What a remarkable story from an Idriess collector who is also a fan of Jack's and an expert on Jack's work and experience. At his request he is to be known only as "Drquartz" but many collectors of Jack's books will recognise him. Thanks, Drquartz, for sharing your experience at these auctions. The story set out below begins with two auctions in Sydney. One was in September 2011 and the other in November 2011. Drquartz was alerted to these auctions by a fellow collector only 18 hours before the auction commenced. The story of getting to and bidding at these auctions is a story for another day. But let Drquartz tell his story.
Drquartz 23/11/11 I picked these books up at two auctions in Sydney one in September and the other one in November 2011. The books were from the Cousins family and there were probably at least a few thousand volumes, many were Angus and Robertson, Cornstalk, Platypus editions and many of the books were signed by their authors to W.G. Cousins . None are signed to his son Aubrey Cousins. My priority was to buy the complete Idriess books and keep them together. This wasn’t easy!
For collectors of Angus and Robertson books this auction was a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy books that were for the most part in pristine condition and from the publisher’s showcase of books. Many of the volumes were in Fine unread condition in Fine dustwrappers with unique inscriptions from their authors often expressing deep gratitude to the publisher. Many of the books are rarely found in that state and are probably the best examples to be found in that condition.
I give thanks to another fellow book collector Garry H. from Queensland who gave me the invaluable tip-off via email 18 hours before the auction commenced! That same day I had spent a gruelling day trip in Western New South Wales, completely oblivious to the auction event about to happen in Sydney the following day and had arrived home in the evening. Lucky I logged onto my email when I did! I am deeply grateful as I would have missed this opportunity to buy these fantastic books. I am a believer in karma and have had plenty of good luck in my time which I owe partly to helping others.
This is a brief inventory of Ion Llewellyn IDRIESS books that were inscribed by the author to the publisher (W).alter (G).eorge COUSINS (1886-1949) who was the head of Angus & Robertson from 1933 until his death in 1949. W.G. first joined the firm of Angus and Robertson in 1900 as a young boy of 14, and from an early age decided to collect and accumulate a library of A & R publications. From the same estate I also purchased many other books belonging to the Cousins family including an impressive 11 volume set of early Angus and Robertson poetry books published between 1900-1911 in Fine brown dustwrappers. These books were collected when brand new and remain in near pristine condition 100 years later!
Cousins appears to have achieved some managerial position with the firm by 1916 as after that he was presented on a regular basis with new books by George Robertson the head of A & R, with the chief’s handwriting “W Cousins with the publisher’s compliments”. These are on the poetry books of authors like C.J. Dennis, Henry Lawson, A.B. Paterson, Zora Cross, W.H. Ogilvie and many others.
These books are historically significant as W.G. Cousins the publisher was the man who made the decision probably from the early 1930’s whether to publish the books or not. There is evidence on the author’s inscribed copies to him to indicate this. George Robertson the founder of the firm gradually stepped down from an active role in the company in the 18 months before his death in 1933. W.G. Cousins was the next in line below the chief in running A & R. From 1933 he succeeded George Robertson and was the Head of A& R. Many of the works published by A& R went on to become Australian classics and would probably have not seen the light of day but for the patronage of W.G. Cousins and his predecessor George Robertson who often took a punt on unknown authors. I also got the Frank Dalby Davison books including his 1st book Man-shy (the 1931 edition pre-Angus and Robertson) presentation copy dated which was inscribed to W.G.Cousins who went on to publish his later works. I can almost see the author F.D. Davison meeting W.G. Cousins in his office abringing this book for him to read prior to publication.
Back in the early 20th century period, there were very few big Australian publishers and the bulk of books sold in Australia were from overseas publishers like Ward & Lock, who generally published authors that were not Australian born or bred. Of course there were exceptions like Mary Grant Bruce and Ethel Turner along with a few others. After Walter George Cousins died the book collection went to his son Aubrey Cousins (1916-1977). The last Idriess book in the collection that was signed was in 1948 to his father W.G. Cousins and it appears that there was no more signed after that. In the book collection there is missing these following titles, Prospecting for Gold, Cyaniding for Gold, Must Australia Fight, Lightning Ridge, Fortunes in Minerals, The Australian Guerilla series, The Bradfield Plans and Onward Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald reported the death of W.G. Cousins who had died suddenly at his residence at Haberfield in September 1949. Jack Idriess was reported to be one of the people who attended the funeral.
