(Extended version of a talk to the Victorian Branch in March 2011)
AUSTRALIAN BOOK COLLECTORS, subtitled some noted Australian book collectors & collections of the nineteenth & twentieth centuries or simply known as ABC to its friends, had its genesis in a conversation I had with Jonathan Wantrup in about 2004. Mary and I had opened our bookshop in Albury after I retired from the Law in 2002, and I’d discovered Australian Book Auctions as a source of better quality stock. I started to attend the auctions at Armadale [in Melbourne] on a regular basis, and I was struck by the fact that in many of the books I bought, there were intriguing bookplates, signatures and other marks of ownership.
I must confess that up to that point, I’d never paid much attention to provenance, and this was something of a Eureka moment for me. I began to wonder about the stories behind all those ornate and intriguing armorial bookplates from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. I recognised that each of them held a silent message from a previous owner, which said, in effect: ‘This was my book, and if you look at it carefully, you’ll learn something about me or my family’. And all those intriguing signatures, some scrawled, many in beautiful copperplate, small works of art in a style so common then but so rare now. I realised that there are thousands of fascinating stories out there, of the people who collected books, the books they collected, and the stories of what became of those collections. These were people to whom I could relate — they loved books as I do, many of them led interesting and adventurous lives, and many left legacies in the form of complete collections, or marks of ownership in books which are still seen in the marketplace.
So I began to look around for histories of book collectors, and found to my surprise that although the subject had been treated extensively and over a long period in the United Kingdom and the United States, it didn’t appear to have been attempted on any large scale for Australia.
When I was talking to Jonathan at one of the sales in Armadale, I mentioned how interesting I thought the lives and collecting careers of book collectors were, and how fascinating the marks of ownership they left behind in their books. I said, rhetorically: ‘Why doesn’t someone write a history of Australian book collectors?’ To which he responded ‘Why not indeed?’ Even then, it took a while for the idea to sink in, because the someone of my question really meant someone much better qualified than I. But, as everyone else seemed to have much better things to do, and no one leapt forward to answer the clarion call, I began to consider that I might attempt something of the sort myself, though without any clear idea then of the magnitude of the task.
At that point, fate took a hand, and I met Stuart and Fiona Kells. I think they walked into the shop one day with an introduction from Kenneth Hince. Stuart was then with the Victorian Government, Fiona was compiling and publishing Australian Book Auction Records (a truly awesome task), and both were passionate bibliophiles. Stuart had worked in the publishing industry in Melbourne, and continued to publish on a small scale as the ‘Bread Street Press’. In short, they were the ideal collaborators for such a project. I floated the idea, they responded with enthusiasm, and we were away.
The pattern which soon emerged was that I would research and write the stories and email them to Stuart and Fiona, who accumulated them and put them in some sort of order. We all identified appropriate illustrations, and where necessary Stuart and Fiona photographed them for reproduction. As we went along, the Kells would point out suitable subjects which I didn’t know of, or had overlooked. At the end of the exercise, Stuart’s experience as a publisher and typesetter came into its own, and he put the amorphous mass of articles into order, attended to layout, and put the whole thing into the shape in which it was eventually published.
The criteria on which I settled early in the life of the project were that as far as possible, for each collector we would include a short biography, a collecting history and a description of the collection and its ultimate fate. Particular attention was paid to bookplates, book labels, signatures in books, and other marks of ownership, in line with my interest in provenance. Even these basic minima led to a degree of frustration, where for instance, we had some information about an important collection or collector, but not enough to support a complete entry. For instance, in the 1980s, that era of boom and bust, a prominent Sydney lawyer named David Bremer accumulated a world-class collection of Rare Australiana, Pacific Voyages and other Books (to quote the subsequent catalogue) over a period of some years. In the latter part of that decade he fell on hard times and on the 29th, 30th and 31st August 1988, under instructions from an insolvency practitioner, Leonard Joel sold the collection at auction, supported by one of Julien Renard’s meticulously prepared catalogues, which did not however, name the owner. This was the renowned Bremer Collection. So, we had excellent details of the collection, but the collector himself, at the end of all his trials and tribulations, shrank from the limelight, and simply dropped off the public radar, and to this day I’ve not been able to discover enough of his biographical details to warrant an entry.
