Pioneer Books’ latest miscellany

I’m having problems loading our new list of some 500 titles to our website.

You can download it here as a .pdf or as a document. If there is anything you would like a shipping quote on, please email or phone us your query. As usual we will wait a day or two before loading it to the various databases so our regular customers have first look.



Who is Woolmer Gatty?

I have updated this entry with new information to hand at the end of the original piece.

A Tea Party. Announced in The Mail Adelaide Saturday 25 March 1916

Miss Heather Hammond invited a few of her friends to Horncliffe, Wakefield street, on Monday afternoon to meet Miss Muriel Parsons, who has lately returned from a trip to England. We gathered in the drawing room, and Miss Heather Hammond gave a very clever impersonation of Mr. Frederick Dennett at the piano. It was wonderfully realistic in dress, attitude, and even the friendly smile’ he gives the andience. *She played the Rachmaninoff prelude in his best style, and was loudly applauded. Miss Parsons sang several songs. Miss Hazel Hammond played the mandolin, and Miss Dorothy Palmer tickled the piano keys with good effect. Mrs. W. G. Hammond hostessed the party. Tea and chatter filled up the rest of the time, and the guests included Mrs. David Power. Mrs. Aapas Parsons. Lady Bray, Mrs. Gavin Gardner, Mrs. G. M. Anstey,. Mrs. Neil Campbell, Mrs. David Paton. Mrs. B. Bevan, Miss Lucy Avers, Miss Harriet Simpson, and Miss Joyce Harrold.’ The Mail

Frederick Dennett was ‘…a dashing young concert pianist who was something of a pop star in the early 20th century.’ The Australian

A few years later there was a press announcement from K. H. Faulding & Co.— ‘A daily artistic calendar. The design is from an original watercolour by Miss Heather O. Hammond, a young Adelaide artist, and shows a very effective ‘treatment of treatment decorative of all Australian flowers — the Sturt Pea.’ The Register (Adelaide) Saturday 18 December 1920

Woolmer Gatty is the pseudonym of Heather Hammond, a writer and illustrator born and bred in Adelaide before marriage meant moving to a tea and rubber plantation in Ceylon, owned by her husband. She lived exactly the sort of life one might expect of a female of the period not quite able to shake off the bonds of her class and gender, if admiring of those who do.

Six years later an extract of her first, and as it turned out only, novel appeared in the Adelaide press: The Register (Adelaide) Thursday 5 January 1922

A notice of Tabitha Tries Turkeys (London, Stockwell), appeared two days later in The Register Saturday 7 January 1922. By the time the book appeared she was Mrs Rex Hamer of Kandy, or thereabouts, as J Penn states. After a favourable review, Penn quotes Hammond, who explains her desired, but foiled, anonymity:

Although it has been my ambition to write, I have never wanted my ‘works’ to appear in my own name. I would have kept it a dead secret always. Somehow there is a je-ne-sais-quoi of something not quite nice; almost one might say losing of caste, about a woman writer. It is a result of the long ages of repression we have endured at the hands of men. They make a great a parade of admiring the ‘feminine’ woman, which means to them the woman who stays unobtrusively at home and lets her brain atrophy for want of using, simply because they are afraid of her finding her power and coming into the world and competing with them to their hurt. It is Man who has put this world-side interpretation on the word ‘womanly’; it is he who has lauded all those gentle meaningless attributes that he professes to admire.

So cunning and insidious has been his campaign that women themselves have absorbed the creed, and are almost as vituperative as men in their outcry against the coming woman of brains and personality. And the men, poor shivering souls, are beginning to see their magnificent structure of the ‘womanly’ cult, that subtle protection of their own preserves, tottering at its foundations. Women are no whit more ‘womanly’ in its own right sense, nor do they make less perfect mothers for thus leaving their parasitic estate to make the best of their minds and capabilities.

Mes soeurs, do not let men push you back to dormant life with their specious arguments. It is only their final argument against the inevitable. Henceforth they must fight for their place in the sun.

But for all this theorising, which I have worked out in my own mind, to my own complete intellectual satisfaction, I myself am not really a follower. The prejudice is too strong, the ‘womanly’ germ too deeply imbedded for me to come out of the rut even sufficiently to put my name to a book. I am of the world which will doubtless very soon be called ‘old’. But I will try to sympathise and encourage the coming women doctors, lawyers, architects – particularly architects, for I am sure women would not make the kitchen premises so miserably inadequate as they often are – just to have a soupcon of the courage of the opinions that I feel sure I hold.

For the present my turkeys afford me simple occupation; and for odd moments, these intricacies that are called knitted socks. The Register

Now and again Adelaide newspapers report on her life in that privileged upper-class white position in Ceylon, this one upon a visit back to Adelaide by her.

LIFE IN CEYLON News Tuesday 15 July 1924
Mrs. Hamer Enthusiastic
If one desires a foretaste of Paradise one must go and live at Kladuganuawa. 10 miles from Kandy, in Ceylon. This was the impression gained during: a chat with Mr. and Mrs. Rex Hamer….She looks the picture of health, and speaks ecstatically of the fascination of life on her husband’s estate, which is planted with two thirds tea and one-third rubber. “Kandugannawa is situated ideally,” said Mrs Hamer. “It is away up in the hilly country, and our bungalow is built on a hill. The view in every direction is marvellously beautiful.
“How do I spend my days? I get up at 6 every morning,. because it is too wonderful outdoors not to enjoy every moment of the exhilarating air. We have early tea at 7, then I interview Appu, the head boy, concerning meals and so on. He really is a wonderful being, always dependable and most efficient. “Sometimes when I am in Kandy I send him a wire that I am bringing six friends out to dinner, three of whom will stay the night. When I arrive he has a delicious meal prepared and bedrooms ready for the visitors. No fuss or bother, and I do not have to worry at all. But about my day. After early tea I feed my chickens and potter round until noon when we have what we call breakfast. Everybody has a sleep after breakfast, and then comes tea at 4.30, followed by tennis or a walk, then dinner, which we have at 8 o’clock or 8.30.

