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2011-12, 371, 372, Notes and Queries, Richard Blair

Notes and Queries

This press release (2 August 2011) from the British Library was passed on by Colin Steele:

British Library Launches 19th Century iPad app

‘The British Library has launched an iPad app allowing subscribers to browse 45,000 books from its 19th century historical collection.

‘Subscription costs £1.99 per month and users can explore books from the likes of classic novels to science, travel writing and memoir from the era. Among the titles that can be read are an account of the exhumation of Napoleon’s body, the memoir of a battlefield nurse during the American Civil War and an 1884 study of the gypsies of the Scottish Borders.

‘The app was built by BiblioLabs and the British Library said it aims to have 60,000 titles available by the end of the year. Mitchell Davis, a founder of BiblioLabs, said: ‘This app makes 45,000 books from the Library’s unrivalled collections available to users around the world, at a price that over 12 months is equivalent to just one hardback book. Those who prefer to dip in can do so for a month and have at their disposal, for barely the price of a magazine, a bibliophile’s dream.’

Launch of John Fletcher’s posthumously published book on Athanasius Kircher

John Fletcher was President and Publications Editor of the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia from 1981 till his death in 1992. As a student at London University he wrote his MA thesis on the 18th century Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher – a work of some 900 typed pages that was never published in his lifetime. Thanks largely to the efforts of his wife Elizabeth, still a member of the BCSA, this 1966 work was published in 2011 by the Dutch publisher Brill as a book of just over 600 pages. John’s A Study of the Life and Works of Athanasius Kircher, ‘Germanus Incredibilis’ was launched on Saturday 5 November 2011 in the Fisher Library at the University of Sydney at a function which was organized by Elizabeth and at which she, and other members of the BCSA, including her son Tom, spoke. Further information about John and the book will appear in Elizabeth’s contribution to the December Show and Tell meeting to be published in a coming issue of Biblionews.

A request from Walter Struve to Brian Taylor

Dear Prof. Taylor

Please excuse this email out of the blue. Yesterday I happened to stumble across your article, ‘Odd bits of Brennaniana’, in the June 2003 issue of Biblionews, and wondered if you’d mind if I sought to pick your brains regarding Christopher Brennan’s translation of Kurt Offenburg’s German novel ‘11/10: ein zeitgenössischer Roman’. Brennan’s translation was published in Sydney in 1934 (after Brennan’s death) under the title, ‘These glorious crusaders: a contemporary novel’.

I’m a librarian at the State Library of Victoria, where we have a ‘Kurt Offenburg Memorial Collection’. This consists basically of books that Kurt Offenburg must have collected in his Sydney years, and which friends and supporters later added to in an effort to form a collection of books ‘dedicated to the promotion of international understanding’.

Kurt Offenburg (1898-1946) was a writer and broadcaster. He came to Sydney in 1930 and, from 1936 until his death, worked with the ABC as a valued, if sometimes controversial, commentator of international affairs. Sadly, there seem to be no Offenburg papers that have survived, and very few other traces. (His ‘real’ name was Kurt Dreifuss and he was born in Offenburg, Germany.) The Brennan connection is also a mystery, although there is one letter that Offenburg wrote to Nettie Palmer (presumably she had asked him about the Brennan translation), where Offenburg stated that Conor Macleod had ‘induced’ Brennan to undertake the translation (was this in 1929?). Offenburg referred to Conor Macleod (who died in 1934) as a friend.

I wonder if any of this might ring any bells whatsoever? If you have any clues or suggestions, I’d be truly grateful.

With good wishes

Walter Struve

* * * *

Brian has been unable to help Walter. Can any reader of this issue assist Mr Struve? His email address is <wstruve@slv.vic.gov.au>; the library’s address is: 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia. Tel +61 3 8664 7000. (Ed.)

The Sydney Book Club: Information sought

Below is a 1916 advertisement for The Sydney Book Club (from The MJ Ferson Collection of Library Bookplates).


The ADB online entry on George Robertson (1860-1933) states ‘in 1895 he started a lending library, the Sydney Book Club’.

According to the Angus & Robertson Archives held at the State Library of New South Wales, The Sydney Book Club was established in 1895 as:

Angus & Robertson’s circulating library . . . Its origins lie in the ‘actions of a number of local legal men who, between them purchased about a hundred books from A & R and then, in turn, read them, and finally sold them back to the firm’. In 1895 this group formed the Sydney Book Club under the charge of J. G. Lockley. The Book Club closed in August 1958.

James R Tyrrell in Old books, old friends, old Sydney (Sydney, 1987) has several references to the Sydney Book Club, but claims (p. 68) that it was Arthur Newham ‘who really originated the Sydney Book Club and was its first, honorary, “librarian”.’

The BCSA Index reveals just one brief reference in Biblionews to the club in Issue 232 (June 1976, p. 29) in the article, ‘Fred Wymark – Bookseller’ by Marjorie Wymark.

So clearly, the Sydney Book Club was a lending library with nothing to do with book collectors.