For a long time I had a similar problem in respect of the FG Coles Collection — a superb catalogue (in this case prepared in 1965 by Julien’s father Gaston Renard) but no discoverable particulars of the collector until, as a result of a query I posted in Notes and Queries of Biblionews,¹ Erica Ryan of the National Library got in touch and supplied me with some old newspaper reports. From these I was able to determine that our man had been an early director of the Coles retail empire, and to dredge enough biographical detail to float the article.
There were many similar enigmas, some of which were solved, but many mysteries remain.
Which brings me to methods of research. My first move was to sit down with Jonathan Wantrup and Nick Dawes to record their reminiscences of a long list of collectors whose names I had compiled, but about whom I had only limited information. I did the same with a number of other experienced booksellers. I then transcribed the resulting recordings — an agonizingly slow process — and then had the raw material on which to start work.
The internet is a goldmine of information, or leads to information, particularly for a country cousin like me, without easy physical access to city library facilities. I can hear the librarians among you saying: You don’t need physical access to libraries these days; you can find everything we have in our online catalogues! I respond to this on a number of levels. First, I freely confess that my computer skills are less than perfect, and that I have difficulty negotiating some of the catalogue indices, so that I come up with a nil result frustratingly frequently, even where I know that the item I seek is held. Second, dare I say, some of the indices are not user-friendly to amateurs, are incomplete, or otherwise less than perfect. And third, where I can locate an item, unless it is available online, or small enough to be economically copied, it will still need personal attendance at the library to scan and assess the item. How often have I wished that I had a personal assistant in each of the capital cities who could attend the central library to examine books and documents for me in such situations!
Having said all that, I’m bound to add that the service provided by all major public libraries in Australia to remote enquirers such as me, and those needing copy documents, is absolutely first class, and in my view, head-and-shoulders above the service provided by some other arms of the public sector to members of the public. The attitude of library staff is courteous and extremely helpful, a nice contrast to the attitude of much of the rest of the corporate world in this modern society.
The online edition of the Australian Dictionary of Biography is a huge reservoir of biographical material on those collectors covered by it, which is to say, as I understand it, those who died prior to 1980. For later decedents and those still clinging firmly to the twig, other methods must be used. A certain amount of caution however, needs to be exercised with ADB reports, and I found it useful to cross-check them with other accounts where possible. Biblionews was another rich source of material, so far only partially explored, because I have only recently completed my set right back to its inception in 1944 or thereabouts.
Somewhere along the four-year journey I began to discover excellent articles published by others on individual collectors over the last 50 years or so. They covered the topics far better and more thoroughly than I could ever hope to do, so I sought and obtained permission to republish them in full. They deal with about 10% of the total of 125 collectors covered by the book, and in my view considerably enhance the texture and quality of the whole.
Beyond all the easily accessible sources of information, it came down to a matter of simply asking people for information. I basically made a persistent nuisance of myself, as politely as I could, for a period of some years. I’m sure that many in the book trade will shudder for a long time to come, whenever they hear my name mentioned. I must say, however, that by and large, I was received with the greatest kindness, co-operation and patience, and that there were very few who treated me with the coldness which I probably deserved. My thanks for that help has been fairly fully documented in the Acknowledgments pages of the book, but with the benefit of hindsight, I feel that I might have paid greater tribute to the part played by Stuart and Fiona, who put an enormous amount of work into the publication behind the scenes, which was not always immediately apparent.
