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2011-12, 371, 372, Publication Editor's Report, Richard Blair

Publications Editor’s report for 2011 AGM

FOR VARIOUS REASONS my predecessor Brian Taylor produced two double issues of Biblionews in 2009 including the so-called Two Editors Double Issue in September-December 2009, which was Brian’s swansong issue after nearly 20 years as Publications Editor. With the view to endeavouring to bring the production of Biblionews up to date, my first two solo issues as Publications Editor in 2010 were also double issues, such that the September-December 2010 issue was in the post in January this year, the delay due, in part, to the closure of the printer over Christmas. This year Biblionews has reverted to quarterly issues. Due somewhat to my other editorial obligations, including the completion of a substantial book of local history essays, we are now a little behind schedule. However, the length of both the March and June issues has been considerably greater than what I would regard as the norm; in fact the June issue is only eight pages shorter than the September-December 2009 double issue. Clearly, longer issues mean more work and more time required. Given that Brian – whose ongoing role as assistant editor is most significant – is overseas until mid October, I anticipate the September issue will not be out before November, but looking ahead, my aim is to try and bring the production schedule back into sync by sometime next year.

The worst aspect of being Publications Editor is the revelation of errors and omissions once the journal has been printed. Having edited the monthly newsletter for Marrickville Heritage Society for many years, I’ve been long aware that perfection is almost unattainable, notwithstanding the application of the utmost care and stringent proof-reading. I endeavour to apply the same standards to Biblionews and am grateful to Brian for his advanced proofreading skills. After each issue I have become aware of usually minor errors; however, these and more glaring errors and omissions have mostly been of my own making. I sometimes wonder if there’s a gremlin in my computer as in the last two issues I somehow managed to duplicate an entire paragraph. At least in these cases, they appeared in contributions written by me and not by someone else. Better by far though, for some copy to appear twice, than not at all. This regrettably happened in the recent review article by Doug Mackenzie where I inexplicably omitted an entire paragraph, which Doug says he spent some hours in compiling. As with most contributors to Biblionews, Doug had exercised the utmost care in writing his article and I was mortified, to say the least, when Doug brought it to my attention. I am at a total loss as to how it occurred. There were also some less significant errors in the June issue, and a list of corrigenda will appear with the next issue. I can only advise that even greater care will be taken in the future.
But let me not dwell too long on the negatives. Three of the four articles in the September-December 2010 double issue were of Victorian authorship and were enhanced greatly by a generous complement of colour plates. This was used to good effect in the case of Rosemary Overell’s edifying account of collecting children’s books in a household where she and her sister were discouraged from watching television and where her childhood memories were ‘suffused with books’. And yes, Rosemary is the daughter of the Secretary of the Victorian branch of the Society, Richard Overell, who is the Rare Books Librarian at Monash University. There were illuminating articles by Michael Taffe (‘Mandrake Press Booklets’) and John Arnold (‘Eric Partridge and the Scholartis Press’), whilst Jurgen Wegner rounded the issue off with a short dissertation on George Mackaness’s ‘Choice of Books’.

Our March 2011 issue contained just one article – also a presentation to the Victorian Branch – Ian Wilson’s ‘Collecting old Tasmanian books’ which was also the name of his book. This paper was further enhanced by a substantial portion of the article concerning book collecting theory and practice. As is customary, there was coverage in that issue of the BCSA AGM (Sydney) held belatedly in December 2010, and this included the reports of the President and the Publications Editor. We held a Special General Meeting after the AGM where the revised Constitution was ratified.

It was decided to reproduce the Constitution in Biblionews and this happened in the June 2011 issue, with the Constitution occupying the central eight pages of that issue (so that anyone who wishes to can extract it and keep it as a separate document). It features the lead article by Charles Stitz with ‘The story of Australian Book Collectors’, which gives a survey of his recently published work of the same name. We are delighted to learn that volume 2 is well into preparation.

Bruce Preston gave talks in Sydney at both the March and June meetings in 2010. Bruce’s article on ‘print-on-demand, e-books and publishing in the electronic age’ featured in the June 2011 Biblionews and will be concluded in the next issue. Also included was Doug Mackenzie’s aforementioned review article of John Hoyle’s ‘An annotated bibliography of Australian domestic cookery books 1860s to 1950’. This tome sells for the lowly price of $55, a steal, considering the amount of work that must have been entailed.

Each issue has featured book reviews by the prolific Colin Steele and in the June issue it was timely that his review of the Stitz work appeared together with a look at Eileen Chanin’s biography of Australia’s greatest book collector, David Scott Mitchell. Colin’s engaging account of his May weekend in Clunes evoked what was clearly a memorable time for book collectors and dealers alike. Neil Radford contributed a review of the esoteric ‘Collections of Nothing’, whose author has collected, literally, some 8,500 books mostly from free discard boxes outside bookshops, but also a variety of ‘useless debris’ including [1579] ‘empty cereal boxes and family snapshots of unknown people’.
Biblionews has carried obituaries, not least of all for our beloved member Norman Hetherington who died last December and whose illustration usually graces the back cover of Biblionews. ‘Notes & Queries’ continues to carry an assortment of material. Apropos suggestions from more than one quarter, ‘Notes on article contributors’ was reinstated in the September-December 2010 issue whilst Neil Radford’s ever-reliable annual Biblionews index for 2010 appeared in the March issue. For the first time that issue carried the descriptor, ‘A journal for book collectors and book lovers’. This is seen as a step towards increasing our membership and Chris has alluded to other factors in this regard.

Keeping costs down is certainly a priority for the Society and this has been achieved somewhat by my services, including the laying out of issues, being entirely free of charge. And whilst we sometimes include colour illustrations, often to great effect, this can be costly, so that not all issues will include colour.

I would like to thank Sydney University’s Printing Service for its care in continuing to print Biblionews as it has for many years. I thank all contributors to Biblionews and may I add that ongoing dialogue with authors after article submission is a significant aspect of the process and I am pleased to say that I have received undue cooperation from all concerned. I also thank Richard Overell in Melbourne and Glen Ralph in Adelaide for their input. Chris Nicholls and Mark Ferson have provided considerable support, but Brian Taylor, especially, has been unstinting in his assistance at all stages of production and distribution.

Richard Blair



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