(picture of Mrs Rex Hamer which unfortunately I can’t reproduce)

“Planters lead a quiet life,” said Mrs. Hamer, “and it appeals to me tremendously. Three days in Colombo are quite long enough; then I want to get back to my bungalow in the hills. Of course we have the cheeriest week-end parties, with dances, music, and tennis to our hearts’ content. “These shoes,” Mrs. Hamer said, displaying footgear smart and uncommon in pale tan and black crocodile skin; “they were grown on the estate.” “‘Do you keep pet crocodiles?” Mrs. Hamer laughingly replied:-“No; but the chap whose skin furnished these shoes was trying to break in and steal chickens. He was a cabragoya – a small species of crocodile.’

(and so it goes on, ending with):

Mrs Hamer said she as not written another novel since “Tabitha Tries Turkeys,” but she’had” had articles published from time to time, and this beauty of the district has constrained her to express herself in verse, some of which may be seen in the near future. The News

Aus Lit records one poem by her under the name Woolmer Gatty published in The Bulletin vol. 44 no. 2261 14 June 1923, but that was before this interview.

Pictures appeared in an exhibition in Perth in 1928 prompting this review:

PEN AND INK DRAWINGS The Daily News (Perth) Wednesday 14 November 1928
Work of Heather Hamer
‘ In the Booklovers’ yesterday afternoon an exhibition was opened of some un usual black and white drawings, the work of an Adelaide woman, who is now with her husband living in Ceylon. As
Heather Hammond. Mrs. Hamer was well known in Australia, more especially in Adelaide, her home city, by her literary work and her graphic illustrations. The pictures now showing manifest
some entirely new features. They are entirely imaginative, and remarkable effects of color and form are produced simply by line. Eastern subjects predominate, one, ‘The Reading of the Mahawansa,’ being especially striking, although each sample of her work shows new and individual treatment, and the expression by a Western mind of the mysticism of the East. Except in a few instances, they are not pictures which one would choose to live with, or to hang in one’s favorite room, but they express new ideas in illustrative work and are well worth a visit, especially from those who are associated with any form of art. Musicians will be interested in her line interpretations of some of the modern composers. In the ‘Cathedrale Engloutie’ mermaids below the surface of the water swim lazily In and out of the submerged archways of the building. The ‘Danse Macabre’ of Saint-Saens shows marked originality and extremely fine work, and MacDowell’s ‘Sea Pictures’ are finely Interpreted. The less pleasant subjects are strongly depicted, ‘Avarice,’ from Oscar Wilde’s poem, being most clearly expressed in the lines and pose of the figure. Mrs. Hamer has also some fine examples of bookplates, which in designing she has stamped with the personality of the owner of the plate. The collection is a comparatively small one, but very representative, and will on view for some days, during which all lovers of art will find a short visit will be time well spent, even if filched from some other activity.

Another report in the same paper commented:

Another Australian woman apparently is to arouse interest in the world of art. We were privileged yesterday afternoon to see some of the work of Heather Hamer….The work, which is purely line drawing, is distinctly unusual, and will shortly be placed on exhibition in Perth. It Is imaginative and, although black and white, strongly, suggests color, especially in her Oriental drawings, where draperies and curtains are of rich texture….One art critic has taken some Omar Khayyam drawings of Heather Hamer’s to London, and predicts the Issue of a new edition of that work as a result. The Daily News (Perth) 31 October 1928

The exhibition’s opening was covered:

Charmingly tracked in navy crepedechine with an Oriental scarf and biscuit Bangkok hat, Lady James opened the exhibition of black and white drawings by Heather Hammond (Mrs. Rex Hamer) in the Booklovers’ yesterday. She was very proud, she said, that except for etchings, the best, black and white drawings, done in Australia had been thus far the work of women. In thanking Lady James, Mr. G. Temple-Poole highly praised the work of Mrs. Hamer and wished the artist every success. The Daily News (Perth) Tuesday 13 November 1928

We can see another long notice about an exhibition of her work, this time in Adelaide eight years later.