I say in the Introduction that ‘this is a book about books and bibliophiles — about provenance and people’, and this, I think, is the central point of the work. Books seem to me to be a reflection of the human condition — a record of everything which ever happened in the history or imagination of mankind. A romantic concept perhaps, but one intimately bound up with the histories of those who collect books. To me, the process of discovering and recording or re-recording the lives of the collectors and the stories of their collections is endlessly fascinating, packed with that commodity tritely but accurately known as human interest.
The following are some random samples taken from among the stories in the book, concentrating in the main on the biographical aspects of those stories.
Henry Allport (1890-1965) was the descendant of a long line of Tasmanian legal men, and the owner of a superb collection of Australiana, which he directed his trustees to offer as a gift to the Tasmanian Government, but only on condition that it be permanently housed in his home Cedar Court at Sandy Bay, which was to be maintained as a reference library and museum, and that items from it were not to be lent or removed. The Tasmanian Government of the day fooled him. After he died, they accepted the bequest, but then legislated to break the trust, so that they were not bound by the conditions imposed by the will. Henry is no doubt still spinning in his grave as I speak.
P Neville Barnett (1881-1953) whose father died when he was 14, had to become the family breadwinner, but was often unable to work, and suffered all his life from a mysterious illness, concealed from the world, and only disclosed after his death as tuberculosis of the bones and joints, a condition which was then infectious, incurable and ostracizing. Despite this great handicap, he became a world authority on bookplates, and left a valuable library on that subject
Sir Redmond Barry (1813-1880) Victorian Supreme Court judge, first Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, effective founder of the Melbourne Public Library, bibliophile and book collector, led a secret life. He never married, but carried on a de facto relationship with a woman of lower social rank, who bore him four children. He left a substantial library, auctioned after his death.
Dr George Bennett (1804-1893) on the other hand, was married three times, and left an impressive library of Australiana which his widow offered to the University of Sydney for £2000, but the offer was declined. Sydney bookseller Will Dymock slipped under everyone’s guard, so James Tyrrell said, by dumping a bag of 1000 sovereigns on Mrs Bennett’s kitchen table and carrying off the collection.
Eric Bonython (1910-1971) was orphaned at the age of four, but he was the grandson of Adelaide newspaper tycoon Sir Langdon Bonython, by whom he was raised, and he lacked for little in a material sense. He became an outstanding explorer of the Lake Eyre Basin, and left a considerable library of Australiana.
Harry Chaplin (1895-1988) was already an established collector when he became the inaugural President of BCSA in 1944. By day he ran a dental supply company in Elizabeth Street Sydney, but, like many of us, his heart lay elsewhere, and he assembled a notable collection of Australiana in his lifetime. He was well known for pursuing authors in order to have them sign his copies of their works. His collection was dispersed piecemeal before his death at the age of 93, and unfortunately no catalogue of it was ever made.
Russell Chirnside (1885-1956) a descendant of Victorian pioneers and pastoralists, was unusual in that his considerable collection was sold in its own superb state-of-the-art library building, as part of his property Mornmoot near Whittlesea, when it changed hands after his death.
Marcus Clarke (1846-1881) the author of For the Term of His Natural Life, was a colourful journalist who had trouble holding down a job. He was forced by bankruptcy to sell his library in 1874, and died practically penniless at the age of 35 in 1881, leaving a large family almost destitute.
Rodney Davidson (1933-) was a Melbourne lawyer and company director, now retired, who assembled a library of Australiana which was probably second in importance only to the Scott Mitchell Collection. It was sold by Australian Book Auctions over four years between 2004 and 2008 and grossed a record figure for an Australian collection. As Stuart Kells noted in his recently-published book Rare, few collectors have matched Davidson’s doggedness. In the 1960s, he and Paul Dwyer got wind of an important collection of papers relating to John and Eliza Batman. Davidson hired a private detective to flush them out.
Sir William Dixson (1870-1952) whose family owned the British Tobacco Company, and were therefore seriously rich, was a lifelong bachelor who lived alone in a large house in Killara on Sydney’s North Shore, and kept his more valuable books and paintings in a vault in the basement. He was inspired by the example of David Scott Mitchell, and on his death his huge collection was left to the State Library of New South Wales.
