index for these years.14 It was published by the Society in 1982 as an octavo volume bound in card and printed by Walter Stone’s Wentworth Press under the title Biblionews and Australian Notes & Queries. Index 1947–1979, Numbers 1–245 (205 pp. + booksellers’ advertisements pp. 206–208). In his “Postscript and Concordance, August 1979” (pp. 200–204), John clarified and corrected the various slips and confusions in issue numbering and developed the definitive sequential numbering through all the issues that was the basis for his referencing within his index. In 1984 he produced a further index for the years 1979–1983, so Numbers 246–260, as a Society publication of 42 pp., but it was a far less professional publication, being evidently laser-printed on foolscap sheets and bound in clear plastic.

In 1980, Vol 5, No 1 appeared as the 247th issue, and Vol 5, Nos 2 and 3 appeared as one issue but numbered, unusually, as “248–9 Issues”. There was no No 4 as such, instead members received “From The Book Collector/ Summer 1980 / A Reprint” containing John Fletcher’s “The Library of St Patrick’s College, Manly”. However, inside the front cover is tipped in a cut down Biblionews title page on buff paper that tells us that this is the 250th Issue (Vol 5, No 4, 1980) and at the bottom: “This special reprint of John Fletcher’s article on the ‘The Library of St Patrick’s College, Manly’ was procured from the publishers by the author to mark the 250th issue of Biblionews and Australian Notes and [sic] Queries for distribution to financial members of the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia.”

The last issue that appears with Walter Stone as Editor—he had for some five years also been President, according the front cover verso of the 232nd (recte 233rd) Issue of Biblionews (Vol 1, No 3, 1976)—was the 251st (Vol 6, Nos 1 and 2) of June 1981, the year he died. Over the 35 years or so of his editorship he had overseen the publication of 1630 pages of the journal.15 The following 252nd Issue shows John Fletcher to have taken over both roles, as only the second Editor in the 35 years of the journal’s overall existence. Many of the contributors to the present commemorative volume continued or began to contribute prolifically to the journal during John Fletcher’s years as Editor.

From the 253rd Issue (Vol 7, No 1) of March 1982, the month of publication, which had previously to be sought in the running header of each recto inside, appeared on the cover, never to leave it again. The cover of Biblionews continued on yellow paper till the 261st Issue (Vol 9, No 1, March 1984) when it became (light) blue, the colour it has more or less kept ever since, apart from the occasional lapse into white card during 1990. This issue celebrated the Fortieth Anniversary of the Society by reprinting on pp.3f. “the minutes of the meeting held to establish the Society” in 1944.

Like Walter Stone before him, John Fletcher was a particularly frequent contributor to Biblionews during his editorship, sometimes writing much of the text, both articles and reviews and/or notes and queries, in an issue, e.g. in the 277th (March 1988). John’s own editorship of the journal was made much briefer than it might have been when it was cut short by his untimely death on 1 June 1992, the day after Jean Stone, who at the time was the Society’s Hon Treasurer. The last issue edited by John was the 293rd of March 1992. Johns’ death left his position as the Society’s Editor briefly unfilled.

As recorded in the “Notices” on the first page (p. 35) of the next issue, the 294th of June 1992, it was edited by Associate Professor Ian Jack of the Department of History at the University of Sydney as an interim gesture of assistance to the Society. That issue contained the address given by myself when I launched John’s last book, Hermann Lau and his sojourns (1854– 1859) in Sydney, Goulburn, Braidwood, Araluen, Moruya and Shoalhaven, No 35 in the Society’s series Studies in Australian Bibliography, at a meeting of the Society a few weeks after his death. At that meeting I, who was not yet a member, was asked to take on the position of Editor of Publications, and I accepted (and joined!).

The first issue I was responsible for was the 295th of September that year, the special issue dedicated to John and Jean, most of the material for which had been sought for me by other members. Already with that issue I had to provide an errata slip, especially because I had misheard Jean’s maiden name over the phone as Faxelby instead of Saxelby, even though it had been spelt for me.

John had long been having the text of Biblionews worprocessed on computer by Wilma Sharp of the Department of English at the University of Sydney, and she was kind enough to continue that work for me. Because I could foresee problems of time, since I had then the pretty onerous position of Director of the University’s Language Centre, I asked the Committee of the Society for permission to appoint an editorial committee to assist me. This was agreed to and so two Assistant Editors were appointed, Julia Saunders and Geraint Evans. The system worked well for some years with both Assistant Editors being responsible for issues from time to time, either with me—Julia in the 296th and 298th Issues of December 1992 and June 1993 respectively—or without me—Geraint editing the 300th of December 1993, the special issue devoted to Australian publications in Celtic languages,16 and the 304th Issue of December 1994 while I was overseas.

