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2001-03, 329, Book collecting, David G Harris

Victorian Branch Members’ Night 1999

Members’ Nights are guaranteed to bring out some things of interest as nearly everyone attending will have brought an item or two to talk about. Held in the Royal Society Building Supper Room, with chairs arranged in a circle, they are less formal gatherings than those in the Lecture Theatre upstairs.

Going clockwise round the room proceedings began with Ken Duxbury, a cookery book collector. When in pamphlet form these are often published outside regular channels and the flimsy format means they are frequently overlooked by libraries. Some examples shown were Home Cookery published in St.Kilda with many reci-pes for the local Jewish community, Bread Recipes, which include the dubious delight of mock brains and Excellent Cooking Recipes by Dr. Morse of Indian Root Pills fame. An attractive hardcover volume published by the Wine and Bird Society, Maryborough, is a good example of the work of Edwards and Shaw, Printers. A lucky op. shop find.

Judging from the nods of approval and a cry of „you have sto-len my thunder‟, it was clear that others in the room shared John Holroyd‟s assessment of Trafficking in Old Books. Regular readers of the Australian Book Collector will be familiar with the author Anthony Marshall and his regular column “From a Melbourne Bookshop”, here attractively brought together and published by Lost Domain.

Jack Bradstreet described a small selection of pamphlets: Holloways Almanac from about 1848 containing such esoteric facts as the going price for an ostrich and Australian postal rates, scattered among mostly English information. Physical Routine published by radio station 3LO in 1926 or thereabouts featured various exer-cises to set your clock by and those who rose early enough the next morning and tuned the dial to the aforementioned broadcaster would have heard Alan Willingham (see below) reading out parts of the routine at the appropriate time!

Thirdly, Jack highlighted the Book and Magazine Collector of March 1999 as notable for an interview with Germaine Greer as a scholar of seventeenth century poetry. She starts by denying that she is a collector but reveals spending large amounts for certain titles. The article was described as “serious without salacious ele-ments”. (Within days of our meeting remarks made by Ms. Greer in an unrelated London interview, prompted members of the tabloid and sensationalist press to descend on her mother‟s doorstep, in Melbourne.)

Warren Perry drew attention to the imminent centenary of Federation with various titles published by the Australian Army. He also noted the gap in recording the exploits of Australian troops in South Africa, the centenary of which was scheduled for October 1999.

Wendy Rankin, attending her first meeting, did not have a book to hand but made a plea for a scarce title required for her research on Chinese in Australia: The Red Mask by E.V. Timms. Some of those present were familiar with this author‟s work and advanced suggestions for its scarcity.

Three works on diverse topics were shown by Doug Dunn: Living Shelter, on home-made houses in Australia, Foy and Gibson Catalogue for 1923 and It Doesn’t Snow Like It Used To concerning the Monaro district of New South Wales up to the time of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Peter Williams produced his customary clutch of rare and unusual items, some not in Ferguson, notably Panorama Railway 1861, Australian Scenery c.1852-3, Pearson’s Australian School At-las, third edition and Reading Books, an E.W. Cole edition of volumes published in Dublin. A twelve volume set of The Log, journal of the Circumnavigators Club with membership restricted to round-the-world travellers, dates from the era of luxury liners. If they were not enough Peter also had some impressive examples of 1954 Royal visit memorabilia, formerly the property of Wing Commander Cowan. This included beautifully written invitations, badges, maps, reports and memoranda from Buckingham Palace on etiquette etc.

The varied interests of our members were well demonstrated by John Cope, co-editor of Convict Love Tokens. These mostly circular discs were formed when coins were rubbed smooth and inscribed with the point of a nail or similar tool under who knows what hardship. The sentimental messages or images thereon gave them their name.

John Chapman shares this rarefied aspect of coin collecting but on this occasion he had another treasure to share; the only known original of the Proclamation on the Occupation of Port Phillip, September 1836. The text was recorded in the New South Wales Government Gazette of the time but the presumably once widely posted handbill was not known to have survived. One can now be recorded, and in excellent condition.

A document of more recent times was salvaged by Jim Stewart from an office desk drawer in the Reids building, Prahran, when it changed hands. It is a logbook for 1942 when the tower of the department store functioned as an Air Raid P lookout. The dome was set up with bunks and electricity (and blackout curtains of course) and the log includes observations of the weather conditions, nightly watch and other activities.

The weather features large in an aspect of Nancye Perry‟s collection – shipwrecks connected with Australia. One ship in particular, The London, was wrecked in 1866 and Mrs. Perry has seven different works on the event. It was only after embarking on this topic that she discovered that a distant relative had been on board.

Alan Willingham, referred to above, another first time attendee, is a familiar voice to many with his Saturday morning radio segment offering building and home maintenance advice. With his specialty in heritage architecture and building conservation, The Architects and Builders Index and Ramsay’s Catalogue commenc-ing in the 1930‟s are valuable working tools. Older volumes are especially important in establishing where and when various products were available, but as the publishers demanded that superseded issues be surrendered and pulped, full sets are scarce.

Many of us were beguiled by the Penguin 60‟s series, small slim booklets on a diversity of topics that celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the pioneering paperback publishers. Lindsay Shaw has an attractive set of six especially published for the Medical Observer and Pharmaceutical Society.

In compiling the Encyclopedia of Australian Places John Young is ever on the lookout for local guides and the like, particularly when they relate to Victoria. Two interstate items of interest are Views of the Northern Territory (1913?) and Australian Capital Territory, 1924.

Roneo duplication is a system that arguably revolutionized office communication more significantly than the later introduction of the photocopier. John Young passed around a manual on The Origin of Stencil Duplicating as an interesting relic.

Work related books in another specialized branch are the prov-ince of Terry Claven. His field is fingerprints and related forensics but his collection ranges from Codes, Telegraphic and Others (1915) to Jewelry Reference Book (1938). Such identification aids are of course now updated and often available on computer, but the older titles retain a certain charm as do the souvenirs from the now disbanded Russell Street Police Headquarters Library. Sal-vaged examples of light reading for the off-duty officer include The Man in the Trilby Hat and similar detective yarns.

Saving myself till last I will mention the journal Matrix, Volume 18 that landed on my doorstep days before our meeting. Arrival of this annual exposition of the printing arts is an eagerly awaited event. As usual the high production standards and articles on various graphic techniques ensure hours of reading and inspira-tion.

David G. Harris



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