From the same estate there were some other Idriess books including Must Australia Fight and and other ones from after 1948 through to the 1960’s. I didn’t pick these ones up as 1) none were signed, 2) they were in very poor condition being badly water-damaged and missing dustwrappers, 3) showed evidence of being purchased second hand probably by Aubrey Cousins. For example the Must Australia Fight book had the original owner’s name of Danny Powers. Also the condition of the books were well worn and I believe that when Cousins senior died in 1949, his son did not have a close relationship with Idriess and quite possibly may not have been interested in collecting the other titles until later on when he apparently filled up the gaps in his collection by buying second hand copies of later Idriess books. These copies bear prices written in pencil or ink inside the books so I believe they were not purchased brand new. This is all pure speculation of course and it is possible that maybe the children of Aubrey Cousins may have kept back some of the Idriess books for themselves.
Aubrey Cousins also worked at Angus and Robertson from 1933 and later became the head of Halstead Press until his retirement at the end of 1971. After Aubrey’s death in July 1977 his widow inherited the books. From information supplied by the auctioneers after the Idriess books were purchased it appears that the widow had recently gone into a nursing home, the house was sold, and the children were not interested in keeping the book collection and so these historically significant books were put up for auction.
The condition of all of the books in the Ion Idriess book collection are in an unread state with the binding still tight. The overall condition of the books is excellent with slight foxing on the unfaded page fore-edges and none whatsoever on the inside pages. Books appear to have probably spent their life inside a class bookcase cabinet which did get exposure to sunlight as there is some moderate fading to the spines of the dustwrappers. The condition of the book dustwrappers vary from being VG to Very Fine (Mint)
Here is a list of the books: (Drquartz writes: The actual lines in the letters and in the book inscriptions were written mimicking the lines that Jack wrote along with his irregular use of capitals etc. The / was added so the reader knows where the lines end.)
LASSETER’S LAST RIDE 1st edition 1931 in FINE dustwrapper Signed on the half-title page above the printed words Lasseter’s Last Ride “sincerely yours Ion L. Idriess”
LASSETER’S LAST RIDE 5th edition 1932 in FINE dustwrapper. Signed and inscribed on the half-title page. “Wishing W.G.Cousins / lots of Luck: he / reckons he wants it after / the nights he spent on [Lasseter’s Last Ride] / Ion L. Idriess”
THE DESERT COLUMN 1st edition 1932 in Fine dustwrapper Signed on the title page “Ion L. Idriess”
FLYNN OF THE INLAND 1st edition 1932 in VG dustwrapper Signed and inscribed on the half-title page above the printed words Flynn of the Inland “ Wishing Mr W. Cousins / success and health / above all / Ion L. Idriess”
FLYNN OF THE INLAND 1st edition 1932 in VG dustwrapper Signed and inscribed on the half-title page above the printed works Flynn of the Inland “ To W.G.Cousins / with the author’s / kind regards / Ion L. Idriess”
MEN OF THE JUNGLE 1st edition 1932 in VERY FINE dustwrapper Signed on the title page “Ion L. Idriess”
GOLD DUST AND ASHES 1st edition 1933 in VG dustwrapper Signed on the title page “Ion L. Idriess”
DRUMS OF MER 1st edition 1933 in FINE dustwrapper Signed and inscribed on the half-title page above the printed words Drums of Mer “ To W. Cousins,/ May his shadow / never grow less / Ion L. Idriess / Sept 1933 / Sydney “
THE YELLOW JOSS 1st edition 1934 in FINE dustwrapper Signed on the title page “Ion L. Idriess”
MAN TRACKS 1st edition 1935 in FINE dustwrapper Signed and inscribed on the title page “ To W. Cousins, / with the best / of wishes / Ion L. Idriess / ‘35
THE CATTLE KING 1st edition 1936 in FINE dustwrapper Signed and inscribed on the title page “To W.G. Cousins, / who launched / The Cattle King / Ion L. Idriess / ’36 “
FORTY FATHOMS DEEP 1st edition 1937 in FINE dustwrapper Signed and inscribed on the title page “ Bon voyage to / Mr W.G. Cousins / who herewith launches / 40 Fathoms Deep / on the / Sea of Books / Ion L. Idriess / Sydney / Jan 27 ’37 “
OVER THE RANGE 1st edition 1937 in VG dustwrapper with some minor loss to the top spine. There is a yellow publisher’s publicity band strip wrap-around on the book. It says in bold block red letters, “ FIRST / PRINTING / 10,000 / COPIES “ on the spine, and on the cover there is the words “ FIRST PRINTING 10,000 “ On the title page signed and inscribed is “To W.G. Cousins, / wishing him further / successes after his / trip overseas./ Ion L. Idriess / Melb. Cup Day (I Lost) / 1937 “
MADMAN’S ISLAND 1st edition 1938 in FINE dustwrapper with an insert of ephermera of the front cover only of the original artwork from the 1927 Cornstalk edition laid in. Signed and inscribed on the title page. “To W.G. Cousins” Dear Mr Cousins, Some old / highbrow or other wrote / about a lynx or sphinx or / something rising from the ashes. / Seems to me “Madman’s has done / similar, if my quotations are / all correct. / Best of luck, / Ion L. Idriess / Sept 1938 “
NEMARLUK 1st edition 1941 in VERY FINE dustwrapper. Not signed or inscribed.
