Jim Stewart died suddenly on 23 April 2004 at his Clayton home in Victoria. Jim had been a member of the Society for almost eleven years, and had served on the Committee. He retired from the printing industry after about seventeen years, of which he spent seven years in his own print shop. Largely self taught, he attended the North Melbourne College of Printing to develop his craft. Printing never had a better advocate than Jim, a man with a keen appreciation of good typography. His collecting naturally followed this interest and grew to embrace all aspects of the art and craft of the printer.
He enjoyed Whittington Press productions such as Matrix and had a high regard for the work of the late Alec Bolton and his Brindabella Press. Australian presswork being his ‘baby’ he was proud of his collection of Wayzgoose, Escutcheon and John Kirtley’s Mountainside Press. His other collecting interests were Ned Kelly and the Eureka Stockade. His collections in all these areas were a constant tale with which Jim peppered conversation and in the telling caught one up in his passion. He did not suffer fools gladly, but if one wished to learn anything that he was in a position to assist with, he left no stone unturned in his effort to help or to lead.
At the May 2004 meeting of The Book Collectors’ Society (Victorian Branch) long time friend John Chapman paid tribute to Jim concluding with the invitation for members to stand for a minute’s silence in remembrance to honour a friend and bookman. Rarely was there a meeting without the infectious enthusiasm of Jim Stewart, who invariably had a well-directed question of the speaker and some new discovery to share at supper.
I first became infected with this enthusiasm when he produced his new Escutcheon Press production How Is A Man to the ‘Show and Tell’ night early in 2000. I soon discovered the high regard he held for Escutcheon Press and its creator Bob Summers. Bob in turn acknowledges Jim’s encouragement and contribution in the book itself. Here was a book I had to have and a man I had to know. Both these goals were achieved and Jim proved to be a wonderful friend and mentor in those short four and a half years.
A volunteer for several years at the Monash Medical Centre and a Bail Justice, Jim gave untiringly to the many people he came in contact with across all walks of life. He was a devoted family man leaving wife Rhonda, son Ben and daughter Natalie with a wonderful legacy as husband and father. There have been two memorials for Jim, one at Monash Medical Centre and earlier a Thanksgiving Service for his life at St John’s Anglican Church East Malvern on Tuesday 27 April 2004 where family and friends gathered, among whom were Wallace Kirsop, John Chapman and myself from the Society.
The day after Jim’s death the Ballarat Courier printed his Letter to the Editor protesting the proposal that the Eureka flag be removed from its gallery of the past 105 years. This letter from Jim illustrated that when he felt strongly on a subject he took action. Whether attacking a proposal he believed needed more thought, or promoting the virtues of book collecting
Jim could be relied upon. He will be remembered as one who loved good book production and also as a family man and one who always put people first.