UNIQUE DISPLAY OF ILLUSTRATIONS The Advertiser (Adelaide) Tuesday 21 April 1936

Sinhalese History And Legends


The exhibition of imaginative illustrations in black and white, by Mrs. Bex Hamer (better known, perhaps, as Heather Hammond), to be opened this afternoon by Lady Bonython at the gallery of the Royal South Australian Society of Arts, is unique and intensely interesting. To an extensive knowledge of Sinhalese history and legend. Mrs. Hamer has been able to add her undoubted gifts of facile freehand drawing, and a correct sense of perspective and proportion, as well as a sensitive gradation of line, and contrast in blacking in. To the uninitiated, the effect secured by an ordinary mapping pen, and a brush, will be surprising, as will also be the amount of detail devoted to costumes and their varied motifs. This work particularly has to be as carefully executed as it would be in the woven material itself, and Mrs. Hamer has been very successful through her careful and clean draughtsmanship, in securing a general effect of reality, though never monotonous in its details. The artist has a vivid imagination and versatility, which have inspired her to express on paper her love for the symbolism of her adopted country. The collection has been divided into four sections, all equally pleasing. In Nos. 1 and 11. ‘Sleep, Baby, Sleep,’ the figures are well drawn, and the posing quite natural. In No. 3, ‘Nina, Carry ing Pots,’ is a fine specimen of perspective, and No. 4, ‘My Son, Why Are You Crying?’ shows good expressions and careful handling of the drapery. In No. 9. ‘Our Mother Gave Birth To Seven,’ the variety of type and expression has been well developed. No.7. ‘On the Surface, the Lotus Blooms,’ is delightfully simple in line, except for the luscious bloom itself, which has all the wealth it needs; and in No. 6, ‘Grandfather. Shall I Pluck a Coconut?’ the difference in expression of young and old is well defined, and the palm tree well drawn.

Impressions Of Music This section is most original hi its conception and Inspiration. No. 25, ‘Danse de Puck,’ is delightful in its simple lines, and graceful suggestions, while in Nos. 24. ‘Barcarolle,’ and 26, ‘La FlUe au Cheveux de Lin,’ the delicate and intimate detail is well executed. In No. 20, ‘Sea Pieces,’ the bold sweep of waves is very fine, and No. 17, ‘Caprice,’ has much variety and Intimate* work: the peacock’s coloring is suggested cleverly, and the costumes are fun of originality. In No. 18, ‘Carnival,’ the peacock again attracts the eye, while the various figures and types of faces are full of interesting work.

Eastern Subjects Turning to No. 32. ‘There Was a Door,’ is good in its detailed drawing, and the figure is well modelled; and No. 35, ‘Saliroga and Asokamau’ is well grouped, and the detail simple in outline. No. 40. ‘Perahura,’ a picture of an Indian festival, is particularly well drawn, and bold in its construction, full of life and with much variety; the caparisoned elephant stands out well in all Its importance. ‘ No. 42, ‘Come, Fill the Cup,’ is also most interesting.

Miscellaneous. This small section contains much patient work, very successfully handled. So. 53, ‘London Bridge is Broken Down,’ is a medley of living figures, which, though crowded, allows each one its foil value. Medieval and modern faces are easily recognised, from Henry Vm. and Shakespeare to those of later times. No. 51, ‘At the King’s Pleasure,’ is a clever drawing of the same king, and his six wives: the different types show in pictorial form his evident desire for variety. No. 46, ‘Fairy Tales,’ a delightful study of a child, surrounded by pictorial representation of favorite stories, and No. 48, ‘Lady Godiva,’are well drawn; and No. 54, Rapunzal, the character In Grimm’s tales, who drew up her princely lover by her strands of hair, is graceful in outline, and yet strong. Mrs. Hamer, who is to be heartily congratulated on her work, has also a book of nursery rhymes, from the old Sinhalese, in which she has translated the words, as well as drawn the quaint illustrations. The Advertiser

In the 1990s this book of nursery rhymes was reprinted in India.

Hammond had a close relationship with Perth, as this 1919 newspaper report reflects:

At the present moment one of the most popular items of the English Pierrots is the delightful “Quakers,” as interpreted by Miss Langley and Mr. Austin, which was written and the music also composed by that chic little lady Miss Heather Hammond, of Adelaide, at present staying at the Esplanade Hotel, but whose visit to Perth will be all too brief for her many friends. Miss Hammond, who is veritably the lucky possessor of “all the talents” (as she shines as a black-and white artist with a very sure touch and an original style of her own) is besides a clever journalist and story-writer.

Miss Hammond and Mrs. Mortlock were amang the notables from the Eastern States present at the Pageant Bali at Government House on Monday, the latter stately in black shadow lace embroidered with jet, with an underdress of black satin. The younger lady was piquante in a costume that flashed sunrise upon us – an exquisite creation, with diaphanous angel sleeves of flame-colored cloudy gauze, disposed over an underdress of dawn pink, brilliants as dewdrops circled the corsage over the swathes of misted mauve and gold embroidery, and the morning touch of golden dawn was reflected in the veritable fairy shoon. Sunday Times (Perth) Sunday 12 October 1919

It may not be surprising, therefore, to see this report, much later, in 1940, a press report suggesting that she was settling in Perth. The report announces a small publication

OUR local Red Cross Society is to benefit by the proceeds of the sale in Perth of 50 copies of a delightful book entitled “Garden in Ceylon,” which was published last year in Ceylon, where it raised 100 guineas for the local Red Cross organisation. The author and illustrator is Heather Hamer who, with her husband, Mr. Rex Hamer, reached Perth from Colombo several weeks ago and Mrs. Heather Hamer intends settling here. Mrs. Hamer, who is a South Australian, has visited Perth on several occasions and some years ago, it will be remembered, exhibited a number of her black and white drawings at an exhibition arranged by Mrs. Temple Poole and opened by the late Lady James….In her “Garden in Ceylon” she writes of old and new Eastern gardens, and relates legends associated with them and with their trees and flowers. Her illustrations, which reveal her as a black and white artist of no mean talent, reflect in their exotic character her lengthy sojourn in the East. A foreword in verse by the Governor of Ceylon (Sir Andrew Caldecott) is an interesting feature. The 50 copies to be sold in Perth are the residue of the first edition published in Ceylon. They are available at the Red Cross,shop in London Court and also at the Booklovers’ and Franceska Libraries. The West Australian (Perth) Monday 30 September 1940

One wonders what is left, if anything, of her pictorial work. This same report says that ‘Two of her pictures are in the Adelaide Art Gallery and another is in the possession of Lady Gowrie, while an exhibition which she held in Bond Street, London, a few years ago met with considerable success and won her warm Press tributes.’ It’s hard to believe it could all have disappeared. Perhaps there are still private homes in Adelaide hanging her work. A report in The Australian Women’s Weekly Saturday 16 May 1936 says ‘Mrs. Hamer had intended to display
her work in Sydney shortly, but her exhibition in Adelaide has been so successful she has not enough pictures left’.