THE GREAT BOOMERANG 1st edition 1941 in FINE dustwrapper. Signed and inscribed on the title page "To W.G.Cousins. Cheerio. This is the 21st. / A stormy coming of age / But we’ll see the 41st/ out yet. / Ion L.Idriess / Dec 1941
THE SILENT SERVICE 1st edition 1944 in VG dustwrapper. Not signed or inscribed. Condition is Good only and probably added as a fill-in by Aubrey Cousins. Nothing special about the book.
HORRIE THE WOG DOG 1st edition in VERY FINE dustwrapper Signed and inscribed on the title page. "To W.G.Cousins, Cheerio. Here’s admitting/ that in this book you / picked a winner. Ion L. Idriess / June 1945. /
(DrQuartz writes: Just below this inscription is also the signature of Jim Moody. NOTE: Another successful book that appeared around the same time was Frank Dalby Davison’s book DUSTY also published by Angus & Robertson.)
DOG OF THE DESERT 1st U.S. edition 1945 in Very FINE dustwrapper Signed and inscribed on the half-title page. "To W.G. Cousins / who worried and worried / this poor author for a / “dog book” – until he / got a Dog Book. Ion L. Idriess 1946.”
IN CROCODILE LAND 1st edition 1946 in Very FINE dustwrapper Signed and inscribed on the title page. “To ‘Cous.,’ / From Prospecting to [ picture of crocodile] ‘s / we’re still going / strong. / Ion L. Idriess / 1946.
ISLES OF DESPAIR 1st edition 1947 in a Very FINE dustwrapper. Signed and inscribed on the page opposite from the title page where the list of the author’s other books are. “To ‘Couz.,’ / Well, old Sport, I believe, / we’ve done it again! ‘Boswell, ‘/ Ion L. Idriess/ 1947 “
THE OPIUM SMUGGLERS 1st edition 1948 in a VG dustwrapper with a small chip to the base of spine. Signed and inscribed to the title page. “ To W.G. Cousins / and to ‘ W.G., ‘ / lots of us wish / a cheery Xmas / Ion L. Idriess / 1948
STONE OF DESTINY 1st edition 1948 in a FINE dustwrapper. Signed and inscribed on the title page. "To W.G. Cousins, / Despite Wars, / Power Strikes, and / Printer’s Devils / We’re still turning / ‘em out, / Ion L. Idriess / Xmas 1948 “
THE RED CHIEF (with a 2 page Idriess letter)
OPALS AND SAPPHIRES (with an 8 page Idriess letter)
20 Isaac Smith St Kingsford Aug 6 ‘67
Dear Aub, “Thanks a lot for “River’of Gold.” Will be extra speciallyinterested to read it. As I see Youremember it was one of my old stamping grounds, and a favourite. Have hunted gold along it, and knew many of the old timers still hale and hearty when I was a young fellow, there were plenty settled down in Cooktown, and hundreds more Scattered further down throughout The Cairns District mining Fields.
