24 May 2011

Robert Graves Online Exhibition

From Donald Kerr, Special Collections Librarian, University of Otago:

With help from our web office (Elliot O’Sullivan) and Merrin Brewster (Library web-master), and other library colleagues, the current exhibition at Special Collections 'Forging a Magical Landscape: The Works of Robert Graves, Poet' is now LIVE.

Hope the link works and that you enjoy the exhibition.

23 May 2011

Upcoming Auction: First Editions and Detective Fiction

Australian Book Auctions next sale features the collection of noted Australian crime fiction bibliographer John Loder. Highlights from the sale include a first edition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet (est. $40,000 to $80,000 AUD) and the Melbourne first edition of Fergus Hume's The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (est. $10,000 to $15,000 AUD). The auction is to be held in two session on 30 and 31 May.

The books are on view from 27 to 30 May at the Gallery, 909 High Street, Armadale, Victoria. A PDF of the catalogue is available.

18 May 2011

Kelmscott Chaucer Blog

From William S. Peterson, co-author of The Kelmscott Chaucer: A Census (Oak Knoll Press, 2011):

My collaborator Sylvia Peterson and I are working on an online solution to keep our book The Kelmscott Chaucer: A Census up to date. We have just created a blog for that purpose.

There's not much material on the blog yet, but we hope to add to it regularly as we learn about more copies of the Chaucer that are not listed in our book.

16 May 2011

London Rare Books School

Some seats are still available in this year's London Rare Books School, notably 'Modern Literary Manuscripts', 'Reading, Writing & Sending Texts: 1400-1919' and 'Children's Books: 1470-1980'.

14 May 2011

Birds of a Feather

The recent auctions of John Gould's Birds of Europe (1832-37), Birds of Australia (1840-69) and Birds of Asia (1850-83), puts me in mind of Walter Lawry Buller's A History of the Birds of New Zealand ((1872-73) for this month's highlight from the Heritage Collections. While not on the grand scale of Gould's publications, the coloured lithographs in Buller's Birds remain equally stunning.

Walter Lawry Buller (1838-1906) was a native New Zealander with a keen passion for natural history ever since he was a schoolboy. At nineteen Buller wrote to the Linnean Society, London, in 1857, and was elected a fellow before he ever published a paper. His first scientific paper, an Essay on the Ornithology of New Zealand written for the 1865 New Zealand Exhibition, received a silver medal and established him as a recognised authority on New Zealand birds. Six years later Buller was awarded an honorary doctorate in natural history from the University of Tubingen thanks to the assistance of German naturalist and ornithologist Otto Finsch.

Buller made plans for a monograph on the ornithology of New Zealand in 1865. By 1871 he had gathered enough material, and negotiated a government grant (by donating his 200 specimens to the Colonial Museum, Wellington) and leave on half pay to travel to London to publish his work. While in London Buller also read law in the Inner Temple and was called to the bar in 1874.

The first part of Buller's Birds was published on 4 April 1872, and the fifth and final part appeared towards the end of March 1873. The individual parts were followed by a run of 500 bound copies sold by private subscription. The Royal quarto was both a commercial and critical success, and won Buller not only acclaim but also the honour of a CMG in 1875. The thirty-six, hand-coloured lithographs by renowned Dutch bird illustrator John Gerrard Keulemans contain almost seventy figures of New Zealand birds. The lithographic stones sadly have not survived. They were destroyed after publication with one theory stating the stones were lost at sea.

Buller, who returned to New Zealand in 1874 to practice law and live the life of a gentleman naturalist, continued to publish scholarly papers. In 1879 he was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of London, and the newspapers heralded him as 'the first scientific man, born and educated in any of the colonies, who has received this distinction'.