It seems evident, that although her novel had been well-received and she could have been encouraged to write more, that her forte was with the brush, not the pen. Perhaps the fact that she felt able to put her name to her art, but not to her prose, had something to do with it. Hence in an early piece published in WA ‘Little-Son-Galah’ Western Mail Thursday 4 December 1919 the story is attributed to Woolmer Gattey (sic), whilst the picture is by Heather Hammond. You can see it here.

In 1947 The Advertiser (Adelaide) Monday 12 May 1947 says she is living in England. Just a few weeks later an obituary for her father appeared:


Mr. William Gatty Hammond, who died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. G. R. Williams, of Old Beach road. Brighton, on Thursday, celebrated his 98th birthday on May 1. Well known in Adelaide amateur theatrical circles. Mr. Hammond once gave concerts for the purchase of a pipe organ at old Chalmers (Scots) Church. North terrace, city. He came to Adelaide with his wife in 1882 and for a time was associated with G. &R. Wills. Mr. Hammond left two daughters — Mrs. Rex Hamer, of England, and Mrs Williams. The Advertiser (Adelaide) 22 May 1947

There is no indication that Heather came back for her father’s funeral, though she did attend her mother’s much earlier in the 1920s:



Mrs. W. Gatty Hammond, whose death at Brighton occurred on November 8, had lived at Brighton since 1924, and made many friends there. She came to Adelaide with her parents (Mr. and Mrs. T. G. Drown) when she was about two years of age, in the sailing ship Irene, and made two visits to England when a girl in the days of sailing clippers. Later she paid another visit to the old country with her husband and children, and was wrecked in the Oroya in the Bay of Naples on the return voyage. During the last few years, in spit of advanced age, she twice went to Ceylon, to see her elder daughter, Mrs. Rex Hamer. All her journeyings were a source of entertainment to her friends on her , return, as she frequently gave interesting lectures on her trips. As a hostess she was full of charm, and was never happier than when entertaining her exceptionally wide circle of friends. She gave many entertainments to assist church work and in aid of charities. Mrs. Hamer will leave for Ceylon to-day. Chronicle(Adelaide) Saturday 12 November 1927

The last trace I have so far been able to find of Heather Hammond is talks she gave on radio in Australia during the war years such as ‘Personality in the Home’ and ‘Eastern Gardens’ during which time she is presumably still living in WA, perhaps Albany. Then the war ends, she is reported to be living in England and we never hear another thing about her. I hope to be able to fill in the missing pieces at some later point.

Bibliography of works by Heather Hammond/Heather Hamer/Mrs Rex Hamer excluding poetry and stories published in newspapers.

Tabitha Tries Turkeys
Author Woolmer Gatty
Illustrator: HGH;
Published London, England: Stockwell, 1921 157p.
Description: illus.

Garden in Ceylon /​ by Heather Hamer ; with a foreword by His Excellency the Governor, Sir Andrew Caldecott, K.C.M.G., C.B.E. .
Author Hamer, Heather.
Published Kandy, Ceylon : Millers Ltd., 1939.
Physical Description 24 p, [8] leaves of plates. : ill. ; 28 cm.

Old Sinhalese nursery rhymes and folk songs /​ collated and illustrated by Heather Hamer ; with a foreword by Solomon Dias Bandaranaike.
Author Hamer, Heather.
Published Ceylon : Colombo Apothecaries, 1935.
Physical Description 1 v. [36 p.] : ill. ; 29 cm.
reprinted in India in the 1990s

Subsequent to writing this, I have received more information from two sources. Sue Kelso, family history expert, was able to source Hamer’s records.

Heather Gatley Hammond was born in Adelaide on 3rd April 1885 to William Gatley Hammond and Clara Agnes Brown. Her parents married in the Camberwell registration district of London in the September quarter 1882. They were first cousins. That explains why the Gattey/Gatley name is used in both sides of the family. As Sue commented to me, that made the research confusing for a while. She died as Heather Gattey Hamer died in 1962.

The Times, Thursday 22 Feb 1962
HAMER – On February 21st, 1962, peacefully in a nursing home in Hove, Heather, dearly loved wife of Rex Hamer, 74, The Drive, Hove, formerly of Ceylon. Service at the Downs Crematorium. Bear Road Brighton, tomorrow (Friday) at 4pm. No flowers please.

The index to her will reads:

“HAMER Heather Gattey of 74 The Drive Hove Sussex (wife of Sylvester Richmond Hamer) died 21 February 1962 at 48 Westbourne Villa Hove Sussex Probate Lewes 24 September to the said Sylvester Richmond Hamer retired tea planter Effects 150 pounds 5 shillings.”

