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2008-03, 357, Book Reviews, History, Neil A Radford, Van Diemen's Land

‘Van Diemen’s Land 1836: Supreme Court proceedings’

Montagu & Stephen Van Diemen’s Land 1836:
Algernon Montagu & Alfred Stephen in Supreme Court proceedings against T.W.Rowlands; with a comment by Robert Lathrop Murray; with Geo. Arthur’s Despatch
Edited by E FitzSymonds (James Dally, 2007)
ISBN 0-9751569-5-0. 168pp. Limited to 99 numbered copies, in slip case $299 (incl p&p). Available from: James Dally,
GPO Box 1932, Adelaide SA 5001
(or email: rogied@bigpond.net.au)

From 1971 until his death in 2005 James Dally, the respected antiquarian bookseller in Tasmania and Adelaide, also published (under his own name or under the imprint Sullivan’s Cove) a series of fine editions of historical texts relating to Australia, and particularly to Tasmania. He sought out texts which were both interesting and of historical importance, and which had either never been published or which were previously published in such a form as to make them difficult of access today. As well, he provided (under the pseudonym Eustace FitzSymonds) impressively meticulous and detailed explanatory footnotes, often with an amusingly mordant turn of phrase.
Years of work went into each volume. It was obviously a labour of love, but one wonders how he also had the time to run his antiquarian book business.
Geoffrey Farmer, the undoubted doyen of commentators on Australian private presses, frequently praised Dally’s works. For example: “Typographically, some of the best books to be published in Australia over recent years have appeared under this imprint [Sullivan’s Cove]. One of its recent books [Mortmain] is the best example of typographic design and printing to have been done in Australia at least since 1950, and in my opinion is possibly the best example of major typography ever to have been done in this country.”1
Strictly speaking, Dally was not the operator of a private press. He did no printing himself. Rather, he designed his books, chose the paper, the typefaces, the binding style, and contracted with commercial and private printers whose work he admired and with whom he knew he could work closely and with confidence. The results, in limited editions for a growing circle of admiring collectors, were splendid examples of the book arts.
Farmer said that Dally’s books “have an elegant typographic simplicity, eschewing illustration, which conforms fittingly to the nineteenth century texts being reprinted.”2
In his obituary of Dally, Kenneth Hince said: “These are books which will continue to give pleasure to collectors, and which in many cases will remain an important source material for scholars and historians.”3
The present title, Dally’s last book, on which he was working at the time of his death, is no exception. In Hobart in 1836 during a case being heard in the Supreme Court, the simmering animosity between the irritable Mr Justice Montagu and the cocky Attorney General, Mr Alfred Stephen, surfaced and quickly developed into a local scandal. The Court was crowded each day, and the rest of the residents read detailed accounts of the proceedings in the two newspapers of the time, the Colonial Times and the Tasmanian. These reports constitute the bulk of the book. The violent and
bitter language exchanged between the two, and the allegations of impropriety raised by both sides, caused Governor George Arthur to assemble the Executive Council to conduct a formal investigation. Arthur sent the Council’s report to London in a Despatch, which is reprinted in full, along with the British Government’s decision on the dispute. The final part of the book contains Dally’s (through his alter ego Eustace
FitzSymonds) erudite and extensive notes on the texts. Dally’s ability as a researcher in the Archives Office of Tasmania and elsewhere is obvious in every note.
The book itself is a fine example of the meticulous craftsmanship for which Dally became renowned. It is a small quarto, set in Dally’s favourite Poliphilus and Blado types, with decorative initials, printed by the Hyde Park Press and bound by the Chasdor Bindery in red buckram with a matching slip case. The edition is limited to 99 numbered copies, and collectors should act quickly if they are to secure one.
This is Dally’s final book, but we are promised, in 2008, a bibliography of his books and catalogues, together with some memories of him by friends and colleagues. Perhaps then we will discover why he chose to disguise his considerable research and editorial skills with the pseudonym Eustace FitzSymonds.

Notes
1. Farmer, Geoffrey, “A Note on Sullivan’s Cove, Publisher”, Biblionews 242 (December 1978), 70–3.
2. Farmer, Geoffrey, “Private Presses”, Australian Book Collector 27 (March 1992), 7–9
3. Hince, Kenneth, “James William Dally, 1931-2005” Biblionews 348 (December 2005) 161–3.

Neil A Radford

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