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2001-09, 331, Brian Taylor, Editorial


Late again! (But I will come back to that below.) Late or not late, our loyal readers continue to provide us with excellent material as witness two more pleasing reviews from Colin Steele.

Mark Ferson’s article on Art Deco book design, based on the paper he gave at the Sydney June 2001 meeting, appears as the opening article in this issue and makes me wish we could print illustrations in colour.

Mark’s article is followed by Jürgen Wegner’s very interesting one on bookmarks. Readers will recognise this article as a response to Jon Prance’s note on bookmark collecting which appeared in the December 2000 issue of Biblionews and in which he asked for feedback on the subject of collecting bookmarks. He closed a recent letter to me saying with evident pleasure: “I still get the odd letter about the piece I wrote last December on bookmarks.” I suspect that he will be delighted with Jürgen’s response in this issue.

Jon’s letter accompanied another interesting note he was sending for publication, and, indeed, the one on inscriptions in books we are publishing in this present issue. It is a topic of particular interest to me personally for a number of reasons.

Back in 1986 when I was on study leave in the university town of Erlangen, Germany, I received a request from our late Publications Editor and President John Fletcher, who was a world expert on the German Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680), to look for any interesting inscriptions in copies of Kircher’s works in the Erlangen university library. Against the advice of one of my coresearchers there, I put my own research on hold while I spent at least a couple of weeks trawling through the huge dusty Kircher tomes, which proved to have quite a lot of marginal inscriptions in one or more ancient hands, and in Latin, if I remember correctly. Most of the ones that seemed interesting to me I loyally copied out and sent to John, feeling very pleased at the thought of his being very pleased with what I had sent. Imagine my consternation and disappointment when John informed me that I had got his request wrong and that he was really only interested in inscriptions that indicated any provenance of the volume I was looking at. At the time it was for me fun of a sort, but my co-researcher, Dr Klesatschke, was not amused by the resulting delay to work on my own research.

(Incidentally, John Fletcher’s massive unpublished University of London MA thesis on Athansius Kircher is being revised and prepared by his widow Elizabeth, at the request of the department of Religous Studies at the University of Sydney, for publication in a Dutch series on religious history.)

Another reason that Jon Prance’s note has struck a chord with me is that over the years I have been the recipient of the unwanted libraries of deceased people I had never met. And in a number of cases I have been able to develop a rudimentary biography of these strangers merely on the basis of the inscriptions in their books. Before I ever became a member of the BCSA John Fletcher as Publications Editor used to suggest to me that I should write something for Biblionews. Finally I said that I might write one such biography on the basis of the book inscriptions, but I never did. However, since myself taking over as Editor after John’s death, I have often toyed with the idea of writing a series of such mini-biographies just using inscriptions and now Jon Prance’s note has given me the final push, so expect something along those lines from next year.

 And now back to the fact that this September issue is so late that it is appearing, as was the case with the previous June issue, when the next issue, the December issue, should be. The result is that it is in this September issue that I have sadly to inform those members who do not already know that our President, Dr Ben Haneman, died suddenly on 18 December 2001. After John Fletcher’s passing, Brian McDonald became President for a couple of years, and after he stepped down Ben Haneman offered himself for the position. I do not propose to say anything further here about Ben’s great contribution to the Society, but I hope that one or more members who knew Ben Haneman better and longer than I did might provide an obituary to appear in the coming December issue or at least provide information on which an obituary could be based. (A loose-leaf vale received as an e-mail from Ben’s sons accompanies this issue.)



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