I confess to being surprised by this, I had assumed that she was young when she was married, but she must have been well into her thirties.

Her husband Sylvester Richmond Hamer was baptised 1st April 1883 St John, Preston, Lancashire, England. He was the child of Henry Hamer, Town Clerk, and Margaret, who lived at West Cliff. I’m not surprised, with this lot as names, that he was called instead ‘Rex’. The announcement of his death was almost two years after Heather’s:

“HAMER Sylvester Richmond of Flat 7 74 The Drive Hove Sussex died 16 December 1963 at 26 Wilbury Villa Hove Probate Lewes 27 January to Westminster Bank Limited and Aubrey Keith Alwyn Loadsman solicitor 16,273 pounds.”

Shipping documents confirm that Heather and Sylvester arrived in Fremantle on 27 July 1940, getting on the ship in Colombo. I would love to know why they left Colombo and why they decided to move to the UK after the war.

The other source of information is the South Australian Art Gallery who do still have the pictures referred to in the original story. Alice Clanachan, assistant curator, said it is possible to view the pictures, but it is by appointment and a couple of weeks lead time may be necessary. I am hoping she will give me some pictures to post here.

The latest closure of libraries in the UK

While Australians worry about the impact that local conservative politics is having on its country at the moment, being over the other side of the world I continue to marvel at the policies of the Tory govt in the UK. One of the least civilised of its many methods to make poor people pay for the rich – aka austerity – at the moment is the closure of libraries. This has been going on in a way that evokes stories we would otherwise think of as science fiction set in a barbaric future. I had been under the impressions that it was happening largely in regional centres which have more poor people to pay for the lifestyle of the city’s bankers as well as for the paypackets of the Tories themselves.

Most recently, however, there is this; first read the consultant speak:

“The change programme seeks to ensure Imperial War Museum can continue to respond to challenges and opportunities, build on our successes to date, improve and update ways of working across the organisation and reduce IWM’s net expenditure by £4million per annum to account for changes to funding and increases in pension contributions. IWM aims to achieve the expenditure change by reducing costs and increasing our income through further commercial activity.”

They added: “The consultation period for the organisational restructuring element of IWM’s change programme has now begun. We are working closely with those who may be affected by the change proposals and will continue to do so until the end of the year. Any announcements regarding changes at IWM will be made early next year (2015).”

Want to know what that actually means? It means they are going to close the Imperial War Musuem’s library and 60-80 people are going to lose their jobs. That’s what ‘working closely with those who may be affected’ means. Sacking them with a Christmas card.

And what better time than in the year which has been marketed as the anniversary of WWI?

Shame, UK. Shame.

Our first ever online sale!

We continue our special deal which started when we turned 40: we have almost 7000 books listed at $15 and we’d like to sell lots of them so please help us out!

Buy any 10 of our $15 books for $100 AND we’ll ship them postfree within Australia.

Click here to start.

Yes, you are welcome to buy more than ten: the 11th (etc) will be charged at $10 each. Lots of them are absolute bargains already, so we hope you will be spoilt for choice!

The easiest way to browse is to go to our search page here : set the Sort By option to Price Ascending and key in a subject, author, whatever you like. The books will appear from $15 up.

You can order online or email/phone/fax us your order.

You can, of course, simply browse the entire stock from $15 up, but any modifications can be included.

Some examples of searches:

subject: childrens – over 2500 titles at $15
Author: Enid Blyton books – 80 titles at $15
subject: crime fiction – over 400 titles at $15
subject: Australia Military – 36 titles at $15
subject: Travel Description – over 200 titles at $15
subject: cricket Australia – exactly 10 titles at $15
subject: science technology – over 250 titles at $15
subject: biography – over 500 titles at $15
subject: art illustration – over 200 titles at $15

There are a large number of keywords that will give you a result: history, religion, medical, humour, crime fact, literature, australia, aboriginal, south seas, maritime, theatre, cycling, world war, poetry, sport, food, drink, ballet, music, education, politics, craft, science fiction and many more.

Make sure you set the Sort By option to Ascend to get a list which starts at $15.

We can also generate you a document list on a subject if you prefer. Let me know.

Born to it.

I’m reading Michael Frayn on his theatre work at the moment and he establishes early that he had an obsession with the theatre from a very young age. He wrote plays, made the sets, the puppets and forced it all up on his doubtless long-suffering family. He doesn’t mention getting any particular encouragement. I wonder if his relatives ever looked back on those incipient moments of the writer emerging with surprise that it turned out so well in the end.

I noticed earlier today that another of these youngsters with the courage of their obsessions was Mabel Esther Allan.

Mabel announced to her family at the age of eight that she planned to be a writer. They took this seriously and when the family moved a few years later Mabel was given a spare room to use as a study. Her father bought a large office desk which she was to use for the rest of her life, and presented her with a typewriter upon which she taught herself to type.

She went on to write almost 200 books and hundreds of short stories.

Mary Lyon: Pioneer educator.

Mary Lyon was a pioneer educator of girls in the US in the nineteenth century. From a modern perspective perhaps the most important aspect of her work was that she ensured the students of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary received the same sort of education as boys – that is, science and maths were not neglected. The school started in 1837 and is still going today, though now it is called Mount Holyoke College

Lyon wanted an institution that common folk’s children could afford to attend, reaching out to wealthier women for the money to establish it. The students did the domestic work to keep the costs down. I’m sure she would be thrilled to hear that the ideals of the school have been kept. In the Princeton review of best value colleges in the US for 2014 it appears prominently.

