29 March 2014

Australia's First Banknote Sells for $334,000

[The following is from Auction Central News]

SYDNEY (AFP) – The only surviving example of Australia's first official banknote exceeded expectations when it was auctioned for AUD $334,000 (USD $310,000), officials said Thursday.
The 10 shilling note – one of 100 issued in 1817 by the Bank of New South Wales (now called Westpac) on the day it opened – attracted bids from around the world, said Jim Noble of Noble Numismatics, which handled the sale.
"It's a record for a colonial banknote," he told AFP. "It will stay in Australia (but) I've no idea what the gentleman who bought it plans to do; he's a high up executive in a big organization.”
The auction price easily exceeded its Aus$250,000 estimate, with Noble attributing the interest to its unique historical value.
"It's the only one of its kind, even Westpac does not have one," Noble said.

Australia's first banknote. Image courtesy of Noble Numismatics.

Noble said the note was discovered in a private collection in Scotland in 2005, with Scots-born former New South Wales governor Lachlan Macquarie or one of his staff thought to have taken it there.
It was later bought by a private collector who sold it at Wednesday night's auction.
Macquarie arrived in Sydney at the end of 1809 to be confronted by a colony in crisis with no stable monetary system since the First Fleet landed in 1788.
As the new governor, he was given extensive powers to reshape the colony, but despite this his first request to London to establish a bank was rejected.
In 1812, to alleviate the shortage of currency, he imported Ł10,000 in Spanish coins from India and in 1813 manufactured and issued the "Holey Dollar" – one of which sold at auction for a world-record Aus$495,000 last year.
But it was not sufficient and in 1816 he revived his plan for a bank, this time getting London's approval, and on April 8, 1817 the Bank of New South Wales opened for business.

28 March 2014

Altering Shakespeare: An Interleaved Copy of Antony and Cleopatra

[First posted on the University of Melbourne Library Collections blog]

On 23 February 1855, the steamship Pacific docked in Melbourne harbour. Descending the gangway for his first tour of Australia was the Irish actor Gustavus Brooke, along with his wife Marianne, Brooke’s leading lady Fanny Cathcart, and his stage manager Richard W. Younge.

How Younge worked up a play for performance can been seen in his interleaved copy of Antony and Cleopatra, A Tragedy ([London?], ca. 1800), highlighted in this week’s post, along with some commentary on its provenance and use.

Half-title signed by R. W. Younge
Half-title inscribed by Richard W. Younge

The inscription shown above reads ‘R. W. Younge Theatre Royal Melbourne Feby 1856′. By ‘Theatre Royal’, Younge is most likely referring to Queen’s Theatre, also known as Queen’s Theatre Royal, where Brooke’s company opened with Othello to wide acclaim, and not the Theatre Royal owned by John Black. At the time of Younge’s February 1856 inscription, Black was in direct competition with the man responsible for Brooke’s Australian tour: the entrepreneurial actor-manager George Coppin, lessee of Queen’s Theatre and owner of the prefabricated Olympic. It was not until June 1856 that Coppin took over the Theatre Royal from his then insolvent rival, and so it is highly doubtful that Younge would have infringed upon his contractual obligations by being in the Theatre Royal before then.[1]

Potential confusion about the inscription aside, what makes this copy particularly interesting are Younge’s notes and textual edits.

Opening scene of play with annotations and notes.
Opening scene of play with annotations, notes, and a second inscription by Younge (p. [1])

Not a single page of printed text escaped his pen. Younge crossed out text, jotted down stage notes, cut entire scenes, changed characters, such as Demetrius and Philo being replaced by Enobarbus and Eros at the opening of Act 1, Scene 1 (see above image), and made numerous smaller alternations throughout the play in order to adapt the text to suit the production.

Younge's changes to Act 2, Scene 2, with a further inscription
Younge’s changes to Act 2, Scene 2, with a further inscription (p. 26)

Younge clearly made good use of the interleaving. His notes range from single lines to full pages of text, including many explanations and interpretation of phrases, definitions of words, musical accompaniment and stage directions, and even the occasional sketch of the set.

Sketch of set with stage notes.
Sketch of set with stage notes (p. 50)

Further stage notes (p. 51)
Further stage notes (p. 51)

Despite the amount of editing and annotation, no evidence could be found that Brooke and his company ever performed Antony and Cleopatra in Australia. Contemporary newspapers record the group performing scenes from Othello, Hamlet, Richard III, Macbeth, and Merchant of Venice. According to the Dictionary of the Australian Theatre, 1788-1914, Antony and Cleopatra was not performed at Melbourne’s Theatre Royal until 1867, six years after the actors returned to England.[2] 

Final page with notes.
Final pages (p. 141).

Perhaps Brooke and Younge found the existing repertoire sufficiently successful and did not feel the need to introduce scenes from another play.[3] Regardless of the reasons why Antony and Cleopatra was not used, this copy, with its copious notes and amendments, offers a fascinating study in nineteenth-century stage production and a fine connection with a booming Melbourne during Victoria’s early gold rush years.