Some of the old Chinee diggers Were still working pottering along the river, I got some good stories from them which I used later in the Old Bulletin, and particularly for Smiths Weekly when I came down from the Pennisula. Old John Drayton and I Became particularly good friends, Old John did good work for Smiths as Mining Editor when I came down here battling as a free lance when the Wharfie’s wouldn’t give me a job. Old John grew particularly keen on
my years of the “River of Gold” - by the way the Author had a happy , ready made title for his book, for that is what we called it the Palmer throughout the Penninsula, far and wide, it was used a thousand miles and more further south in the Queensland Mines Department when the Big Six made good and came into Big Business and Parliament! I knew Alf Jones and his mates of the Big Six when they “ran” the big copper mine Boomm “Back –O Cairns, “ they were a very lively
bunch of boys believe me, but then they were “Big”, lively days, what a wonderful story the “Big Six” , would make for, a Big Action film on Television, would create as much interest as “ The Untouchables”, perhaps more in view of the wild pioneering atmosphere of those fiery copper days, and you could see the fires at nights like molten comets – but the fires I meant were human. Alf Jones when later “civilised” and minister
for mines sent for me when I was blewing / beuring ? a chammy ? chamsey? of gold in Brisbane and prevailed upon my wanderlust to go on a trip with Jardine to map for a Mines Dept Map one of the few unmapped areas of the Penninsula. A wild and woolly trip as it turned out. We sailed from Brisbane waters in a 26 foot cutter and I’m dammed if we lost it either, Jardine later sold it in Thursday
Island for the mines Department, I stayed on the Fingerpoint, Later on another Trip Jones got me to suggest a lot of addresses on the Cooktown side of Old Timer’s who might have charies (sic?) or reminiscences of the Palmer, his own mob (The Big Six) had plenty of the mineral fields on the Cairns side, to make the start of material for a suggested “Pioneering Library”
Mineral and Pastoral and Timber while there were still plenty Pioneers about. I presume this Library came into being as the Oxley, mentioned in the book, my memory since the stroke does not now remember details at times. I’m glad now I know a lot of addresses of blokes up North. Well Aub I’d flaming well stop or this will turn out another book xcept (sic) a letter of real appreciation,
for this has met my memories of the River of Gold to race. Thanks again for the gesture and Remembrance. Please give a Cheerio to your mother from me.
P.S. One of the Big Six was (memory snaps straight off!!!) but he was perhaps the best know of Federal Treasurers, Your Dad took a great interest in him when I introduced (Theodore) then in late years. Cheerio “Jack” Idriess
P.S. Monday. Wife just rang me up – likes “ River of Gold”, gets better & better particularly from towards half way on, Ireckon this opinion is a good sign for the author, Here’s wishing him a good seller. Jack.
20 Isaac Smith St Kingswood 1st Nov ‘67
Dear Aub, Much appreciated your Little note re “Opals and Sapphires. “ Thanks. So to myself, must say it is a nice production, keeping up with the standard. There is only one thing wrong with it. I can’t find anything Wrong with it. Good Health and Luck To see All at Halstead “Jack” Idriess
20 Isaac Simth St Kingswood Feb 10 / 68
Mr Aub Cousins Managing Director Halstead
Dear Aub, Thanks for the Congratulations, the gesture Appreciated Yes, I never thought of “Honors” etc when writing Lasseter’s Last Ride. All I was battling for then was a Ride for myself, and a crust I wish your Old Dad was alive today to chuckle over it and quaff a reminiscent beer with me. How he would have loved to run his eye over the Halstead of today too! Oh Well! Cheerio, and Good Luck Ion ‘ Jack “ Idriess
I have still got quite a bit of writing to do on it. Also to mention are the significance of both Idriess letters that I picked up at separate auctions. Believe it or not it took 3 separate trips up to Sydney on 3 auction dates spanning 2 months to fully secure the Cousins books – the library was that huge. The auction was long and gruelling lasting around 4 hours and the main books that I wanted were right at the end. I also wrote in diary form my adventures and trials and tribulations getting to Sydney at the last minute to attend this auction.
I'm going to add more information on what happened at the series of auctions and also the excitement that was generated. Surprisingly the family told the auctioneers that they did not want any publicity as I asked why the books were not advertised openly as being from the Cousins family collection! Also this auction house catalogue only appeared the day before the auction started.