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Centre for the Book
Events and Opportunities related to Books at the University of Otago

Medical Marvels Exhibition, 14 Dec 2018–15 Mar 2019

In 1929, the historical collection of the University of Otago’s Health Sciences’ Library was established with the donation of the famed Monro Collection. The some 450 volumes in that collection were owned by Alexander Monro, father (primus), son (secundus), and grandson (tertius), who were successively Professors of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh, 1720–1846. Wonderful though the Monro Collection is, it comprises but a fraction of the total Health Sciences Library’s Historical Collections, some 100,000 plus volumes. These include 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century books and manuscripts, as well as the unique Preventive Medicine Dissertations.

This exhibition, Medical Marvels, highlights treasures from this Historical Collection, from pharmacy and phrenology to dentistry and disease. Of particular note is the anatomical flap book by Johann Remmelin, printed in Holland in 1667; a second edition of Andreas Vesalius’s The Fabric of the Body, printed in 1555; and Bernhard Albinus’s Tables of the Skeleton and Muscles of the Human Body, printed in 1746. Other noteworthy items include works by Edward Jenner, John Hunter, Francis Glisson, Thomas Willis, and William Smellie. For those interested in the history of medicine, the exhibition is a feast.

Many of the books have been chosen by University of Otago academic staff, students and librarians, who have used the books for their own research. We are particularly indebted to Professor Terence Doyle, Department of Medicine, and Professor Barbara Brookes, History Department.

The exhibition opens at Special Collections, de Beer Gallery, first floor, Central University Library, on 14 December 2018. It runs to 15 March 2019.  It is open Monday to Friday, 9–5.

2018 Research Symposium—Translation and Transculturation, 1–2 November

The program is now finalised.  Thanks to all who submitted abstracts.  Donald and I really happy with the program and look forward to seeing lots of people at the Thursday night plenary lecture and the Friday panels.

As usual, there is no fee for this event, but we would welcome signals of intention to attend to help us with catering the afternoon tea.  Also note that our Thursday lecture is not at the Public Library this year (Shef was too late trying to book it, but thanks to the Library for being willing if the Dunningham Suite had been available).  Instead, we’ll be in the Moot Court room of the Richardson Building on campus.  It is a great room for acoustics and conversation, with nice views as well.

We hope you can join us for this excellent lineup of papers.  You can grab a copy of the program here.  To sign up, just go to our handy Google form.

Sir Walter Scott Talk next Thursday, 5:15 pm

Dr. Brian McMullin, a superb bibliographer and scholar of Scott, among other things, will be talking about his work on the textual history of Ivanhoe.  We think we know a lot about major authors like Scott, but the more we find out, the more complex the textual history becomes.  We may have probed about as far as we can with Shakespeare and Austen, but Scott and many other writers remain rich textual puzzles.

Please join us for roundtable discussion in Arts 1W1 at 5:15 on Thursday, 25 October.  Nibbles provided.

A Novel Way to Enjoy Fiction, Sundays 3–5 pm

The University Book Shop has created a Sunday reading space at the Captain Cook Hotel.  Please come along for some quiet reading, excellent company, and a nice atmosphere for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.  Full details in poster.

2018 Margaret Dalziel Lecture to be delivered by Prof Nicholas Roe

All are cordially invited to join the Department of English and Linguistics for its annual lecture in honour of Emerita Professor Margaret Dalziel.  This year’s lecture, “John Keats Walks Romantic Scotland, Summer 1818: An Illustrated Bicentenary Lecture,” is to be delivered by Prof. Nicholas Roe, the Wardlaw Professor of English Literature at the University of St Andrews.

We look forward to seeing you next Wednesday, 10 October, at 5:30 pm in Burns 2.

Beyond the Page–6:30 pm, Wednesday 14 November

Presented by the Continued Sense of Wonder team, this final session for 2018 brings together a select group of children’s publishers, literary agents and editors to reveal the hidden world of children’s publishing. Bring a question you need answered, and continue the adult conversation about children’s books.

Reception at 6.30pm for a 7pm start.  This event is free, but it is helpful for planning if you book by ringing 474 3690 or emailing  For more information contact

Rare Books Summer School, Wellington, 28 Jan—1 Feb 2019

Sydney Shep has lined up two intriguing offerings for the Wellington Rare Books Summer School this coming summer.  The first option focuses on ‘The World of Altered Books’ and engages with the physicality of printed books to create new meanings.  Taught by Paul Thompson, the class repurposes all kinds of print, both rare and unnoticed.  It promises to be an engaging exploration that takes advantage of Wellington’s rich local resources.

