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

This Wednesday–Sense of Wonder at DPL

Stories where the book is the star. Tales set in book shops, storybook lands, and anywhere reading leads.

Bring along an old favourite or a new discovery to share.

Wednesday 13th September, 7pm
Dunningham Suite, 4th Floor, City Library

 [You are welcome to join us for a tour of the children’s basement collection prior to this session. Meet on the 4th floor at 6.30pm.]

Free, but booking essential: 03 474 3690 or – please confirm when booking, if you would like to attend the basement tour

For more information, contact:


Rare Book School 2018 in Melbourne Accepting Applications

Book of hours (fragmentary), Besançon, France, c. 1430–40, Rare Book Collection, State Library Victoria

The 13th annual Australasian Rare Book School is now accepting applications.   Details on the web.

With three offerings ranging from medieval MSS to the history of photography, the School is taking advantage of the State Library of Victoria’s rich holdings to offer a valuable and appealing set of classes.  For those wishing to upskill to rare book cataloguing, there’s a 3-day course, leaving you a few more days to enjoy Melbourne.  If you ever needed any excuses to visit, this summer’s offerings provide a good set. Classes run from Monday, 29 January 2018 to Friday, 2 February 2018.

2017 Printer in Residence Programme Starts Today

Keep your eyes peeled to see what delights pop off the type and onto the window over the next few weeks at the Otakou Press.  The project will be a collaborative one, featuring writer, editor, poet David Eggleton (12 poems); the Dunedin-based artist Nigel Brown (9 images); and printer Dr John Holmes of Frayed Frisket Press (1 handsome publication).

Entitled SNAP, you’ll need to be in quick to snap up one of the 100 copies available.  All expressions of interest to Donald Kerr ASAP.  And do feel free to call in and see the process at work.  Who knows, your comment might even alter the course of the work or help eliminate a typo before it has been painfully multiplied (and has to be even more painfully reprinted).

170 Years of Travel Publishing: Hakluyt Exhibition at Spec Colls through 8 September

Intrepid Journeys is an exhibition that highlights two major aspects. The first is the Hakluyt Society, established in London in 1846 with a commitment to print rare or unpublished voyages and travels. Beginning in 1847 with The Observations of Sir Richard Hawkins, Knt in his Voyage into the South Sea in the year 1593, their publication programme has continued, enthralling readers around the world with the accounts of a wide range of voyagers and travellers, who manage to document something of their toil and adventures as they traverse unknown and distant regions. The second aspect celebrates the work of Dr Esmond de Beer, the Dunedin-born scholar of John Evelyn and John Locke, who was President of the Hakluyt Society from 1972 to 1978. De Beer and his sisters were generous and indefatigable supporters of the Society and its activities. He is the University of Otago Library’s prime benefactor, giving his large library collection to Special Collections.

Rather than concentrate on well-travelled paths like the Pacific, more attention in this exhibition has been given to those lesser known accounts, those that reveal something of those strange, exotic, out of the way areas of the world that have been explored, travelled, and mapped. The range is wide, covering 14th century Greenland and 17th century India, to mysterious Timbuktu, and travel into the interior of Australia. Magellan, James Cook, and Carteret also feature. Importantly, there are a number of maps on display. Not only do these documents help ground the reader in what was the real world, ‘terra firma’, but they also offer excellent visual impact.

The Hakluyt Society continues to produce very pleasing, scholarly editions that make journeying easy and accessible; ideal for the armchair traveller. Please enjoy the journey.

2017 Centre for the Book/UNESCO Extravaganza–“Books and Users”

The University of Otago Centre for the Book is pleased to announce our sixth annual research symposium. In 2017, we are teaming up with Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature to offer a 3-day extravaganza engagement with books and culture.

Download the full Call for Papers.

The Centre for the Book Symposium will start on Tuesday evening, November 28th, with our usual public lecture at the Dunedin City Library. The lecture will feature Warwick Jordan, proprietor of Hard to Find Books, talking about his wide experience as a bookseller and the variety of book users that he supplies.

The symposium proper will take place on the University campus all day Wednesday, November 29th, at the College of Education and will feature a slate of presentations on the theme “Books and Users.”

The two-day UNESCO Creative Cities symposium will follow, with international and local keynote speakers on Thursday November 30th, followed on Friday by facilitated workshops at the Dunedin Athenaeum in the Octagon.