Life became awkward when Wilma Sharp retired in 1994 and was no longer able to do the wordprocessing for us. I attempted to use casual assistants to do it or to do it myself, but being pretty ignorant of the finer points of preparing material for publishing that Wilma was so good at, I prepared the copy on A4 sheets and had the University Printing Service, the printers that John had used, reduce it to A5 format in the printing process. This led to the text coming out much smaller than it had been on my original. The extreme was reached in the 301st Issue of March 1994, the BCSA Golden Jubilee retrospective, when the text of my editorial, which I had already reduced to get it onto two pages, came out quite tiny in print, with the quotation and footnote accompanying it being absolutely minuscule.

Finally the Committee requested that I do something about this Lilliputian tendency, since many older members were finding it difficult to read the journal anymore. (At least that served to show that people were still reading it, or attempting to.) Jeff Bidgood came to my rescue by offering to look after the production side using his own computer and laser printer and his Publisher software. I took up his offer from the 309th Issue of March 1996. Biblionews returned to an acceptably legible text size and so it has been ever since.

The 309th Issue also saw another important innovation: the compilation and editing of issues by our Victorian branch with its Secretary Richard Overell being appointed to the the Editorial Committee that had been formed from the Assistant Editors. This has been such a successful innovation that Sydney is now responsible for two issues per year and Melbourne for two, alternating, though all actual production and final copy-editing is done in Sydney.

That is not to say there have not been occasional problems that have caused us to issue errata and corrigenda, though the very worst thing that happened – never till now confessed to the membership at large—was when a change from inkjet to laser printer to print out the final camera-ready copy for the Printing Service caused the last lines on some pages to disappear. It was only when I received the three boxes of printed copies and scanned one that I noticed what had happened. This meant that the whole run of the 317th Issue of March 1998 had to be trashed, the problem fixed and a new, corrected master copy prepared so that the whole run could be reprinted. This is why, ever since, a small book icon appears at the end of every item: by scanning the master copy we can tell immediately if any last lines have been lost. And it looks quite appropriate anyway to have all those little open books scattered through a book collectors’ journal.

The most recent change in the editorial arrangements has been the disbandment of the Editorial Committee, which had ceased to be effective in that form, in favour of having only a Melbourne Editor as well as the Editor of Publications in Sydney and to employ some of our younger members as Editorial Assistants from issue to issue to do the final proofing of the text. Their contribution is always acknowledged by name on the verso of the front cover. This has worked well for the three issues it has been tried out on during 1999, since the Assistants all found errors that I had missed in spite of quite painstaking proofreading (and even they still missed the occasional minor error—perfection in this area is so elusive!).

Readers may have noticed that Editorials are now de rigueur in all issues, a policy I have adopted from the beginning because it is through the journal and quite particularly through the editorial that the Society speaks to its farflung members, most of whom can never get to one of its meetings. As David Miller puts it so succinctly in his contribution to this commemorative volume: “[Biblionews] is our binding communicator that bonds us in our Book Collectors’ Society.”

The other noticeable change over recent years has been the great increase in the number of illustrations appearing in issues. We have mainly our contributors to thank for this, though their incorporation into the journal has been greatly helped by the ever improving quality of the scanners that Jeff Bidgood uses. Where earlier we had to paste photocopies, rarely originals, into the spaces left in the final printout, now they can be preserved on disk with the rest of the article they are in.

In conclusion, I thank all those members, and some non-members, who have provided me with enough good quality copy over the last eight years so that I do not have to write material of my own just to fill issues, as I suspect Walter Stone and John Fletcher may have sometimes had to do. And I thank the membership for their forebearance when, because of my workload in other areas, Biblionews has often come out weeks or months later than the date the particular issue carries on its cover.

From comments I have received from various members lately it does seem that Biblionews is felt to be doing the job that its founders hoped for back in 1947: “to fulfil the function of a Journal by being written by the members for the members”.

Update to 2007

Since I wrote the above, Biblionews has continued to appear four times per year in most years, though at times it has—as happened in previous years— been necessary to combine two issues into a double-issue, as in the case of this 60th Anniversary Issue, the 335th and 336th for September–December 2007. But there are some changes and developments that need to be remarked on.

There was a significant change in the computer preparation of issues when Jeff Bidgood expressed the wish to give up his various, onerous offices in the Society after some years of being Secretary/Treasurer and of preparing Biblionews for the printer. With him the quality of the journal had been raised to a new and better level through his use of more sophisticated Publisher software, which allowed, inter alia, the incorporation of illustrations in digitised form into the document itself, as mentioned above.