“From its outstanding academic program and facilities to its accomplished students to the formidable faculty that love teaching as much as research, Mount Holyoke provides a first-rate experience. The academic experience is phenomenal. So is the library. The dorms are luxurious, too,” the Princeton Review editors wrote, in addition to citing other attributes of the College.

In comments based on student feedback, they wrote, “At Mount Holyoke, ‘the students are happy, intelligent women dedicated to making a real difference in the world.’ Typical students are ‘poised, eloquent, passionate, and doing interesting things both inside and outside the classroom’ and also ‘down-to-earth and laid-back but also willing to have complex conversations over breakfast.’ ”

“Though Mount Holyoke has many strengths, including a beautiful campus and top-notch academics, the one the students appreciate the most is the close-knit community and the ‘strong sense of sisterhood’ that women develop here. The social atmosphere is ‘warm and accepting,’ and the students are ‘diverse, strong, passionate, friendly, and fun.’ This strong support system is important to Mount Holyoke students, who come here to receive a first-class education in a highly academic environment, which is ‘both challenging and supportive at the same time.’ ”

For more on Mary Lyon there are her archival holdings here and a biography here

I found myself reading about Mary Lyon because I’m listing a book called Life and its Purposes. Illustrated in the Life of Mary Lyon, and Others: A Book for Young Ladies and I was hoping I could discover the identity of the unnamed author.

I found at

Possibly by William Makepeace Thayer; cf. BM 236:766.
Publication date based upon name of London publisher according to Brown, P.A.H. London publishers and printers c. 1800-1870, p. 93.

It is true that this is the sort of book Thayer wrote, indeed, he wrote books with titles that reflect similar content, so it is possible that a new edition prompted a change in the title’s wording. Nonetheless, I can find nothing definitive and I’m at a loss to know what the reference means. If you understand the meaning of BM 236:766 please let me know! Perhaps then I can solve my puzzle.

Ownership history. What you don’t get in a kindle

We have a copy of The Rape Of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression inscribed thus:

‘With best regards for Mr. F.L. McDougall the author St Mikolajczyk Washington, March 5th 1949’.

As the reader knows, my ignorance is next to boundless and I had to look both these people up.

From wiki we discover that the author had every reason to write this book, with the explicitly emotive title.

Stanisław Mikołajczyk (July 18, 1901 – December 13, 1966; Polish politician, was Prime Minister of the Polish government in exile during World War II, and later Deputy Prime Minister in postwar Poland, before the USSR took political control of Poland.

His importance in the period of the 1920s-late 1940s to the history of Poland would be hard to overestimate. If I were in the habit of using modern journalistic jargon, I would call him a key player. Fortunately I am not. The wiki entry continues:

Mikołajczyk’s family came from Poznań in western Poland, which in the 19th century was part of the German Empire and known as the Province of Posen. He was born in Westphalia in western Germany, where his parents had gone to look for work in the wealthy mining regions, as many Poles—known as Ruhr Poles—did in the 19th century. He returned to Poznań as a boy of ten. As a teenager he worked in a sugar beet refinery and was active in Polish patriotic organisations. He was 18 when Poland recovered its independence, and in 1920 he joined the Polish Army and took part in the Polish-Soviet War. He was discharged after being wounded near Warsaw and returned to inherit his father’s farm near Poznań.

In the 1920s Mikołajczyk became active in the Polish People’s Party “Piast” (PSL), and after holding a number of offices in the government of Poznań province, he was elected to the Sejm (the Polish Parliament) in 1929. In 1935 he became Vice-Chairman of the executive committee of the PSL, and in 1937 he became party President. He was an active opponent of the authoritarian regime established in Poland after the death of Józef Piłsudski in 1935.

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939, Mikołajczyk was a private in the Polish army,[1] and served in the defence of Warsaw. After the fall of Warsaw he escaped to Hungary, where he was interned.[2] He soon escaped and made his way to Paris via Yugoslavia and Italy.[2] By the end of November, Mikołajczyk had reached France where he was immediately asked to join the Polish government in exile as deputy Chairman of the Polish National Council.[3] In 1941 he was appointed Minister of the Interior and became Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski’s Deputy Prime Minister.

In April 1943 the Germans had announced that they had discovered the graves of almost 22,000 Polish officers who had been murdered by the Soviets at Katyń Wood. The Soviet government said that the Germans had fabricated the discovery. The Allied governments, for diplomatic reasons, formally accepted this, but Mikołajczyk’s government refused to do so, and Stalin then severed relations with the government in exile.

When Sikorski was killed in a plane crash in July 1943, Mikołajczyk was appointed as his successor.[4] “We do not wish to see only a formal democracy in Poland,” he said in his broadcast to Poland on taking office, “but a social democracy which will put into practice not only political, religious and personal freedom but also social and economic freedom, the four freedoms of which Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke so finely. In any case there is and will be no place in Poland for any kind of totalitarian government in any shape or form.”

But Mikołajczyk faced daunting challenges. It was obvious by this time that the Soviet armed forces, not those of the western Allies, would seize Poland from German occupation, and the Poles feared that Stalin intended both imposing Communism on Poland and annexing Poland’s eastern territories, which were populated by Poles, Ukrainians and Belarusians.