John Pascoe Fawkner (1792-1869) was the son of a transported convict, who himself fell foul of the law, and in 1814 was sentenced to 500 lashes and 3 years’ hard labour, which he served as a cedar-cutter at Newcastle. He found redemption as a hotelkeeper, lending librarian and later, a member of the Legislative Council, moving ever upwards on the social ladder. His large collection of books was dispersed in a number of different ways, including by auction.
Sir John Ferguson (1881-1969) was a barrister, and later a judge of the NSW Industrial Commission in the 1930s and 1940s who, as well as collecting a large and important library, wrote the seven-volume Bibliography of Australia, one of the most important and influential works ever likely to be written on the subject — an epic lifetime achievement.
John Fletcher (1940-1992) whose untimely death at the age of only 52 cut short a distinguished career as academic, author, bibliophile and collector, wrote extensively for Biblionews, which he edited for 10 years following the death of Walter Stone, who he also succeeded as President of BCSA in 1981. He was regarded with great affection in book-collecting circles, and his early death was a great tragedy. His 900-page definitive thesis on German Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher is still unpublished.
John Gartner (1914-1998) printer and publisher, was Australia’s foremost enthusiast of fine printing, private press books and bookplate material. In the 1983 Victorian Ash Wednesday bushfires his home, including his extraordinary book, stamp and coin collections, was totally destroyed, and John and his wife Zelma survived only by spending three hours crouched under woollen blankets in their swimming pool. Undeterred, they rebuilt and set off overseas to spend the insurance money on new collections. John Dean recently took a copy of Australian Book Collectors to Zelma, who now lives in a retirement village, and reports that she was very pleased with it.
Charles Glover (1870-1936) was an Adelaide hotelkeeper who inherited a lot of money, became Lord Mayor, and amassed a considerable library as well as a collection of native artefacts.
Ray Griffiths (1899-1985) was a Ballarat doctor who was a keen collector of books and paintings. His library was the subject of a 3-day sale by Leonard Joel in Melbourne in 1986.
The Hammet Brothers — Ivo (1895-1975) and Rollo (1905-1994) were relatively humble Victorian public servants during and after the Second World War who nevertheless managed to assemble world-class collections of Australiana. This was another instance where I knew of the collections but initially could find out little about the collectors themselves. It was a real job of detection over a long period, with help from a number of sources. I obtained copies of their wills from the Public Records Office, the State Library supplied copies of news clippings, and Biblionews was a great source of information.
Father Leo Hayes (1889-1967) was a humble man, a Catholic parish priest well-loved by his various flocks in country Queensland for almost 50 years, who never aspired to rise above that level, although he was made Archdeacon before he died. He was also a passionate book collector and despite his priestly vow of poverty, managed to accumulate about 60 000 items, mainly literary Australiana, which went to the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland in 80 large crates and 400 cartons, shortly before his death. He achieved this by great frugality and self-sacrifice, and many items were also given to him.
Robert Howe (1795-1829) the son of Australia’s first printer, George Howe, was a tragic figure. When he was four years old, his father was convicted in England and sentenced to transportation, and in the following year his mother died. He led a dissolute and alcoholic youth in Sydney and fathered an illegitimate child. After inheriting his father’s printing business and newspaper he saw the light, and got religion in a big way. He became prone to telling it like it really was in the pages of his paper, and as a result, he was frequently physically attacked or sued for libel. He was horse-whipped by Dr Redfern, and on another occasion he was attacked with a bayonet on a dark night and severely wounded. He was unhappily married, and eventually drowned at the age of 34 while fishing from a boat in Sydney Harbour. As they say, some people seem to have all the luck!
