The Turkeith Station Library
18 November 2011 -
Geelong of course was a major conduit for the voracious European colonisation of Western Victoria, and from 1836 on many colonial homesteads and expansive stations were established on the grassy plains and stony rises stretching right across to the South Australian border. The heydays of these pastoral properties were synced to the market price of wool, and with the wealth created on the sheep’s back, substantial collections of art, antiquities, and also private libraries, began to accumulate in the new estates of the western plains.
One of the canny aspects of our geographical location here at Barwon Booksellers is that from time to time we are contacted when one or another of these private libraries is being dispersed. Recently we were invited to Turkeith, a still working sheep station with a classically Victorian bluestone homestead and William Guilfoyle-designed garden at the foot of Mount Gellibrand, just north of Birregurra.
The shelves at Turkeith provided a rich lode of books which in their own way provide an interesting snapshot of the general interests of the day. A number of the books are classics in delightful bindings, some are school prize books in great condition from Clyde and Scotch Colleges, whilst others provide rare and valuable provenance from the local scene. The price range is broad to be sure, with lots of value for general readers looking for classics in lovely but inexpensive bindings. The subject matter too is diverse: everything from ‘Finnish Folk & Fairy Tales’ to ‘Names of Victorian Railway Stations’. A percentage of the volumes are autographed by the Ramsay family going right back into the 1800s, whilst others bear the personalised blind embossed stamps of Turkeith Station on the opening pages.
Slowly slowly Pete and Ian are making their way through the Turkeith books, assessing, pricing, and of course admiring as they go, and in the coming days and weeks more treasures from the Turkeith library will be appearing on the Barwon Booksellers shelves. Below is a list of just some of the volumes already available for purchase.
Jamieson’s Scottish Dictionary (new edition edited by Dr. Longmuir) – William P. Nimmo 1867 - $30
A fascinating aspect of colonisation was the amount of immigrant dialects still spoken long after arrival in the new lands. For instance, boy shepherds from the Hebrides and Channel Islands were once scattered throughout Victoria’s western plains, left to manage the flocks on their own, with only a dog and a carbine for company. The language in which they governed the sheep would be virtually indecipherable to us today. Likewise, the broad Scottish burrs were commonplace on the basalt plains around Turkeith, right into the twentieth century. This classic edition of Jamieson’s Scottish dictionary comes with the ‘Ora et Labora’ bookplate of Robert Ramsay and the blind stamp of the Melbourne bookseller of the time, J Brooks.
Wild Traits In Tame Animals (Being Some Familiar Studies In Evolution) by Louis Robinson. – Blackwood & Sons 1897 – $40
Although largely remembered for his contributions to children’s medicine, Louis Robinson was a well known evolutionist in the era immediately following the publication of Darwin and Wallace’s groundbreaking theory. ‘Not a few people who have a taste for Natural History seem unable to grasp the application of the Darwinian doctrine to the everyday world about them, and I feel sure that many of these will thank me for showing how interesting some of the most trivial and commonplace facts about animals become when viewed in this light’.
This edition is in classic red hardboards with gold leaf illustrations and is signed by Urquhart Ramsay, who purchased Turkeith from the Armytage family in 1903.
A Rolling Stone OnThe Turf by Samuel Griffiths – Angus & Robertson 1933 1st ed. $25.
1933 memoir of the loquacious Melbourne horseracing writer Samuel Griffiths. ‘Even when a small boy at school in Carlton, I seldom missed a day’s racing at Flemington…’
Mighty Mikko: Finnish Folk & Fairy Tales by Parker Fillmore with illustrations by Jay Van Everen – Harrap 1922 - $25 . SOLD
Rare 1922 orange and navy hardback of Finnish Folk Tales with superb graphic illustrations reminiscent of Lissitsky and the Russian Constructivists
Confessions of A Beachcomber by E.J. Banfield – T.Fisher Unwin 1910. - $40
This collectible red hardback edition of Banfield’s classic on the natural history of the littoral around Dunk Island would have been a must-have for Australians of a certain class during the pre-war years. Of course E.J. Banfield (Ted to his mates) grew up in the western district around Ararat, before moving to Townsville in northern Queensland as a journalist. After being diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1897 he moved onto Dunk Island, where he lived with his deaf wife in a self-sufficient style for the remaining decades of their lives. Banfield wrote a number of books on the natural history of the Barrier Reef and specifically Dunk, which he described as his ‘Isle of Dreams - this unkempt, unrestrained garden where the centuries gaze upon perpetual summer.’
Convict Once and Other Poems by J. Brunton Stephens – G. Robertson & Co. 1885 - $20 SOLD
‘Free again! Free again! Eastward and westward, before me, behind me,
Wide lies Australia! And free are my feet, as my soul is, to roam!’
James Brunton Stephen, originally from the Firth of Forth, was a poet of some note who worked as an under-secretary in the colonial secretary’s department in Queensland. His first volume of poetry Convict Once, was published by Macmillan and Company in London, where he was proclaimed as an ‘Australian poet of importance’. This lovely cherry-red and gold-leaf hardback edition was the first of his Collected Poem editions and appeared in 1885.
Songs Of Innocence by William Blake: Decorated by Charles Robinson & Mary H Robinson – JM Dent & Sons London- $75 SOLD
Lovely hardback of Blake with watercolour plates and graphic illustrations.