During 1944 the Allied leaders, particularly Winston Churchill, tried to bring about a resumption talks between Mikołajczyk and Stalin, but these efforts broke down over several issues. One was the Katyń massacre. Another was Poland’s postwar borders. Stalin insisted that the eastern territories should remain in Soviet hands. Mikołajczyk also opposed Stalin’s plan to set up a Communist government in postwar Poland.

As a result, Stalin agreed that there would be a coalition government in the Soviet seized territories of Poland. A Socialist, Edward Osóbka-Morawski, became Prime Minister of the new Provisional Government of National Unity (Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej – TRJN), and the Communist leader Władysław Gomułka became one of two Deputy Prime Ministers. Mikołajczyk resigned as Prime Minister of the government in exile to return to Poland and become the other Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture.

Many of the Polish exiles opposed this action, believing that this government was a façade for the establishment of Communist rule in Poland. The government in exile maintained its existence, although it no longer had diplomatic recognition as the legal government of Poland.

Mikołajczyk immediately set about reviving the PSL, which soon became by far the largest party in Poland. He was helped, ironically, by the radical land reform pushed through with the support of the Communists, which created a new class of small farmers who became a firm political base for the PSL. The Communists knew they would never win a free election in Poland, and so they set about preventing one, despite the pledges given by Stalin at the Yalta Conference.

In June 1946 the 3xTAK referendum was held on a number of issues. The PSL decided to oppose the referendum calling for the abolition of the Senate as a test of strength against the Communists: two-thirds of voters supported Mikołajczyk, but the Communist-controlled Interior Ministry issued faked results showing the opposite result. Between then and the January 1947 general elections, the PSL was subjected to ruthless persecultion, and hundreds of its candidates were prevented from campaigning.

From 1946 to 1948, military courts sentenced 32,477 people, most of them members of democratic parties for ‘crimes against the state’. Only then the elections were held. In order to be sure that the elections would produce the ‘correct’ results, the Polish security apparatus recruited 47% of the members of electoral committees as agents.[5][6]

The elections produced a parliament with 394 seats for the Communist-controlled “Democratic Bloc” and 28 for the PSL, a result which everyone knew could only been obtained through massive electoral fraud. Indeed, the opposition claimed that it would have won as much as 80 percent of the vote had the election been conducted in a fair manner.[7] Mikołajczyk, who would have likely become Prime Minister had the election been honest, immediately resigned from the government in protest. Facing arrest, he left the country in April. Winston Churchill, upon seeing him in London, remarked: “I am surprised you made it out alive”. In London the Polish government in exile regarded him as a traitor for having co-operated with the Communists. He emigrated to the United States, where he died in 1966. In June 2000 his remains were returned for burial in Poland. His papers are in the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

As for the owner of this book, FL McDougall, we find him well-preserved in the records too, this time in the Dictionary of Australian Biography. Frank Lidgett McDougall (1884-1958), public servant and economist, is perhaps best described as as wheeler-dealer. After serving as an Anzac in WWI, he soon became indispensable to PM Bruce:

…who encouraged his advice and later observed that McDougall ‘brings me a new idea every morning’. Bruce summoned him back to the Prime Minister’s Department in Melbourne in 1924, then arranged for him to return in January 1925 as part-time secretary of the London agency of the Dried Fruits Control Board with the direction: ‘in your more uplifted moments you can call yourself the confidential representative of the Australian Prime Minister, when less inflated a secret service agent!’

He seemed spot on with his assessment between the wars of the problem of Germany:

A member of the Empire Marketing Board in 1926-32, during the Depression he preached that governments should increase food consumption and improve diets and that Australia should produce more food to feed the hungry. At the International Economic Conference in Geneva in 1927 and as a member of its economic consultative committee he extended his horizons, stressing the need to reactivate trade in Europe and substitute ‘a reasonably fat Germany for a desperately lean one’. McDougall was a regular adviser to Australian delegations at the League of Nations in Geneva from 1928 until its demise in 1940. At the 1935 assembly Bruce and McDougall evolved the slogan ‘Marry health and agriculture’, promoted so effectively by Bruce that a permanent committee (including McDougall) was set up to report back to the assembly on nutrition in relation to health and economics.

The ADB entry for McDougall is fascinating, do take a moment to read it in full.

The early 1940s found him in Washington, supported by Eleanor Roosevelt and dining at the White House. It is this Washington connection that we see joining the author and owner of the books. The ownership history of any book lends something to the book itself, but in such a case as this, the meeting of these two important figures of twentieth century history, it is all the more enticing. I find it hard to imagine we will sooner or later end up in a world where the book will no longer have its own history and memories. Humbug on technology!

John Oxenham WWI poet

You have to be a historian to appreciate the dichotomy between what was valued in the past and what we have chosen to keep of it now, which of course, will be reevaluated by future generations ad infinitum. Books and writing bring it home all the time. Who’s heard of John Oxenham? And yes, he is the father of the famous children’s writer, Elsie Oxenham. History has left us with ‘the war poets’, a select group whose writing about WWI is currently how we like to see it. But what about back then? In this period as we are reflecting on the first of the big twentieth century wars, might it not be apt to remember it as those who lived through it remembered it?

And if that’s the case, then it isn’t Siegfried you should be reading, it is Oxenham. His poetry sold over one million copies during the war and his hymn, ‘For Men at the Front’, sold at least five million copies, that being the most conservative estimate.

For The Men At The Front

Lord God of Hosts, whose mighty hand
Dominion holds on sea and land,
In Peace and War Thy Will we see
Shaping the larger liberty.
Nations may rise and nations fall,
Thy Changeless Purpose rules them all.