Alfred Lee (1858-1923) was a self-made man who worked for the same boot and shoe importing firm all his life, and ended up as a senior partner. His main claim to fame is that David Scott Mitchell bought his entire collection in order to get his hands on just one book — the Banks Endeavour Journal. There is a story told by James Tyrrell that earlier in Lee’s collecting career he went into Dymock’s Book Arcade in Sydney and had a pile of books worth £300 from Dr Bennett’s estate put aside for him to collect later. David Scott Mitchell is said to have come in and hijacked the consignment by threatening never to darken the shop’s doorway again unless he got them.
George Mackaness (1882-1968) was a teacher and academic, but also a passionate collector of Australiana, and much-published author on Australian history and literature. His huge collection was sold by Angus & Robertson in three priced catalogues in the late 1960s on a profit-sharing basis, shortly before and after his death at the age of 86.
Dorothea Mackellar (1885-1968) is perhaps best known as the author of My Country, but she also wrote a lot of other poetry and a couple of unsuccessful novels, and was a book collector. She is said to have been an incurable romantic, but never married, and died a relatively wealthy woman, mainly from inheritance, at the age of 83.
Gregory Mathews (1876-1949) was well-educated, but started life as a jackeroo, until at the age of 26 he wooed and won a rich widow 11 years his senior. They were married, and she carried him off to England to a life of foxhunting, horseracing and debutante balls. After a few years of this, inspired by the example of John Gould, he conceived the idea of writing Birds of Australia, the 12-volume monolith which became his life’s work. He nearly went broke in order to complete it, more than 20 years later, and presented his major ornithological library to the National Library in Canberra.
David Scott Mitchell (1836-1907) is, of course, the towering figure in the world of Australian books, but as a man, he has intrigued historians for more than 100 years, because he was such an enigmatic person. He inherited great wealth from his father, who had become very rich almost by accident, when vast coalfields were discovered beneath the pastoral lands he bought in the Hunter Valley. David devoted his fortune, and his life, to the accumulation of the greatest collection of Australiana ever known, which eventually formed the foundation of the world-renowned Mitchell Library.
Stories abound of his legendary meanness, and of the unscrupulous tactics he employed when collecting, and he lived as a virtual recluse in an old run-down house in Darlinghurst, literally packed to the rafters with books. A well-educated and obviously literate man, who had qualified as a lawyer in his youth but never practised, he wrote nothing, and left his magnificent collection and the endowment of the Mitchell library as his only lasting legacies.
Philip Crosbie Morrison (1900-1958), usually just called Crosbie Morrison, was a journalist, broadcaster and lecturer on natural history, who flourished around the time of the Second World War. He had a long-running radio programme on natural history which was broadcast nationally and also overseas. I like his book signature — large, florid and quite unmistakeable, and his bookplate, a magpie holding in its beak one end of a typewriter ribbon or a spool of film, whichever you prefer. If you have a book of Crosbie Morrison’s in your hand, you can never be in any doubt who it belonged to, because he signed and bookplated every single item he owned.
George Ernest Morrison (1862-1920) is probably my favourite of all the unusual people whose stories are included in the book. He’s better known as Chinese Morrison because of his association with that country in the second half of his life, but I think his earlier years are more remarkable. His father was a Scottish immigrant who founded Geelong College, where George had his early education before going to university to study medicine. In 1879, when he was 17, he undertook what he termed ‘a walk to while away my holidays’ and hiked alone along the south coast of Victoria from Geelong to Adelaide, a distance of 752 miles, much of it through unexplored country, which he covered in 46 days. He sold the story of his walk to a newspaper for seven guineas, which he put towards the purchase of a cedar canoe in which, the following year, he paddled, again alone, down the Murray River from Wodonga to the sea, a distance of 1555 miles, and walked back across country to Geelong. In 1882 he signed on as a crew member aboard a blackbirding lugger in order to get the facts on that nefarious industry for another newspaper article. He then travelled to Normanton in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and walked, again alone, back across-country to Melbourne, a distance of about 2000 miles which he covered in 123 days.
