AT THE POSTPONED Annual General Meeting of the Society held in December 2008 I advised the members present that that would be the last occasion on which I would stand for the position of Editor of Publications, which I had had since 1992. The reasons I gave for this were that, in spite of being retired, I still had a very heavy load of time consuming responsibilities, including honorary work for the University of Sydney and carer duties in my family ranging over four generations from my 93-year-old mother to my one-year-old granddaughter. All this was resulting in issues of Biblionews appearing later and later.
As it happened, my mother passed away on the day before the September 2009 AGM. However, in the meantime an appeal had come from my German colleague Professor Horst Brunner, with whom I had been collaborating for some 35 years, to complete a project that I had committed to at the University of Heidelberg nearly 50 years ago, for, although I had already published widely on it, it was still incomplete, and, he said, if I didn’t finish it no one else ever would or could. I therefore stuck to my resolve not to stand again.
Over the preceding year I had been impressed with the job that Richard Blair had been doing as the Society’s President and by the fact that he was active in Sydney’s Marrickville Heritage Society and has been long-time editor of its newsletter and has assisted with its other publications. I therefore approached him about relinquishing the presidency in favour of our editorship of publications. He consented, provided I would assist him in taking the position over, and was duly elected. At the request of the meeting I accepted the revived position of Assistant Editor.
Working with Richard on the present double issue—with the September part theoretically being my responsibility and the December part his—I have been taken with his efficiency, above all by his acuity in proofreading. However, the extreme lateness of this double issue and any remaining errors are entirely my responsibility. (After this they’ll be his.)
And while we are on that sore subject, I must apologise to readers and the affected contributors that there was a grievous error in this year’s March-June double issue. In my relative ignorance of the accuracy of scanners, I omitted to check the scanned reprint of Valmai Hankel’s article “Collecting Books” from the 252nd Issue of Biblionews from 1981 that appeared in our 65th Anniversary Double Issue. This resulted in end-of-line hyphens in the original reappearing in midline in the reprint at many points, and there were minor inconsistencies in the reprint in the treatment of initials, which actually should not have been altered at all. But the most embarrassing
error lay in the fact that a number of lines of text from p. 50 of the original went missing between the end of p. 49 and the beginning of p. 50 of the reprint and turned up instead at the bottom of p. 59 of Glen Ralph’s article (which had not been scanned), from which they should be deleted. The misplaced lines are as follows:
[…to buy costly items at auction.] Items may not always be thoroughly described in auction catalogues or lists, and the would-be bidder should always inspect carefully those books which interest him. The buyer should be thoroughly familiar with auction procedures, and must keep his wits about him: when, as with most well-[run book auctions, only item numbers are announced]
A corrigendum slip will be enclosed with each copy of the present issue for insertion in the March-June 2009 issue. As with presidents, prime ministers and premiers, in a case like this the buck stops with editors.
At this point I would like to assure the readership that I have enjoyed mightily my work as Editor of Publications over the years and to thank those readers who from time to time have expressed their appreciation of Biblionews. My thanks go too to all those who over the years of my editorship have submitted contributions to our journal; without them there would not be one, and probably no BCSA. I thank, too, Jeff Bidgood and John Newland for their expertise in laying out the issues over many years; this has led to a great enrichment of the journal through the much greater use of illustrations and, more recently, colour illustrations. I am also grateful to Dr Neil Radford for jumping in as Acting Editor in 2006, when I had to be overseas, and for
still acting as Reviews Editor and indexer of the journal. Last, but by no means least, I thank the staff of the University of Sydney Publishing Service, which has, throughout the late John Fletcher’s day and since, seen the many dozens of issues of Biblionews into print and—apart from a couple of hiccups some time ago—always worked for us with great efficiency.
In this my last issue in the job I have indulged myself enormously by inflicting on our readers my long article on my tramwayana collection, and some may feel that is more about me than my collection. If on p. 16 of the Drive Life supplement to The Sydney Morning Herald of August 7, 2009, the article “Wheels of diplomacy” could say in its subtitle that “[a] carloving former Australian ambassador [Richard Broinowski] has written a fascinating ‘auto-biography’”, namely his book Driven: A Diplomat’s Autobiography, about all the cars he has possessed, then I suppose I can inflict on my readers here an even more awful wordplay and call my article a “tramo-biography” as my final gift before scampering off and leaving the remaining editorial to my successor.
THE FACT THAT Brian Taylor he has been BCSA Publications Editor since 1992 is somewhat mind-boggling in many ways. My membership with BCSA only dates from 2000 so I am humbled to have the privilege of succeeding Brian who himself assumed the mantle from John Fletcher. I am further humbled by the fact that both my predecessors were at the forefront of the Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Sydney when my own studies in German involved a mere two years at high school, at the same school, Fort Street High, that Brian had attended, though some nine years earlier. Jawohl!
