The Royal show to me is much more than a book competition. It is one of the showcases of bookbinding in Victoria.  It is a chance for the public to be reminded of books, past and present,  their makers and their making.

The Display there is intended to reveal a number of different  stories of the book.

I have the honour  of being the President of Bookbinding Victoria. Its roots are deep in the historic  traditions of bookbinding carried on by the Guilds of the past. From early times, books were of great value, costly to make and of great importance for the words they contained.  The value was recognised in its contents but also revealed in the package, the "bookbinding".  We also look to the artisans of the future, those for whom it is a hobby, amateurs of the future,  those who choose to make books for a living, and those for whom they are an artistic expression in many modern and old ways. Its a very broad group of people.

I have arranged the display to try to highlight not just the competition but some aspects of all these facets.

I am indebted to the Melbourne Royal Show arts and crafts committee for their generosity in allowing not just the competition space, but allowing me the space to tell some other stories.


The central theme of the exhibition is the competition and so  we should start there. This has already been described in the earlier posts ( click here). 


In the top row of the display are two  features .

Firstly,  A Tribute to a past Member. Its pointless to speak about the history of the bookbinding without recognizing the makers. For many of them both present and passed, bookbinding was a part of life, an expression of part  their lives. Many of our members are amateurs, that is the make books for the love of what they do, and for many because book content forms a part of their lives.

So it is with Maurice Betteridge.  I did not know him well though we have many similar interest. By the time I joined Victorian Bookbinders Guild as it was known then, Maurice was an "emertis" binder. His age and skill level had declined and his health also. He was the "old man" who appeared at special events and the odd meeting. But I spoke with him only briefly face to face. In latter times I has correspondence and conversations about the management of the VBG, still unaware of his life history.

The best information I had we he was a bible specialist. "He has some job where his boss sends him around the world doing stuff, and we think he arranges it so he can pick up a bible or two as every time he comes back he has another old bible under his arm" said one other the long term members who was some 25 years younger than Maurice. Only after his passing did I find  he was the head of a large Anglican Mission Organization and travelled extensively in that role. He was also the Principle of one the the most respected Theological colleges in Australia, Ridley College in Melbourne, a role also requiring extensive travel. But not holidays. Encouraging, assisting and teaching in Churches and colleges in many parts of the world. Before he passed, he ensured his extensive modern  theological library was gifted to many developing  colleges around the world.  I also found his predecessor was Leon Morris under whom I had studied for a very short time as a teenager.  Maurice also gifted a number of his bindings and  books to the VBG. Three are in the display. 2 volumes of Fine Bindings, a series of many many volumes of the notes of a famous book dealer, now used as a reference source for tracing the provenance of many to todays famous collections and privately owned historical books. The other volume on display is in the 175 years of the Royal show in the next part. Burnets History of His own time.






Which is a great segway into the second of the historic Displays. Rasv 175th year.

I was asked by the Committee if I had a book from 175 years ago I could add to the display . Its 175 years since the first meeting of the Moonee Ponds Farmers group, which developed into the RAS at the present site. The RASV was making it a feature and has a new book of that title, a large tome on the history and for people interested in  Melbourne history worthy of acquiring a copy.

As it turned out, I had entered a book from 1846 in the competition. So I agreed to make a feature of it. But upon examination I found several other titles from around the same time, and so I formed a tittle display of books  entitled;


RASV 175 years. What were people reading around 1848?


I found it an interesting  study. Almost the books I could find were serious. I conclude.  righty or wrongly, that books cost so much that they were treated as things of great value, even the things we would call ephemera.   Since the display I have found several other books on agriculture that perhaps should have been included, but again mostly  valuable rather than just disposable like modern paperbacks, which are intended to be read one and thrown away.

Of necessity the display had only the space for one book with a description in full or a number of books with a title list. Here it is expanded with some commentary and a good pictures of each. The display in the cabinet  is shown in the previous post. I have left all the images large so you will need to scroll a bit.

RASV 175th Year

What were people reading around 1848?


1/ 1835 The Faculties of Birds,  London. A well loved book  bound in the half leather style, ( leather spine, leather corners, paper infill on the sides.) the use has worn off the marbled paper revealing the reused lining paper, complete with printing. Nothing was wasted in that day. A rather serious study of birds.








2/ 1874  Horatius,   Maclean, London.1874.  Presentation at University of Aberdonensis to Adam  S Thompson in 1879 .  Presentation edition Full blond calf with marbled edges.  Spine is worn, and rear hinge cracking. An expensive binding in its day, contents not greatly used.






3/ 1823   Polybii  Historium. Published in 1823  un trimmed pages of rag paper.  Purchased by Alfred Lutwyche 1831 the First Judge Supreme Court Queensland.  The original as it came to me was with detached boards, and well used. I rebound in goatskin in a simple full leather, with the original signature  pasted to the free end paper. I believe the inscription to be an original autograph original owner . A small dye stamp shows a later owner to be A W Chambers.







4/ 1838  Burnet’s History of His own Time. London. A turbulent time in the life of England. No wonder people were anxious to migrate anywhere. Rebound by Maurice Betteridge  in half leather with red cloth sides, tinted edges, and hand made  gold title label.






5/  1874  The Great Pyramid,   Smyth. The beginnings of the search for meaning  in the intricate  archaeology of the Great Pyramid, though I suspect we would now disagree with many of the conclusions.   An expensive binding with full  tree calf  with marbled edges. The end papers  original marbled  and someone took a dislike to the name of the owner scratching off the book plate. It still can be seen Mr Francis A Gilbert. In need of a little repair to the top of both hinges.








6/  1844  The Bird Book,  USA. A gift to Samuel Brown. Cloth binding for general use. There were a lot of bird books appearing about this time in both UK and America. 






66   Feather Land.  Awarded to James Hunt, Ballarat College 1873  Marbled edges with calf leather and college crest.









8/  1846   Greek Lexicon,   by Liddell and Scott. (In competition.) Full leather, blind and gold tooled.




I rebound this volume and I hope you forgive the extensive description. It was in th display case with a mirror mounted to allow the inside of the book to be viewed. Its not the best Gold work but  one must learn somehow. But to start this is how it came to me.  I thought I was 2 volumes joined into one.













       Inside front   




  Inside rear




Bound in full black goatskin, with maroon goatskin doublures.( inside of covers) with a black leather inlay A in front and W in rear cover.

The exterior is blind tooled, ( with hot tools but no gold).

Title labels in matching maroon title tooled with gold foil.

The interior is extensively tooled with gold foil.

 Originally designed with the leather hinge and endpapers that were to be pasted down, however I amended added the leather doubloures and inlays and then decided to tool as well

The symbols were important in medieval times and some cultures still feature some of these symbols.

The sunburst surrounds A ( alpha meaning beginning or origin) on the front cover and W ( anglicized omega) meaning end. And these were seen in Biblical language as God, the beginning and the end.
The sunburst represents the power coming from God. Its interesting to see in Rome today, a place littered with these symbols to have a sign in McDonalds near the center of the old town, with a burger in the middle of the sunburst!

In the top panel is IHS another Greek abbreviation of the name Jesus, and in the lower panel XPS meaning in Greek Christ.


An interesting and pleasing binding, my view over tooled  as an experiment, and also the leather hinges could have been pared thinned in the assembly of the end papers before attachment to the block. 


I added a few other books to the display to fill in the gaps.  and added a range of tools and materials to the cabinets to show some of the items used in binding I will take some pics of the extra books soon.