In 1883 he led a disastrous expedition to explore New Guinea which was ambushed by natives, and he was badly injured, speared through the right eye socket and the abdomen. He took a long time to recover, but thereafter roamed all over the globe before ending up in China years later as the foreign correspondent for The Times, and eventually became a foreign affairs adviser to the Chinese Government.
These few lines can give you only an outline of his wildly adventurous existence. His huge library of Asian books and ephemera was ultimately bought by the Japanese Government in 1917, and he died in England in 1920.
Sir Charles Nicholson (1808-1903) was a major collector and a major benefactor of Sydney University, who was born in England and emigrated to Australia with members of his family in 1833. Shortly afterwards his wealthy uncle, Captain James Ascough drowned, and left his considerable estate to Charles, who went on to forge a spectacular career as a doctor, politician, businessman, archaeologist and collector. I had completed a lengthy article about him shortly before the book was published, when Professor Kirsop alerted me to the fact that it had recently been discovered that Sir Charles was not actually who he said he was. Instead of being the son of a wealthy Cumberland merchant, he was the illegitimate child of a Yorkshire servant girl. The true story of his humble origin had been effectively concealed all his life and for more than 100 years after his death, and was only uncovered by researchers in March 2010.
Sir Henry Parkes (1815-1896), one of Australia’s best known politicians, needs little introduction at a public level, but his private life is less well known. He was an appallingly inept businessman, was made bankrupt several times and was married on three occasions, the last at the age of 80 to a bride of 23, which might have been described as a triumph of hope over pragmatism. He died six months later, but history doesn’t record whether the two events were related. His extensive library was auctioned shortly before his death, but sadly failed to make anything like his expectations.
Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), who qualified fairly obliquely for inclusion in this volume, I’ve described as ‘a grand eccentric in a nation and age of eccentrics’. He is famous as the assembler of the largest collection of books and manuscripts ever known. Some idea of its magnitude may be gathered from the fact that parts of it are still being disposed of, 125 years after it first came onto the market in 1885, some years after his death.
Sir Thomas was also illegitimate, the son of a wealthy calico merchant, and when he inherited his father’s considerable estate at the age of 26, he began to buy manuscripts with the quixotic motive of preserving them from destruction, then moved on to books, confessing towards the end of his life that he wished to have one copy of every book in the world. He spent his inheritance on books, then went deeply into debt to continue buying. Some of us will recognise this pattern.
A mass of cheap books on every subject under the sun poured into his baronial mansion Thirlestaine House in Gloucestershire, which was so big that when his collection was being housed, after part of it had been transported there in 103 wagon loads, Phillipps reportedly rode a horse from one wing to the other along the corridor. Big as it was, Lady Phillipps soon memorably complained that she was booked out of one wing, and ratted out of the other, a state of affairs which she regarded as healthy neither for her, nor for her husband’s manuscript collection.
John Ponder (1908-1999) was another interesting character, who grew up in Kent, and after graduating from Cambridge migrated to Australia and became classics master at Geelong Grammar. During the Second World War, as a member of the Special Operations Executive he parachuted into Greece and lived and worked with the Greek guerrillas. Towards the end of the war he was leading Z-Force commandos in the islands to the north of Australia.
At the end of the war, taking advantage of the wealth of material then available at cheap prices, Ponder amassed a world-class collection of Australiana but following his marriage in 1950 he found that he had to sell it. Of this event he wrote:
The pact with my partner that I should be allowed to spend on books as much as she spent on clothes was almost at once found to be null and void, and as the children arrived, with their diverse needs for such things as a holiday cottage by the sea, so the books had to go.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, Ponder and his wife were later divorced, and after leaving Geelong in 1965, he lectured in descriptive bibliography at RMIT, was a rare books librarian at the Baillieu Library, ran an antiquarian bookshop, and at the Meat Market Craft Centre in North Melbourne practised printing by 15th century methods. For his 1984 limited edition book An Apology for Rare Books and An Australian Private Library he was the sole author, press-maker, compositor, printer, binder and publisher. He died at the age of 91.