The second option is taught by a German expert with training in classics here at Otago,  Thomas Koentges will teach ‘Exploring Digital Humanities: A hands-on introduction to data-driven research’, an area that offers increasing insights for Book History (as well as many other humanist disciplines).

Descriptions of both offerings and details on how to obtain more information are listed in the attached PDF.

Upcoming Burns Fellows 60th Reunion Spec Collections Exhibition

for it is only through imaginative thinking that society grows, materially and intellectually
Charles Brasch, ‘Notes’. Landfall, March, 1959

This year, 2018, is the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Robert Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago. It is the oldest and most prestigious literary art award in New Zealand. There is some mystery surrounding the people who helped set it up, but Dunedin’s own Charles Brasch certainly had a hand in it; it is thus fitting that many of the books on display come from his own collection, which is housed in Special Collections.

On the 7th of September the exhibition, Auld Acquaintances: Celebrating the Robert Burns Fellowship, will begin in the de Beer Gallery, Special Collections at the University of Otago. It will run through until the 7th of December.

The Robert Burns Fellowship was established as a way to foster nascent or already established New Zealand writing talent. Poets, novelists, short story writers, historians, scriptwriters, playwrights, essayists – no genre is excluded. Many of New Zealand’s most well-known writers have been Robert Burns Fellows – Maurice Gee, Janet Frame, James K. Baxter, Hone Tuwhare, Witi Ihimaera, Roger Hall, Cilla McQueen, Michael King, Laurence Fearnley…the list goes on.

All of the Robert Burns Fellows will feature in the exhibition. Many of them have written their own paragraphs on how the Fellowship has impacted their lives, making the exhibition a very personal one. In addition and where possible, the publication that resulted from the Fellow’s tenure is on display. From the novelist Ian Cross – first ever Fellow in 1959 – to the Robert Burns Fellow in 2018, poet Rhian Gallagher, this exhibition is a piece of New Zealand’s literary history that everyone needs to see.

For a full roster of other events associated with the Burns Fellowship reunion, see the Department of English and Linguistics’ site.

Confessions of an Opinionated Bookseller–Sunday 2 September

The Centre for the Book is delighted to join with the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival and UBS and other sponsors to bring Shaun Bythell to Dunedin to recount his adventures as an irreverent bookseller.  The event is ticketed and tickets are available from UBS for $20, though for fans of Trainspotting a joint ticket to hear Shaun and Irvine Welsh both on the same day is available for $30.  It should prove a very engaging Sunday afternoon and evening with two lively authors with quite distinctive voices.  We do hope you can join us.

Shaun’s talk will be held at the Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum at 2 pm on Sunday, 2 September.  Ticket information and more details available on the DWRF website.

Public Lecture–Prof Tom Mole on ‘Books in the World of Things’

After his unexpected change of plans in March, we are delighted to be able to welcome Professor Tom Mole from Edinburgh University, a Professor of English and Book History, to deliver what promises to be a very lively lecture for the Centre for the Book.

Prof. Mole is the co-author with Michelle Levy of The Broadview Introduction to Book History (2017) and its accompanying Broadview Reader in Book History.  He also even more recently published a monograph, What the Victorians Made of Romanticism: Material Artifacts, Cultural Practices, and Reception History (Princeton University Press, 2017; distributed by Oxford in the UK).  That book received commendation as one of the two best book history publications in the past year at the SHARP conference in Sydney just a fortnight ago.

Here is Prof. Mole’s summary of his talk to entice you to come along on Monday, August 6th in Archway 2 at 5:30 pm:

The book is our most durable and familiar communications technology. It’s an object that pervades our lives from before we can read and turns up everywhere in our education, our work and our leisure. But we hardly ever pay attention to the book as an object. We’re taught not to from an early age: learning to read means learning to stop looking at the book in front of us and start looking through it. As a result, we miss the messages books send, because we’re too busy trying to decipher the messages they contain.  Losing ourselves in the words on the page, we forget the object that encloses them.  But we use books for a lot of things besides reading.  They serve as badges of allegiance, signifiers of class, focal points for rituals and festivals, tokens shaping interpersonal relationships and more.  This lecture invites us to concentrate on the book as an object among others, and so allows us to examine the ways in which it features in our individual and collective life.

We certainly hope you can join us for this event.