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

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.

Latest Special Collections’ Exhibition, “All the Year Round: Exploring the Nineteenth-Century Periodical”

The latest exhibition of the wonders of the University’s Special Collections opened last week and will be on display until 31 August.

All the Year Round: Exploring the Nineteenth-Century Periodical tells the story of the rise of the British periodical. The exhibition charts the rapid expansion of periodical publication from the early years of the nineteenth century, when writers like Lord Byron and John Keats were reviewed and reviled, to the last decades of Queen Victoria’s reign, when ‘decadent’ journals caused controversy, the Boy’s Own and Girl’s Own Paper catered to an expanding young readership, and Sherlock Holmes’s appearance in The Strand inspired a devoted following across all classes.

All the Year Round takes its title from Charles Dickens’s weekly journal, which reached tens of thousands of readers and featured many of his now classic novels. The exhibition’s strongest presence comes from the satirical London journal Punch, whose columns and cartoons mocked prominent politicians and celebrities and shaped middle-class attitudes. Colonial spinoffs, like Otago Punch, soon spread across the British Empire.

While the exhibition primarily features holdings from the University of Otago’s Special Collections and the Hocken Library, it also includes works kindly lent from the Dunedin Public Library and the Olga and Marcus Fitchett Collection.


Jane Austen talk this Friday, Burns 2, 4 pm

Although not strictly a Centre for the Book event, we know Jane Austen events have been popular in the past, so I’m posting this one.  The Department of English and Linguistics is pleased to welcome Professor Sheryl Craig of Central Missouri University to speak about “Jane Austen and the Women’s Rights Movement in Georgian England.”  Professor Craig is a member of both the English and Philosophy Departments at Central Missouri and is the author of author of Jane Austen and the State of the Nation (2015).  Here is how she describes her topic:

“Jane Austen was 17 years old when A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was published, and the legal, financial, and educational inequalities Mary Wollstonecraft identified directly affected Jane Austen.  It is, therefore, not surprising to find Austen’s fictional characters discussing women’s rights talking points.  Unfortunately, modern readers, even twenty-first century feminists, may not fully appreciate the impediments Austen’s characters are struggling to overcome or the women’s rights’ positions they defend.”

We hope you can join us.

2018 Symposium Call for Papers

At long last, here are the details for this year’s symposium, to be held 1–2 November.  The attached PDF gives full details, so feel free to download it and broadcast widely.  I’ll be taking copies to SHARP in Sydney next month.

The thems is “Translation and Transculturation in, through, and by Print.”  Relevant topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • The impact of print in NZ in languages other than English
  • The impact of print in scripts other than the Roman alphabet
  • Collectors and collecting across cultures
  • How books travel from one language to another
  • Whether transculturation is separable from translation, e. can ideas travel irrespective of language?
  • The extent to which print communicates across cultures more or less effectively than other media
  • The effects of national language policies on the power of translation
  • Any aspect of technologies for cross-cultural printing and/or translating
  • The extent to which print records or distorts cross-cultural encounters
  • Motivations for translation (evangelisation, education, propaganda, support)
  • Whether translation inhibits or facilitates transculturation

Abstracts are due by 1 September, so put on your thinking caps.  We look forward to a lively occasion, as usual.

Donald Kerr on Dueling in NZ

Our very own Co-Director, Dr. Donald Kerr, was interviewed yesterday on Radio NZ.  Well worth a listen for a little-known aspect of NZ history.  Congratulations to Donald on his recognition.