Robert Sticht (1856-1922) was an American mining engineer who came to Queenstown, in the wilds of Tasmania’s west, in 1895 to manage the Mt Lyell mine and there amassed a magnificent collection of books and manuscripts. It all ended sadly when unsound mining investments from 1913 onwards resulted in his financial ruin. He died of cancer in 1922 almost certainly as a result of the trauma, and the collection had to be sold to pay his debts.
Walter Stone (1910-1981) was a legendary Australian book collector, publisher (The Wentworth Press), writer and promoter of Australian literature. He was the mainstay of BCSA and editor of Biblionews for many years. His huge collection was sold on consignment after his death in 1981, by Peter Tinslay of Antique Bookshop and Curios, then of Cremorne, in five priced catalogues.
William Walker (1861-1933) a Tasmanian collector, was another self-made man, who started out in life as a civil engineer, but by the age of 31 had become so wealthy from his investments that he was able to retire. He thereafter devoted his time and energy to book collecting and bibliophilic research and by the time he died in 1933 his home contained some 7000 books. His widow enlisted the aid of another noted Tasmanian collector, Dr William Crowther, to sort them out. This is what Dr Crowther said in a 1974 interview:
(Mrs. Walker) took me upstairs and she brought me to the hallway and she said “Would you open the door Doctor?” So I turned the handle and I pushed, and she said “Push hard” and I kept on pushing and I got it open sufficiently to say, about 3 or 4 inches and I could see in, and the whole of the room was almost three feet deep in books. Apparently he’d read it, and having read it he didn’t know what to do with it, and he’d opened the door and thrown it in.
When the books were sorted out, it became clear that, in addition to Walker’s serious bibliophilic studies, he collected erotica. A significant number of his books were erotic, or frankly pornographic. This was apparently news to Mrs Walker and, in those buttoned-up days, a source of some embarrassment to the family.
Sir Samuel Way (1836-1916), the Chief Justice of South Australia, was another famous collector whose secret personal life was revealed long after his death. He was known as a bachelor for most of his life, but in the 1990s researchers established that in the 1860s when he was a young man, he met and fell in love with a Tasmanian servant girl and formed a secret de facto relationship with her which endured until her death almost 20 years later, and produced five children. So things, and people, are not always as they seem.
These are but a taste of the stories covered by the book. I hope that I’ve been able to demonstrate that bibliophilia is not only about rare books and fine bindings, but also about the fascinating people who were, and are, so passionate about them.
The book is in a limited edition of 500 copies, of which 490 are clothbound, and 10 are half-leather, signed and numbered. The clothbound are available at $95 plus postage from Books on Dean, 3/444 Dean Street, Albury on (02) 6021 3230 or by email <email@example.com>; or may be ordered directly from the website <www.booksondean.com.au>.
There is a second volume in the early stages of preparation, to be called Australian Book Collectors — Second Series (the title also courtesy of Jonathan Wantrup) and it will include space for the correction of any mistakes in the first volume, so if you detect any palpable errors, please let me know, so that we can ultimately get the story absolutely right.
1 Biblionews Issue 360 (December 2008), p. 191
Note re illustrations: Illustrations of all bookplates in this article were provided by Charles Stitz and appear with his consent. The bookplate on the cover of the book is that of David Scott Mitchell and is on page 51; on page 53 is the F.G. Coles bookplate; on page 57 is the Russell Chirnside bookplate on the left, and the Rodney Davidson bookplate (third state) on the right; on page 60 is the Ivo Hammet bookplate at top left, the Dorothea Mackellar bookplate at bottom left and the Crosbie Morrison bookplate on the right; on page 65 is the R.C. Sticht bookplate on the left and the Walter Stone sale catalogue and book-plate on the right. The David Scott Mitchell signature appears below (Courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales). Editor