The Sydney Show & Tell Meeting
Held on 1 December 2007
John Newland: showed some items connected with C J Dennis. His contribution appears as a separate article I this issue.
Neil Radford: One of the things I collect is books which have descriptions of Australia by people who have never been here. They are mostly children’s books, and mainly for adventure. One of these is Around the World in Ten Days by Chelsea Curtis Fraser (1876-?). It was published by Nelson in London and, though it is otherwise undated, the preface carries the date 1922. Whether the author is male or female is not clear to me, but this person otherwise wrote boys’ adventure books, so was probably a man. The essence of the story is that two American boys are taking part in an air race around the world and enjoy many adventures along the way. Their Australian stop is in Darwin, where they have dinner with the mayor of the town and his wife. During dinner there is a discussion of the Australian aborigines, and the mayor tells them that “the blackfellow is, I believe, on the lowest rung of civilization”. There follow several pages of very unflattering descriptions of the aborigines in their natural state. Their only apparent achievement is said to be their skill in using the boomerang for hunting prey, but this praise is tempered by the statement that they only use boomerangs because “their very indolence leads them to adopt all sorts of easy-made weapons.” I was amazed that this sort of mis-information about Australia was being published as recently as the 1920s.
Helen Kenny: showed books connected with the Tahitian Tupaia who accompanied Cook on his voyage in the Endeavour. Her contribution appears as a separate article in this issue.
Janet Robinson: I trained originally as a shorthand typist and have always been interested in words. I collect books about words and have the Guiness Book of WORDS, put together by Martin Manser for Guiness Publishing Ltd, who published the book in 1988. It contains “Aussie words” ending in -o, and -y/ie. I also have Weasel Words by Philip Howard, published by Hamish Hamilton in 1978, which has chapters on words such as “Amenity”, “Dilemma” and “Environment”. And there is Kel Richards’ WordWatch, first published by Pan Macmillan Australia in 2001, dealing with phrases such as “Hobson’s choice”, “Buckley’s chance” and the name “Wendy”, first used as a name in 1904 due to the influence of JM Barrie’s book Peter Pan.
Gordon Robinson: My effort is a copy of The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife 1796-1797. Anne Hughes was the owner of the Diary. It was first published in the Farmer’s Weekly in 1937. Molly Preston rewrote it into the form we have now and published it in 1964. Alan Lane, the founder of Penguin books, published it at his own expense in 1980. Anne was 24 years old in 1796 and her husband John of unknown age—possibly 30 years. He had knowledge of farming, but little else. Anne is very intelligent and can persuade John to do things. He has no knowledge of Anne writing the Diary. An example of an entry: “then I to the kitchen to see all is reddy for John’s home cummin, the while Sarah do feed the hens; which do set up fine ado when they do see us. She comes in later with a fine goose egg, the first this year; which I do put in the pan and cook for John’s tee, with 2 good slivvers of ham; and do put the boiled beef and cheese with a meat pastie, he bein always empty when he cam from market.”
Margaret Hetherington: I have here a copy of Jane Ellen Harrison’s Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 3rd ed., 1922; the 1st ed. was 1905, the 2nd ed. 1908). There are lots of annotations thoughout with handwritten commentary agreeing or disagreeing with the contents and in it many cuttings, which all seems to show that it was a very much loved and treasured book. However, there is no evidence of provenance anywhere in the volume. I also have a copy of Frederick Sefton Delmer’s Berlin-published English Literature from “Beowulf” to Bernard Shaw. Copies of this were given by John Fletcher to all purchasers of his biography of the man, Frederick Sefton Delmer: From Hermann Grimm and Arthur Streeton to Ezra Pound (BCSA, 1991). There are a few minor mentions of “Tom” (born Denis) Sefton Delmer in Richard Boston’s Osbert, a Portrait of Osbert Lancaster (London: Collins, 1989). Tom and Osbert were friends at Oxford and later both worked on the Express newspaper. Tom Sefton Delmer’s work using so-called “black propaganda” to counter Nazi propaganda in WW2, partly by spreading rumours that foreign workers were sleeping with the wives of German soldiers serving overseas, was featured in a BBC programme shown in Australia on the ABC in March 2007. With great subtlety the show was titled “Sex Bomb”. (See also Brian Taylor’s comments on Frederick Sefton Delmer’s book from last year’s Show & Tell in Biblionews, June 2007 (354th Issue), pp.56f.)
