Thursday, 16 April 2015

Book bonanza for Victoria

Rare first-hand accounts of the execution of King Charles I are among an extraordinary collection of books and pamphlets donated to the State Library of Victoria (SLV).

Valued at up to $8 million, the collection also contains early editions of noted writers including Chaucer, Milton, Defoe, and Swift.

The library's head of rare books Des Cowley said the collection's centrepiece was the huge array of extremely rare tracts and pamphlets printed during the English Civil War in the mid-17th century.

"This would be the single greatest bequest of rare books in the State Library of Victoria's 160-year history," Mr Cowley said.

"We are quite stunned and we are only just starting to really get a sense of the richness and depth of this collection." 

The collection was donated to the library by Melbourne barrister John Emmerson, QC, after his death in August last year.

Dr Emmerson began collecting books in the 1960s when he was studying nuclear physics at Oxford University.

He continued buying books after he returned home to Melbourne in the 1970s as he started a new career as a barrister specialising in intellectual property.

Among the most precious items donated was a collection of pamphlets that gave daily updates on the trial and execution of King Charles I in 1649.

"The day's events are on the street within hours of the end of each day and available for consumption by the reading public and in many ways we'd think of it as the Twitter feed of the day," Mr Cowley said.

London bookseller Robert Harding said these first-hand accounts were rare because most were disposed of very quickly.

"They were collected consciously by only a handful of people. They were ephemeral objects," Mr Harding said 

"Most were destroyed, thrown away, recycled as toilet paper even and so a number of things in John's collection are completely unique which is wonderful."

The collection also contained books once owned by King Charles himself.

Mr Cowley said one of the books was the collected writings of King Charles' father, King James I.

"A magnificent binding with the royal crest and the letters CP emblazoned on the actual front of the binding and the CP is for Charles Prince," Mr Cowley said.

"Charles went on to become Charles the First so we can effectively say we are holding a book that was in fact held by two kings of England." 

Other notable books included the first illustrated edition of Milton's famous poem Paradise Lost published in 1688.

There was also the first collected, printed edition of John Donne's poetry and what is believed to be a rare first edition of Death's Dual, the last sermon Donne preached before his death in 1631.

Early editions of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels were also part of the collection.

One of the most striking books is a copy of Richard Hooker's The Laws of Ecclesiastical Politie (1635) thought to have been owned by Queen Henrietta Maria, King Charles' wife.

Dr Karl has a re-think

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki has announced he will donate money received from being the face of the Government's Intergenerational Report to needy schools.

The ABC science commentator, who is the face of the Government's 40-year outlook document, yesterday backed away from the report, calling it "flawed".

In a tweet last night, he promised to donate the money he had received to be the report's ambassador.

Dr Kruszelnicki appears in a number of advertisements promoting the report on television and radio, in newspapers and on social media, but he is now criticising the report's reduced focus on climate change.

Dr Kruszelnicki said he was only able to read parts of the report before he agreed to the ads as the rest was under embargo.

Despite assurances otherwise, Dr Kruszelnicki now believes he put his name and reputation to a report that is highly political and which largely ignores the impact of climate change.

"It was my fault for not realising the nature of the beast that I was involved with," he said.

"I really thought that it would be an independent, bipartisan, non-political document."

Poor old Dr Karl. Imagine a document purporting to look into our collective futures not considering climate change. Of course it was political and Dr Karl has 'unknowingly' been sucked into the controversy!

PS if you want to donate some of that money to Glen Park PS Dr Karl then our phone number is 03345360. give me a ring!

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