When Death flies swift on wave or field,
Be Thou a sure defence and shield!
Console and succour those who fall,
And help and hearten each and all!
O, hear a people’s prayers for those
Who fearless face their country’s foes!

For those who weak and broken lie,
In weariness and agony–
Great Healer, to their beds of pain
Come, touch, and make them whole again!
O, hear a people’s prayers, and bless
Thy servants in their hour of stress!

For those to whom the call shall come
We pray Thy tender welcome home.
The toil, the bitterness, all past,
We trust them to Thy Love at last.
O, hear a people’s prayers for all
Who, nobly striving, nobly fall!

To every stricken heart and home,
O, come! In tenderest pity, come!
To anxious souls who wait in fear,
Be Thou most wonderfully near!
And hear a people’s prayers, for faith
To quicken life and conquer death!

For those who minister and heal,
And spend themselves, their skill, their zeal–
Renew their hearts with Christ-like faith,
And guard them from disease and death.
And in Thine own good time, Lord, send
Thy Peace on earth till Time shall end!

and here, from his best-selling – though he had to publish it at his own expense as his publishers didn’t want to – book Bees in Amber


He writes in characters too grand
For our short sight to understand;
We catch but broken strokes, and try
To fathom all the mystery
Of withered hopes, of death, of life,
The endless war, the useless strife,—
But there, with larger, clearer sight,
We shall see this—His way was right.

This is how people lived and died during WWI, with the words of Oxenham providing the meaning, the reassurance to make the unbearable bearable. We should not forget this.

Japanese WWII plans for Australia

Talking of taking over countries, as we are, whilst watching the Ukranian situation, we have a pictorial history of Australian bank-notes which includes the notes the Japanese intended to use in Australia when they took over. They were in New Guinea at the time and some combination of a compulsive need to be organised and a sense of being on a roll, I guess, led them to have these printed. Ouch. It really brings home how touch and go it all was.

Of the Pricing of Books there is no End

I’ve been meaning to write something about this myself, but Judith has beaten me to it. I will add to it another time.

Judith writes:

I let Monica answer the phone as a rule. My familiarity with telephones stretches back less than sixty years, and coming to terms with technology new to me is not my strong point. For some reason, though, I fielded a call a couple of days ago. It began inauspiciously. The enquirer mentioned haggling. I mentioned that I don’t, but would get the book in from the storesheds anyway. He rang back the next day and asked for me. I was able to tell him what a lucky fellow he was: the book was listed at $75 but the insured postage was a mere $6 by insured large letter, making a total of $81.

Once, for bookdealers, pricing was a bit like breathing – you hardly noticed that you were doing it. You made it up as you went along. Now with all the information on the internet it may be a little more difficult: look up a title, find a given price range, viz. $0.01 to $2564 and take your pick. However, it remains quite refreshing to come across a potential customer who has studied the subject, although these customers are seldom of the kind who help us booksellers pay our bills. The enquirer had calculated that the book was worth $60 to him, postage included. He recommended with cogent argument that I accept his offer. He based his price on a number of incontrovertible facts. Firstly, the size. It seemed to him that, with but 112 pages, the 279 x 198 mm book was not much more than a pamphlet. Secondly, the subject matter was people whom nobody has heard of, and some of them are, in fact, already dead. The clinching argument concerned a theory of supply and demand. It appears that Pioneer Books is oversupplied with this title as we have never sold this copy, and it is highly unlikely that anyone, apart from himself, will ever want to buy it.

I had to agree with everything he said. I mean, it’s almost self-evident. I did demur over the word ‘pamphlet’, but it’s certainly no Gutenberg Bible. And, yes, the subjects of the book, are, like most of us, practically unknown, and if not already dead, soon will be. And, yes again, there is, at the moment, no line of people at our door all desperately hoping to be the lucky purchaser. Most telling of all is the devil’s advocate in the heart of all sensitive new age booksellers, informing us of the likely final resting place of most of our unsold stock in this digitally blighted age.

Nevertheless, the phone call ended with my suggesting that he try elsewhere for a cheaper copy. I wished him luck, and told him that though he could not get a better copy, I’d be surprised if he didn’t get a cheaper one. He, admirable man, accepted defeat less easily than I. He asked me to consult my partners and suggest to them that we accept his offer.

What is it about secondhand books that inspires such fiscal restraint among a certain percentage of buyers? Many years ago Paul and I provided a collector with a copy of a title in the ‘British Trials’ series. The purchaser, a man who had accumulated great wealth as a defence lawyer for the notoriously criminal and who has since received official honours for conspicuous philanthropy, looked at the book, deemed it not worth the $25 we were asking for it, paid us $15, and left.

‘How did that happen?’ I asked. ‘Why did we let it happen?’ Paul asked; then, ever the philosopher, shrugged his shoulders. ‘Oh, well,’ he said, ‘If ever we take up crime instead of bookselling perhaps he’ll give us a knock-down on his fees.’

Once I would have concluded these observations by drawing attention to the coincidence that it is only when the bookseller is considered to be overcharging that these differences of opinion arise. However, a few months ago a woman came to collect a copy of Mincham’s book on the Flinders Ranges.

‘That will be $15 dollars,’ said Monica.

‘No,’ replied the customer. ‘I couldn’t pay $15 for this. It’s worth $25.’ And she refused to pay less even when Monica showed her the price clearly on our data base