It was indeed the untimely death of John Fletcher in June 1992 (just one day, remarkably after that of Jean Stone) which brought Brian to the role of editor Biblionews, his initial issue being in September 1992. And such was the esteem in which John Fletcher was held by members of the BCSA that virtually that entire issue was devoted to the memory both of John Fletcher and Jean Stone. And talking of John it is gratifying that John’s son Tom is on the current committee and has set up the Society’s website. (The March 1992 Biblionews was John’s final issue as editor; as a one-off, the Guest Editor of the June 1992 issue was Associate Professor Ian Jack, from the University of Sydney’s History Department and currently President of the
Royal Australian Historical Society.)
The measure of Brian’s contributions over the years since 1992 is too enormous to convey here, but because the current issue of Biblionews is a collaboration, I have gained some appreciation of the time and effort involved in assembling any issue, albeit in this case a double-header. Brian says he has never calculated how many issues he has edited as there needs to be factored in his period of absence in 2006 when Brian took a “sabbatical” from the journal and was relieved by Neil Radford and the occasional double-issue like this current one. Of course, one must bear in mind that a double issue is usually substantially larger than a single issue.
In addition Brian has written several articles for Biblionews over this period, beginning in the June 1992 issue with his talk launching John Fletcher’s last book (before he had even joined the Society), as well as his often detailed editorials and more recently, coverage of the annual Sydney Show & Tell. He also edited Fellows of the Book: a volume of essays commemorating the 50th anniversary of Biblionews (2000).
Perhaps a fuller assessment of Brian’s contributions can be made at another time. Of course, as a component of Brian’s swansong issue as editor (or co-editor), he has afforded himself the privilege of writing an article about his love of trams and tram-related books, though I’ll reserve judgement on his wordplay. Not only does this reveal a previously unknown line of collecting, but it afforded Brian the opportunity to share with members his early vocation as a tram guard, albeit during university vacations. I thoroughly enjoyed his 1950s tramway reminiscences, a period which
coincided with the twilight years of trams in Sydney.
The other major article in this issue is Geoffrey Burkhardt’s account of libraries of Schools of Arts and Mechanics’ Institutes. Few of us were ever members of such institutions, but we have all seen books bearing indications of past ownership by Schools of Arts and Mechanics’ Institutes. As Dr Burkhardt says, these institutions were “a most important feature of Australian social and local history” with perhaps over 2000 throughout Australia. These libraries were often the forerunner to local and regional council libraries. He also explores the fate of many of these libraries.
No issue of Biblionews would be complete without a book review and Neil Radford has served up a review of BCSA member Jennifer Alison’s work on George Robertson and the early years of Angus and Robertson, Publishers. Alison’s book demonstrates the influence of Robertson on Australian publishing in the late nineteenth century and beyond.
Following recent custom we have included the minutes and reports of the 2009 Sydney Annual General Meeting held in September at Summer Hill. Significantly at this AGM, Chris Nicholls was unanimously voted in as President, whilst Richard Blair assumed the mantle of Publications Editor from Brian Taylor, who for the interim will serve in the reconstituted position as Assistant Editor. Also of significance during the 2008–09 year was:
(1) the relocation of our Sydney meeting venue to Summer Hill Community Centre;
(2) production of a new BCSA brochure;
(3) the inaugural Walter and Jean Stone Memorial Talk which was presented by veteran BCSA member Jeff Bidgood, who spoke on Some reminiscences of members of the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia (reproduced in the March-June 2009 issue);
(4) Jeff Bidgood’s induction as a Life member of BCSA;
(5) the Book Collectors’ Society of South Australia formally becoming a branch of the BCSA; and
(6) the launch of the Society’s website, whose address will for the first time appear on the inside cover of this issue.
As for my background I have a BA (Behavioural Sciences) and worked for 25 years in the area of Child Protection; after completing a Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Studies, I worked in Sydney bookshops, including a second hand shop in Rozelle and a university bookshop in the inner city where I was the general book buyer (non textbooks) for some years. If I can claim any pedigree, it is via my father, the late Jim Blair, who hailed from South Australia, was offered a position as a journalist with The Bulletin in 1934 where he remained until 1961. He became publications editor with the NSW State Public Service Board (1961–71).
I have edited the newsletter of Marrickville Heritage Society since 1994, have been involved in several publications produced by that Society and am their current President. Two of my articles have appeared in Biblionews, namely “Booked for cricket: a glance at a score (or so) of cricket books”, September 2005 issue, and “Blown to Blazes & other works of J B Blair and Jim Blair’s years at ‘The Bulletin’ (1934–1961)”, December 2008 issue. Both of these articles derived from talks given at BCSA meetings, the latter relating to an anthology of short stories written by my father and edited by my brother, David Blair.
I encourage past contributors to Biblionews to keep their articles coming in whilst I urge members who have not previously contributed to forward articles, book reviews or any other items to share with fellow members. In particular I would hope for contributions from our Victorian and South Australian members. I would like to thank members of the current committee for their support, especially Chris Nicholls and, once again, Brian Taylor, who has not only paved my way in recent months, but has in reality done the bulk of the preparatory work for this double issue.