Brian Taylor: As someone whose life interest has been language and languages, I have here a book I bought for $1 some years ago, namely the anonymous The Bible in Many Tongues (London: The Religious Tract Society, n.d.), a well written scholarly little volume not only about the history of the of the translation of the Bible, but ranging over all sorts of aspects of all sorts of topics and languages right down to the Polynesian languages of our region, but with no mention at all of Australian Aboriginal languages. A publisher’s list at the beginning of the volume shows it to be No. 92 in a series called The Monthly Volume. The volumes in the series, which contains mainly secular titles and, interestingly for us Australian collectors, includes such titles as No. 93 Australia: Its Scenery and No. 95 Australia and its Settlements, appeared, we are told, in two price ranges: “SIXPENCE, IN FANCY PAPER COVERS” and “TENPENCE, IN CLOTH BOARDS, GILT EDGES”. My volume (9 x 14cm) is the more expensive one, having still the fine gilt edges, with the title gilt on the spine, but the cloth cover, embossed with ornamentation front and back, has been water damaged, especially on the front—apparently by rain drops. In the lower left corner of the inside back cover is a binder’s label: DAVISON/BINDER/ 11./JEWIN CRESCENT/ LONDON. Though the volume—printed by Blackburn and Burt of Holborn Hill, London—is undated, an advertisement for another book, the Rev T Milner’s The History of England: to the Year 1852, suggests an 1850s date. This is further confirmed by an inscription on the inside cover: “Ann Brother [OR Broker?]/York Street Wesleyan/Sunday School/April 6 1856”, so a nice bit of early Sydney provenance.
Richard Blair: The content of his contribution will be included in the coming June issue.
Graham Stone: Sir Julius Vogel (1835-1899) was born in London and came to the Australian goldfields, worked as a journalist, and then went on to New Zealand, where he ultimately became Prime Minister. Previous to this he was Agent-General for New Zealand in London and was elected to two districts on his way back to New Zealand from Britain. He was in favour of the federation of the whole of the British Empire, all of which was to be represented in the British parliament in London. I have here his book Anno Domini 2000, or Woman’s Destiny (London: Hutchinson, 1889), of which one critic said it was “the most preposterous book published in New Zealand”. This is the first edition. I also have a Colonial edition of 1889 with a pictorial cover and a portrait: this copy is signed. I have as well a “Third and cheaper edition” of 1890. All have identical text. In 2000 the British Empire is politically consolidated; its capital moves occasionally and is currently in Melbourne. The Emperor is an active and authoritative head of state. Various policies Vogel approved of have been realised: poverty as been abolished, and so on. A subversive conspiracy hoping to have Australia secede (led by a villainous Duke of Parramatta) is nipped in the bud. A short war with America is won, and the New England region and New York are annexed to Canada. Flying machines and other marvels are noted in passing. As for Destiny, women can now vote and hold office. And for the happy ending: the leading character, a New Zealand politician, marries the Emperor.
Doug Mackenzie: This presentation is publshed as a separate article in this issue.
Mark Ferson: Although I have other bookish interests, members appear to expect me to talk about bookplates, so I have brought along some bookplate related material. Robert C Littlewood, a Melbourne private press publisher and art dealer, has over a period of almost 30 years written and published an important and scholarly series of books on Australian bookplate personalities. The first was Sir Lionel Lindsay. Ex libris (1978) which he followed with The bookplates of Edward B Heffernan (1982), and has since published Keith Wingrove. Ex Libris (1996), concerning a collector with strong Lindsay family associations. In 1997 Littlewood and fellow collector Edwin Jewell launched the Australian Bookplate Society. To mark the announcement at the 10 September 1997 Melbourne meeting of the Ephemera Society of Australia, Littlewood and Jewell produced Australian bookplates as ephemera, a keepsake published in an edition of 35 copies by the Lytlewode Press. I would argue most emphatically that bookplates are NOT ephemera, but that is a discussion for another day. The beautifully printed booklet comprises an essay and is illustrated with a number of tipped-in, original bookplates.
Although the Society still exists and is a vehicle for an exhibition and bookplate design competition, it currently has no members. After many years of noting and perhaps admiring each other’s work from afar, Robert Littlewood and I eventually met in Sydney in July 2007, almost ten years after formation of the Society. A friend Elisabeth Bastian, an artist/gallerist of Blackheath, and I, had recently formed the New Australian Bookplate Society and it seemed sensible that Littlewood and I discussed our respective social territories. We parted on a most friendly note, with the agreement that the first Society further promote bookplate art through its competitions and related work, and that the “New” Society build up an active and collegiate membership and continue to publish its quarterly, colour Newsletter. Littlewood joined the New Australian Bookplate Society on the spot, and I hope some more Book Collectors’ Society members do the same (we do already have a number of members in common).
As in the last two years, the winner of this year’s Show & Tell meeting, i.e. the one considered to have made the most interesting presentation, was decided by a secret vote of all present. Seven people received one vote each and, though anonymous to all but the tallier, were suspected of having voted for themselves. However, John Newland gained an overwhelming six votes and was declared the winner of the Acting Presidential bottle of wine, about which more elsewhere in this issue.