The crisis which threatened with Jeff’s departure was averted when member John Newland offered to take over Jeff’s computing role. John has brought great expertise to the task, not only because he has done courses appropriate to computerised publishing, but also because he has had considerable experience in book publishing, especially on the topic of railway history (see his article “Some Books in my Railway Collection” in the 352nd issue of December 2006, pp. 95–118). Furthermore, he had also edited and produced single-handedly the illustrated journal Morocco Bound for the NSW Guild of Craft Bookbinders. The last issue prepared for us by Jeff  was the 341st and 342nd double issue for March–June 2004, and the first prepared by John was the following 343rd and 344th Issue for September–December 2004.

This latter double issue had two significant consequences for the future of Biblionews. In it appeared the article by Victorian member, antiquarian bookseller and publisher Julien Renard titled “Edition Renard: Venturing into Re-publishing Australiana”. In print it was accompanied by some fine black and white illustrations, but in the version emailed to me as an attachment these illustrations had been in beautiful colour. Subsequently I expressed regret in one of my editorials that we had been unable to reproduce Julien’s coloured illustrations. But I had not reckoned with John Newland, who informed me that we could have if I had only asked him. And it was in connection with an article of my own that he informed me of this.

I had given a paper to the Society on my collection of little illustrated books from the German Insel publishing house and King Penguins. Like most papers read to the Society it was to be published in Biblionews. The problem was that the colouring of the illustrations was vital for any appreciation of what I was talking about. So, on John’s advice, in the 346th Issue for June 2005, we for the first time published coloured illustrations in the journal, to accompany my article “From the Little Island Books of Leipzig to the King Penguins of London”. In my ignorance I scattered the full page illustrations through the article so that they were near to where the books in question were mentioned, but that made for very expensive printing costs. It was resolved to use colour only when there would be a considerable loss of point in an article without it, and, on John’s further advice since then, to keep all the coloured illustrations together on as few pages as possible, as in Richard Blair’s article in the 347th Issue for September 2005, “Booked for Cricket: a Glance at a Score (or so) of Cricket Books” (4 pp.) and John’s own railway article mentioned above (2 pp.).

In the editorial to that first colour issue, I gave an overview of the history of illustration in Biblionews and said that the earliest issue to contain an illustration was the 244th of June 1979, where “on p. 44 W[alter] S[tone] has slipped in a reproduction of ‘BOOKPLATE by P.M. LITCHFIELD for S.S. BLAKE”. However, I have now found that as early as in the issue for December 1949 (Vol 2, No 14—but without Issue number), a “Special Christmas Number”, above the article “Christina Stead” by Joan Saxelby (Walter Stone’s wife) and Gwen Walker-Smith, there is tipped in a small photograph of Stead herself. So my claim in my editorial that “in the 267th issue of September 1985 John Fletcher on p. 82 uniquely tipped into every copy a photocopy of a Fred C James bookplate…” (my emphasis here for the present purpose) is not accurate, since someone much earlier had to tip in the Stead photo.

To reprise my earlier overview: After the 1979 issue illustrations appeared spasmodically and were mostly bookplates till the late Eric Russell’s two-part article “The rise and decline of the printed page, 1440–1990”, in the June and September 1993 issues, the 298th and 299th, which was quite copiously illustrated with black and white images. Up to that time illustrations were reproduced by pasting photocopies of the originals into the typescript, but now Jeff Bidgood was digitising them.

Another aspect of illustration, one not referred to previously, was Jeff’s use, as fillers and back cover ornamentation, of amusing little drawings, with text, of book collecting relevance. These were originally produced by Norman Hetherington at the Society’s request when it decided to have its own logo, but ultimately never came to a decision on the matter. (Norman is well-known in Australia as the inventor of the children’s cartoon character Mr Squiggle that appeared over many years on ABC television.) John continues to use one of them on the back cover. He did not continue to use Jeff’s tiny book icon to mark the end of each item, as he did not have the potential problem of disappearing last lines that had ruined the original run of the 317th Issue of March 1998.

