BACK IN 1994 the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its founding in Sydney mainly with a dinner held at the city’s Observatory Hotel. Three years later the 50th anniversary of the founding of its newsletter and later journal Biblionews was to be commemorated chiefly by the publication, as No. 5 in the series Studies in Australian Bibliography, of a volume of essays titled Fellows of the Book, though it didn’t, in the event, actually appear till 2000; and in 2007 the journal’s 60th anniversary saw the publication of a celebratory double issue of Biblionews. However, between these two events the 60th anniversary of the Society itself slipped past us without our recognising it. So we are instead celebrating the 65th year of the Society’s existence, this time with another double issue of Biblionews. This has particular point since the Book Collectors’ Society of South Australia, founded separately in 1981, made an approach last year to the national society to become recognised as a branch society of the latter. The resulting negotiations have led to the South Australian society becoming a branch as from this year, so that there is the national society administered as always from New South Wales and branch societies in Victoria and South Australia. It is to be hoped that the expectation of our founding father, Walter Stone, that there would be branches in all states might yet be realised.
In order to focus on both the history and the development of the BCSA as a national society with its now two branches, I have opened the issue with a talk given at the June 2009 meeting in Sydney by our probably longest active member, Jeff Bidgood. As part of the celebration of this 65th anniversary, the Sydney Committee decided to inaugurate an occasional series to be known as the Walter and Jean Stone Memorial Talks, Walter along with his wife Jean having been major stalwarts of the Society from its inception. In view of his long association with and work for the BCSA, Jeff was invited to deliver the inaugural talk in the series. Unfortunately, Walter’s grandson, Bradley Stone, who is a member of the Society, was unable to accept our invitation to attend that meeting, but his sister, Megan Jones, and her husband, Graeme, did come, to the great pleasure of all those present. Also, at that meeting Jeff was made a Life Member of the Society for his long service to it and thus has joint life membership with his wife Betty, who received that honour back at the 1994 anniversary.
At the talk Jeff made reference to and distributed copies of an article in Biblionews by Walter about the journal’s origins, so I have followed his talk with that article and another by Walter about the origins of the Society itself. Those of us who had the privilege of knowing Wal personally will recognise his wry sense of humour in both items.
Then we move to the Victorian branch with an item from Biblionews about their Silver Jubilee. It is followed by an article by Frank Carleton on his purchases of German-language Australiana in Vienna. Frank constitutes an appropriate link here, as he was for long a member in NSW, but after moving to Victoria in recent years became a member of the branch there. Frank’s article is followed by one by Brian McMullin of Victoria’s Monash University on his special topic of colonial editions.
Next comes a brief item reprinted from a 1981 issue of Biblionews about the founding of the Book Collectors’ Society of South Australia. In that same 1981 issue there was an article, “Collecting Books”, by Valmai Hankel, who is mentioned in the historical item as a founding member of the SA society and at the time Senior Reference Librarian at the State Library of South Australia. I have reprinted in this issue her long, but excellent article, as scanned in and adapted to current Biblionews layout by John Newland (and I hope that her exposition might at some stage be updated, especially in terms of prices, examples and references). This article is followed by a new one by Glen Ralph about the nineteenth century Adelaide bookseller Edward Brind.
While we have a number of members in the Australian Capital Territory, some of whom publish articles in Biblionews, there is neither a separate society there nor a branch. However, scarcely an issue of our journal appears these days without at least one of Colin Steele’s wonderful book reviews, and this issue is no exception. The ACT is thus represented again by his reviews, the first of which is particularly appropriate in that it is a review of a book written by a Victorian member, Dr John Arnold.
Our Notes & Queries section opens with an item about the inventor of ABC TV’s Mr Squiggle, Norman Hetherington, that was supposed to appear in last year’s December issue, but through some confusion, only the illustration appeared – with Norman’s own article -, but not the item itself. Some readers may be aware that Mr Squiggle has been popping up recently for a second or two in the ABC TV advertisements for a new viewing phenomenon called Freeview. Norman has also recently designed for us the Society’s logo, showing a male and a female book collector absorbed in their collection, that will appear on the back cover of Biblionews and in our advertising material (flyers and website).
After a notice about two approaching book fairs comes a report of a recent article in The Australian newspaper about the Don Quixote collection amassed by a former BCSA president, the late Dr Ben Haneman and now in the State Library of NSW.
Albury NSW member Charles Stitz has again informed me of the success he has had with his recent requests made through Notes & Queries and asks again for help, this in respect to an article by Dr John Emmerson. I trust that some member of the Victorian branch will be able to assist.
Following the list of catalogues etc. received, the issue closes with the index for the 2008 issues of Biblionews, ably compiled as always by our former President, Dr Neil Radford.