A second edition of Buller's Birds was published in thirteen parts between July 1887 and December 1888. It included more detailed descriptions than the first edition and the forty-eight chromolithographs by and after Keulemans exhibit eighty species of birds. These illustrations have become standard images of New Zealand birds, a number of which are now extinct or in danger of becoming so. A run of 1,000 copies of the second edition were printed, 251 of which were lost at sea in the wrecks of the 'Matai' and 'Assaye' in 1890. Buller, after emigrating to England in 1899, wrote a two-volume supplemental edition also illustrated by Keulemans. It was published in 1905, just one year before Buller's death.

Of the first edition, OCLC records just over sixty copies in institutional hands. The majority are held, not surprisingly, by libraries in Australia and New Zealand. However, copies can be found in the United States, France, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. A facsimile edition, which reproduced Keulemans forty-eight chromolithographs and was revised and updated by New Zealand ornithologist E. G. Turbott, was published by Whitcombe & Tombs in 1967. An online version of the second edition is available through the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.


05 May 2011

Forthcoming Publication: 'Book Life: The Life and Times of David Scott Mitchell'

Book Life: The Life and Times of David Scott Mitchell by Eileen Chanin explores Australia's greatest book collector, whose personal library was bequeathed to the people of Australia in 1898 and established what is today one of the country's preeminent research libraries.

D. S. Mitchell (1836-1907)
(Australian Dictionary of Biography)
Mitchell - who had a hansom cab permanently booked for his Monday visits to book dealers - initially collected in the areas of early printing, medieval manuscripts, and Elizabethan and Romantic literature. He developed an interest in collecting Australian literature by the mid-1860s, which morphed into an obsession for anything Australiana by the 1880s. By the time of Mitchell's death in 1907, his collection numbered some 60,000 items comprised of books, maps, manuscripts and works of art. Mitchell, in addition to his collection, also bequeathed 70,000 pounds (the equivalent of 5.8m pounds today) for collection development and preservation purposes. The Mitchell Library (part of the State Library of New South Wales) officially opened in Sydney in March 1910.

View of Corridor, Mitchell's Residence, ca. 1907
(Courtesy State Library of New South Wales)

Book Life is to be the basis of an upcoming panel session called 'Knowing the Real David Scott Mitchell', part of the Sydney Writers' Festival being held from 16 to 22 May (the Mitchell panel meets on 18 May). Copies of Book Life may be ordered through Australian Scholarly Publishing.

01 May 2011

Personal Library of W. H. McLeod to University of California, Riverside

The University of California, Riverside, has acquired the personal library of leading (and sometimes controversial) Western scholar on Sikh studies W. H. McLeod (1932-2009). Professor McLeod, who was born near Fielding on the North Island of New Zealand and received his BA and MA in History from the University of Otago and his PhD and DLitt from London University, was one of the founders of modern Sikh studies and pioneered the introduction of scholarly and historically based assessments of the Sikhs, their religion and their society.

The collection numbers some 1,800 volumes on Sikh history and religion. According to the UCR Libraries News and Events (issue 852) a seminar was held last month on 4 and 5 March to mark the then impending arrival of the books and to officially dedicate the W. H. McLeod Collection of Sikh Studies.

After spending time in India, first as a missionary and later as a teacher, and then in England on fellowships at Cambridge and Sussex universities, McLeod returned to Dunedin and spent twenty-six years researching and teaching Sikh culture in the Department of History, University of Otago. Upon his retirement in 1997 he was made an Emeritus Professor of the University. McLeod was elected and admitted as a Fellow of Knox College, Dunedin, in 1996 and appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1999. Professor McLeod was writing and publishing almost to the end of his long career and remained a heavily involved and much respected member of the Otago academic community.

UCR, which holds the Dr. Jasbir Singh Saini Endowed Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies, is a most fitting home for Professor McLeod's collection, and the transfer of such a remarkable and highly focused library is an important event for Sikh studies. With no small degree of luck, the fifty-four boxes of books departed from Lyttelton, near Christchurch, just three days before the 22 February earthquake.

Thanks are due to Keith Maslen for alerting me to the news about this acquisition.