Please note: Thanks to generous support from the University of Otago Centre for the Book, the NZ National Commission for UNESCO and the Dunedin City Council, both of these events will be free to attend, with delegates responsible for providing their own lunch. Delegates are welcome to register for specific days or all three days.

Thanks to Book Night Readers

As you can see from the photograph, we had a jolly gathering on Wednesday to listen to readings about the academic world, ranging from Old English verse to Coetzee’s Foe.  Thanks to all who turned out, and to the University for making it possible for us to use the Council Chamber.  The Rev. Burns probably did not approve of the recitation of Baxter’s “Ode on Mixed Flatting,” but his picture remained stolidly hanging at the end of the chamber above us, and the mix was great.


The University Book Shop has created monthly discussions by Otago University staff about current books.  The first two have been announced and both look very engaging.

First up is Law Professor Mark Henaghan, on Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari, which is about the future of humanity.  Mark will be speaking on Tuesday, 16 May at 7 pm.

Doors open at 6.30pm for refreshments, mingling or book browsing.
Spaces are limited to about 30, so register now.  It is not necessary to read the book featured. You are still welcome to come and listen and chat about the topic.

To register:

On Wednesday 21 June the guest of honour will be Dr Elaine Webster, who will discuss fashion and books on fashion.  Dr Webster’s book choices are A Guide to Elegance by Genevieve Antonine Dariaux and Sex and Suits: the Evolution of Modern Dress by Anne Hollander.

Register your interest for the June evening.

Book Night in Dunedin North, Tuesday 23 May, 7 pm

For those of you not in the loop, Book Night is an evening to celebrate the enjoyment of books.  Book Night is a fun nationwide reading event for people of all ages, run by Book Discussion Scheme.  Individuals can join in from home, the office, wherever…or come together to participate in an activity.  This year Book Night takes place on Tuesday, 23 May, and we are planning to gather in the University of Otago Council Chamber (formerly the University’s library, and thus a very suitable venue) to enjoy readings from our favourite representation of University life–satiric or nostalgic, ancient or modern, prose or verse.  All are welcome; just bring along your favourite passage of up to 5 minutes in length, or just bring along your favourite friend to listen with you.  We’ll conclude by 8pm at the latest, snap a picture of ourselves and post it to the Book Night website.

To see what’s happening throughout NZ, check out the Book Night website.

Shef Rogers: A Double Dose; or, More than Enough

Dr. Shef Rogers, co-director of the Centre for the Book, will present two 20-min conference papers back-to-back as part of English and Linguistics Departmental research seminar series.  The presentation will take place at 4 pm on Friday, 28 April, in Burns 4.

The first paper focuses on the textual history of Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock within the context of Pope’s coming of age and coming to grips with the realities of his physical handicaps.  Entitled “Profound Learning or Puerile Puns? Pope’s Use of Petronius via Rochester,” the talk examines an allusion to Rochester not previously noted by Pope scholars.  The implicit parallels between Pope and Petronius’s Encolpius further illuminate the highly sexual nature of Pope’s best-known poem.

The second paper also concerns Pope and his contemporaries, looking at how they used mock-scholarly indexes to satirise an increasingly professionalised world of scholarship and academia.  Entitled “The Satiric Literary Index as a Measure of Cultural Authority,” this talk considers satiric indexes from William King’s 1698 ‘index’ to Charles Boyle’s second edition of Dr. Bentley’s Dissertations … Examin’d through Alexander Pope’s Dunciad in Four Books (1743).  These experiments with form and arrangement show authors striving to enrich their satire even as they objected to the reduction of literature to taxonomic analysis.

Postponed for some time–Richard Overell on The John Emmerson Collection

Photo by Teagan Glenane

We regret that due to a family bereavement, Richard Overell will not be able to deliver his talk as scheduled, but we hope to hear from him on this topic next time he is in Dunedin.

Join us on Wednesday 26 April at 5:30 in Archway 2 for an engaging illustrated public lecture on

The John Emmerson Collection at the State Library of Victoria

Nicolas Barker, editor of The Book Collector, described the late John Emmerson as ‘one of the great book collectors of our time’. In 2015, the John Emmerson collection, comprising over 5,000 books and pamphlets on 17th-century English literature and history, was donated to the State Library of Victoria. This session will look at some of the highlights from the Emmerson Collection.

Richard Overell was until the end of 2014 the Rare Books Librarian at Monash University Library. He now works at State Library Victoria helping to catalogue the John Emmerson Collection.