Antony and Cleopatra; A Tragedy by William Shakespeare; Accurately Printed from the Text of Mr Steeven’s Last Edition ([London?], ca. 1800); from the library of Dr John Chapman with his bookplate; purchased by the University of Melbourne from the Chapman sale, Melbourne, 24-25 February 2004 (lot 340)

[1] According to Brooke’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, when the juvenile lead Robert James Heir married Fanny Cathcart the pair left Brooke’s company for an engagement at Black’s Theatre Royal. They were brought back by a court injunction. See H. L. Oppenheim, ‘Brooke, Gustavus Vaughan (1818–1866)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brooke-gustavus-vaughan-3064/text4519, published in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 26 March 2014.

[2] Eric Irvin, Dictionary of the Australian Theatre, 1788-1914 (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1985), 28.

[3] Along with the inscription, the fact the play went unused suggests Younge bought the book in Melbourne where he had it interleaved and bound. His working up of the text for a potential addition of Antony and Cleopatra to an already full programme seems more probable after the company’s arrival in Australia than having such plans in place at the start of the tour and then dropping them (My thanks to Ian Morrison, who was Curator of Special Collections at the University of Melbourne when this book was acquired, for discussing its provenance and history with me).

14 March 2014

Vive le Roi! Richer-Sérisy's Journal L'Accusateur Public

[First posted on the University of Melbourne Library Collections blog]

University of Melbourne Special Collections recently acquired a complete set of one of the most influential French counter-revolutionary journals: L’Accusateur public. Only a few issues are available on-line through Gallica (the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France), and the only other recorded set in the country is held by the National Library of Australia, making the Melbourne copy a valuable resource for students and scholars, and a fine addition to our holdings of material on the French Revolution.

First issue, p. 1

L'Accusateur public was founded by the Jean Thomas Élisabeth Richer-Sérisy (1759–1803) shortly after his release from prison on 27 September 1794. Printed in Paris by Mathieu Migneret, the journal ran for thirty-five numbered issues until 1797 and brought Richer-Sérisy considerable popularity as a public writer.[1]

Such notoriety of course did not go unnoticed by Revolutionary factions, nor did the fact that Richer-Sérisy's energetic and vehement writing barely hid his Royalist opinions. His L'Accusateur public even outsold some of the pro-revolutionary periodicals, such as the Journal universal.[2] The year after The Directory seized power in the Coup of 18 Fructidor an V (4 September 1797), Richer-Sérisy was sentenced to deportation to Cayenne, French Guiana. He escaped and eventually made his way to England where he spent his remaining years. The last issue he edited (No. 35), dated 1 Frimaire an VII (21 November 1798), was seized by the police.

  Cartoon of the pro-Directory 'Constitutional Circle' known as the Club de Salm

The acquisition also included the two unnumbered issues that appeared after No. 35.[3] The first is dated 6 Thermidor an VII (24 July 1799). Unlike the numbered series, Richer-Sérisy's name is nowhere to be found, since he had already fled from France. According to Brunet's Manuel du libraire ... (Paris, 1860-1865 ed.), the issue was instead edited by the pro-royalist general Louis Michel Auguste Thévenet Danican (1764-1848).[4] 

Perhaps without Richer-Sérisy's name the issue failed to sell widely, for when a single issue of a second series appeared, possibly edited by Danican, it closed with a reprinted letter by Richer-Sérisy dated 'Berlin, 10 Mai 1799'. Richer-Sérisy, however, upon reading or hearing about the issue, declared it a forgery.[5] Its editor(s) presumably used his name as an attempt to give the new series credibility and popular appeal.

The supposed Richer-Serisy letter, 10 May 1799

A final point about the Melbourne copy not mentioned in the sale catalogue. On the recto of the first issue half-title is a rather worn ownership stamp, that of the Comte Joseph-François de Kergariou (1779-1849), bibliophile, prefect of Indre-et-Loire, and Napoleon's chamberlain.


[1] Although the final issue is numbered '35' there are actually thirty-four volumes in total. Issue No. 13, which was to contain an account of the battle between Revolutionary and Royalist forces in the streets of Paris on 13 Vendémiaire an IV (5 October 1795), was never published (perhaps not even Richer-Sérisy could spin the Royalist's defeat). For more on its printer, Migneret, see Carla Hesse's Publishing and Cultural Politics in Revolutionary Paris, 1789-1810 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991) available on-line through the UC Press E-Books Collection (accessed 13.3.2014)

[2] Kenneth Margerison, 'P.-L. Roederer: Political Thought and Practice During the French Revolution' in Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 1:1 (1983): 117

[3] The two unnumbered issues appear to be quite scarce. I was able to locate just three copies worldwide of the issue dated 6 Thermidor an VII and only two copies of the second series issue. No other copies are recorded in other Australian institutions.

[4] Charles Brunet, Manuel du libraire et de l'amateur de livres ... 6 vols. (Paris: Firmin Didot frères, fils et Cie, 1860-1865), 6:1869-1870

[5] University of Pennsylvania Libraries catalogue: http://www.franklin.library.upenn.edu/record.html?id=FRANKLIN_13561 [No citation given regarding the forgery comment]