To return to the September & December 2004 double issue, John Newland’s first one. Over many years issues of Biblionews were identified not only by their Issue number and the month(s) and year of their notional appearance, but also by volume and number as well, as in the case of the Christina Stead issue above, which in fact, as mentioned, carried no running Issue number. But in that changeover issue from Jeff to John an error was made on the cover that I, carelessly, did not pick up in the proofreading, and did not notice for some time. This double issue should have been Volume 29, Nos 3 & 4, but printed on the cover was “Volume 3, No 3 & 4”. Dr Valentina Olivastri of the Bodleian Library in Oxford emailed in puzzlement about this volume number “3”. Without checking further I told her that it should have read “30”. As a result the next issue, for March 2005, became according to this logic “Volume 31, No 1”. It was only when Ms Mardi Cook of the Dixson Library at the University of New England in Armidale, NSW, enquired of me about putatively unreceived Volume 30 issues that I rechecked and realised what had gone wrong. This erroneous volume numbering system went on till “Volume 32 No 4”, which should, of course, been “Volume 31”, so till December 2006. I was overseas during some of that year and Dr Neil Radford, former University of Sydney Librarian, was looking after the 2006 issues for me as Acting Editor. On my return to the editorship I discussed the problem with him and took his advice to drop the volume and number identification system altogether, as it was irrevocably wrong and superfluous, since we had two other systems of identification anyway—Issue number and month(s) and year. So this omission of the third system occurred as from the 353rd Issue of March 2007.




Since John Fletcher’s major index of the early issues appeared, followed his shorter one, no other has appeared in book form. Jeff Bidgood began to index the four issues annually when he took over the computing and published his year’s index in the March issue of the following year. When he gave up the computing work, Neil Radford, who is also Reviews Editor for the journal, took over the annual indexing along the lines employed by Jeff. Some years ago the Society engaged the services of a professional indexer, Mr Garry Cousins, to prepare an index on disk, beginning where John Fletcher’s first index left off. Our plan was to publish it in book form, as John’s was, but unfortunately I never got around to doing so. The 2007 AGM has voted for a further approach to Mr Cousins to find out if he would be prepared to continue his indexing where he left off previously. It decided too that, if Mr Cousins does undertake this further indexing, any index should be published in machine-searchable form, probably on CDROM. This would allow for it to be added to readily as further issues are published, which would not be the case with a book. Mr Cousins has in the meantime expressed his willingness to to do this additional indexing and to provide the Society with an estimate of its cost.

Finally, over the 60 years of its existence Biblionews has had only three editors: its founder Walter Stone for some 35 years, his successor John Fletcher for 10 years and the present writer for the last 15 years, apart from Dr Radford’s stint as Acting Editor in 2006. (And, incidentally, both Walter and John ultimately became also President of the Society as well as Editor; the same fate has befallen me to the extent that I am currently, and temporarily, Acting President.)

When so many journals have come and gone over the last half century or more, ours has reached an impressive level of longevity. The question perhaps is, will it ever see its centenary? If it does, then it will need at least one more editor, since I will no longer be around to do the job, being, as I am, 10 years older than Biblionews.


1. This first issue is completely reproduced in the Society’s Golden Jubilee issue, the 301st Issue, Vol. 19, No.1 , of March 1994, pp.3f, though the word “proposition” has been mistyped there as “preposition”.

2. This whole issue is also reproduced verbatim in the 301st Issue, pp. 4–6.

3. Most of these subtitles can be compared in the reproductions in the 301st Issue: August issue, No 5, on pp. 7–9, October, No 7, on pp. 9–11, December, No 23, on pp. 11f.

4. The only other signed contribution I have noticed is Jean Saxelby and Gwen Walker-Smith’s article on Christina Stead in the Special Christmas Number, Vol 2, No 14, of December, 1949, where Jean Saxelby, who married Walter Stone in 1951 and then wrote under the name Jean Stone, has signed the article. The issue, which consists only of the article, is reproduced with Jeans’s signature in the 301st Issue, pp. 22–28.

5. One of the advertisements is reproduced in the 301st Issue, p. 13.

6. It is reproduced in the 301st Issue, p. 14.

7. See note 4 above.

8. This title page or cover sheet is reproduced in miniature in the 301st Issue, p. 21.

9. John Fletcher adverts to this spelling in his INDEX 1947-1979, pp. 200f., but gives it as “Biblio News as it preferred to spell its name”, however there is in fact never a space in the middle, and it only begins at the issue mentioned in the above text.

10 This title, both within the journal’s full title and in the section, is pretty clearly inspired by the prestigious British bibliographical journal Notes & Queries.

11. A probable reason is that Biblionews was being produced at Walter Stone’s commercial press, the Wentworth Press, and that the colour of the cover was often dependent on what leftover materials were available from the firm’s commercial work.

12. John Fletcher in his Index 1947-1979 alludes to this confusion delicately with the words: “Over the years the odd editorial nod has produced random infelicities in sequence numbers” (p.201).

13. See John Fletcher’s Index 1947-1979, p. 200.

14. Fletcher, loc. cit.

15. As calculated by John Fletcher in his review of Jean Stone’s biography of Walter, The Passionate Bibliophile, in the 281st Issue (March 1989), pp. 21–23.

16. An interesting echo of the Irish book issue of so many years before.









Comments are closed.


%d bloggers like this: