NSW Mini-Convention 15 May 2010 in Cammeray, Sydney

   Posted by: Leslie McCawley   in

On a lovely clear autumnal Saturday in May the Richard III Society NSW Branch held their biannual conference, set in the spacious, attractive North Sydney Leagues Club in the Sydney suburb of Cammeray. The event was well attended by regular members and people from the community, with some eager attendees having travelled interstate to attend. A wide range of topics presented throughout the day guaranteed something of interest to everyone.

Carol Gerrard spoke on William Caxton, the first English printer and retailer of printed books and his monumental ‘Description of Britain’. This massive work relied on a variety of sources including the Latin Polychronicon of the Benedictine chronicler Ranulf Higden, as well as the Venerable Bede’s History of the English People, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, Gerald of Wales’ writings, and the Domesday Book. The Description of Britain was lavishly filled with myth and legend, fact and fiction, hearsay and conjecture.

Maggie Patton from the NSW Mitchell Library told us about the treasures held by the library, including ancient maps and parchments. We learned about the preparation of vellum, from scraped and treated animal skins and how it took about 180 calves per book. The DNA in the skin now being traceable by modern technology means that books’ origins can be determined, which has opened up a fascinating new area for scholars to explore. We learned how the production of books changed drastically with the invention of the printing press so that specialised teams in assembly lines took over from individual monks in scriptoriums painstakingly illuminating manuscripts. The era of manuscripts ended in 1455. Maggie also discussed the transitional works of 1455 to 1501, known as the Incunabula, that used the same conventions as established manuscript makers had used, with the printing presses turning out handwritten and illuminated replicas. The Mitchell Library owns one page of an original Gutenberg Bible, amongst other treasures.

Xavier De Saint-Simon shared his love of the French-language fictional series by Maurice Druon entitled The Accursed Kings, a French perspective on their usually avoided pre-Revolutionary past. Members Lynne Foley, Kevin Herbert and Dorothea Preis offered critiques of books they had recently read. Author Felicity Pulman gave us a fascinating glimpse into the research undertaken for historical novels, Stephen Szabo from Heraldry Australia taught us about heraldic rolls, while Julia Redlich gave us an insight into a selection of medieval poetry and prose.

The many delicate and thoughtful touches of beauty were very appreciated, from the luncheon serviettes in Ricardian colours of murrey and blue, to the calligraphy nametags beribboned in the same colours and topped off with exquisite little white roses, to the hand-lettered bookmarks in our conference pack. The committee clearly went to a great deal of effort to create a day of beauty, refreshment, and edification for us, and they succeeded wonderfully.

By Leslie McCawley (NSW)