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2010-06, 365, 366, Australian Bibliophily, Book Launch, Brian Taylor

Launch of Jeff Bidgood’s ‘Mark Ferson: Bookplate artist’

(Studies in Australian Bibliophily, number 7)

at the BCSA meeting in Summer Hill on 6 March 2010

ON PAGE 4 of this week‘s Guide that accompanies Monday‘s issue of The Sydney Morning Herald, columnist Doug Anderson writes:

“A lovely package from Shirley McGlynn of Lavender Bay containing a bundle of notebooks chronicling her visits to “The Pictures” during the 1940s and 1950s. It‘s never easy to discard fond memories or to abandon the tangible evidence that sustains them so she has appointed me to safeguard them.”

– As it happens, Shirley McGlynn has long been a member of the Book Collectors‘ Society of Australia;

– as it happens, Shirley for lack of space has been wanting to dispose also of her set of Biblionews issues going back to the early nineties and threatened to put them in the recycling bin if no one came to collect them;

– and, as it happens, I went to Lavender Bay this morning to pick them up from her.

Since Shirley had told me that she and another long time member of the BCSA, Helen Kenny, who lives in the aged care hostel unit next door to hers, would be unable for health reasons to attend today‘s meeting, I decided to take a copy of Jeff Bidgood‘s book Mark Ferson: Bookplate artist with me to show her what was going to be launched there.

On one occasion when she had rung me up previously, Shirley had told me that she had written to Mark a couple of years ago to praise an article on the bookplate artist John Lane Mullens that he had published in the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society and how as a result Mark had subsequently driven her and Helen to the 2008 Annual General Meeting of our society here in Summer Hill. In one phone call to me she said in passing what a talented person Mark was. And one can only agree with Shirley in that assessment.

I think most of us here have been aware that Mark is a medical man, that he is our Secretary and that he is a bookplate collector, who has published quite a few articles in Biblionews on the subject. But that he is also a bookplate artist is something I didn‘t know till I proofread Jeff‘s book. And once you read Jeff‘s commentary on his various bookplates you learn a lot more about the man. There are bookplates designed for himself, his family, his colleagues, his friends – including Jeff – and even for hospital libraries; and often they are quite amusing ones.

Author Jeff Bidgood, launcher Brian Taylor & artist Mark Ferson at the launch on 6 March 2010 (photo: John Newland)

To give a few examples of the information to be garnered.

We learn that Mark specialised in paediatrics and did some of his training up in Darwin, which shows up in some of his designs. A nice coincidence for me personally is that some of Mark‘s earlier training as a doctor was done at Balmain Hospital where he met his wife Sheree, who was training as a nurse. That‘s where I met my wife Isobel where she was training as a nurse, though quite a few years before, and I was only nipping in to see my old grandmother, not training to be a doctor.

Recently I published in Biblionews an article about Jewish people, one in particular, who had escaped ultimately to Australia from the Nazis. I was fascinated when I read in Jeff‘s book that Mark‘s father, Alexander Ferson, was a survivor of Hitler‘s concentration camps.

And from Jeff‘s listing of Mark‘s many publications (35), we learn that he not only holds medical degrees but also the degree of Master of Art Theory for a thesis on – yes, you guessed it – bookplates.

And so it goes on; Jeff‘s commentary is a fascinating read. But there are also the beautiful colour illustrations of Mark‘s bookplates that make the book an absolute delight to peruse.

I might just add here that when I showed Shirley McGlynn Jeff‘s book on Mark, as a former librarian she recognised a couple of people Mark had designed bookplates for, including for Brenda Heagney. She looked at Brenda‘s bookplate and then said: “Tell him I‘m jealous that he never made one for me!”

I had long been embarrassed as Editor that we had produced relatively few books in the last few years in our new series Studies in Australian Bibliophily, which had been prompted criticism in a review of a book in the earlier series, Studies in Australian Bibliography, on the grounds that the poor quality of these publications was unworthy of a society professing interest in the “art and craft of the book”. We thus moved from large format books with a matt bluish grey card cover to, in our new series, A5 format books with glossy blue covers, sometimes white, as in the present case. The problem was that it was Jeff who had been keeping the series going with his white-covered publications on bookplates, but not for quite a few years now. He had also introduced colour to the books he produced in the series and that had enhanced the quality of our publications even more.

I was therefore most gratified when Jeff told me he‘d like to publish in our series this one on Mark‘s work. I agreed and said I was happy to include it in the series and to do the proofreading for it. Jeff later said that, as I was the Society‘s outgoing Editor, he‘d like me to launch it. So here I am and here is the book. Only 50 copies have been printed, and BCSA members can purchase one today for only $24 signed by both the author and the subject. It‘s $25 if you want it posted. Non-members pay a lot more for the book.

And so, I herewith declare Mark Ferson: Bookplate artist. A volume in appreciation of the endeavours of Mark to further the knowledge of and interest in bookplates in Australia launched.

(Linocut 1985)

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