If any member has additional information could they please email Michael Hough on: <mhough@comcen.com.au> or write to him at PO Box 176, Annandale NSW 2038?

Further to Bruce Preston’s article, ‘From clay tablets to Apple Tablet (concluded)’ in this issue (p. 141), Bruce has drawn the editor’s attention to the following article by Julie Bosman from The New York Times which appeared on 3 December 2011. Salient excerpts follow:

Selling Books by Their Gilded Covers

Even as more readers switch to the convenience of e-books, publishers are giving old-fashioned print books a makeover. Many new releases have design elements usually reserved for special occasions – deckle edges, colored endpapers, high-quality paper and exquisite jackets that push the creative boundaries of bookmaking. If e-books are about ease and expedience, the publishers reason, then print books need to be about physical beauty and the pleasures of owning, not just reading.

‘When people do beautiful books, they’re noticed more,’ said Robert S. Miller, the publisher of Workman Publishing. ‘It’s like sending a thank-you note written on nice paper when we’re in an era of e-mail correspondence.’

Publishers in recent years have had a frugal attitude about so-called special effects, but that attitude has begun to shift, according to Julie Grau, senior vice president and publisher of Spiegel & Grau, part of Random House. ‘We’re rethinking the value in certain cases of special effects and higher production standards,’ Ms. Grau said . . . ‘Now in some cases, creating a more beautiful hardcover or paperback object is warranted.’

For publishers, the strategy has a clear payoff: to increase the value of print books and build a healthy, diverse marketplace that includes brick-and-mortar bookstores and is not dominated by Amazon and e-books.

Booksellers, worried that e-readers could displace paper books under the Christmas tree, say that a striking cover can lure buyers who might not have noticed the book otherwise. ‘These extra fancy covers, if tastefully done, cause customers to notice the book, pick it up and look it over,’ Paul Ingram, a book buyer at the Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, Iowa, said in an e-mail. ‘It works the other way too. A dull uninteresting cover can make people pass over the title.’

There are indications that an exquisitely designed hardcover book can keep print sales high and cut into e-book sales. For instance, ‘1Q84’ [Haruki Murakami’s 925-page novel, released in October and wrapped in a translucent jacket with the arresting gaze of a young woman peering through] has sold 95,000 copies in hardcover and 28,000 in e-book.

‘If we believe that convenience reading is moving at light speed over to e,’ Evan Schnittman, the managing director for group sales and marketing for Bloomsbury, said, using the industry shorthand for e-books, ‘then we need to think about what the physical qualities of a book might be that makes someone stop and say, “well there’s convenience reading, and then there’s book owning and reading.” We realized what we wanted to create was a value package that would last.’

Mr. Schnittman said the publisher had not yet raised prices on books with premium design elements, though he thought customers ‘would easily pay a dollar or two more for a beautiful book.’

In October, the British novelist Julian Barnes underscored that point when he accepted the Man Booker Prize for ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by urging publishers to pay attention to aesthetics.

‘Those of you who have seen my book, whatever you think of its contents, will probably agree that it is a beautiful object,’ Mr. Barnes told the black-tie crowd in London. ‘And if the physical book, as we’ve come to call it, is to resist the challenge of the e-book, it has to look like something worth buying and worth keeping.’

‘Sir Henry Savile: The Making of a Halifax Scholar’

BCSA President, Chris Nicholls, recently had published in Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, Vol. 19, New Series, 2011 his article, ‘Sir Henry Savile: The Making of a Halifax Scholar’ (pp. 46-77), together with some editorial comment by Dr John A Hargreaves (pp. 7-9).

From Charles Stitz: Following the report in the June 2011 issue of the talk by Charles Stitz on ‘Australian Book Collectors’, it has been pointed out that David Bremer was a lawyer from Melbourne, not Sydney.

Notes on article contributors

Frank Carleton is a former archivist who now works from home as a bookseller to libraries and sources for them books with an Australian connection from overseas countries, especially Austria in recent years. His many contributions in Biblionews are known for the often rather acerbic turn of phrase expressed in them.

Stuart Kells is an Associate Member of ANZAAB, a member of the State Library Foundation, a director of Books of Kells Pty Ltd, author of Rare: A Life among Antiquarian Books and publisher of Australian Book Collectors.

Brian McDonald, formerly President of BCSA (1992-95), has contributed articles to Biblionews on collecting bushranging books. He is currently a full-time lecturer of Travel & Tourism and Tour Guiding at Academies Australasia group of Colleges and TAFE and has been a professional tour guide with various groups around Sydney since 1976.

Dr Jacqueline Ogeil is Artistic Director of the Woodend Winter Arts Festival, and Director of Duneira at Mt Macedon, run by the Stoneman Foundation.

Bruce Preston, from Sydney’s Inner West, used to work at the University of Sydney’s Fisher Library. He now writes, owns a website and dabbles in online journalism. The author of a Sci-Fi novel and a recent mystery thriller, Bruce became interested in the idea of electronic books in 1991, founding <www.e-book.com.au> ten years later.



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