Booksleuthing: A visit to an australian colonial library

Braidwood, middle of nowhere? Somewhere between London Sydney and NewYork. Ok, 3 hours south of Sydney.

My friend Sonia’s family home of Bedervale is a mansion in the early australian colonial style. There have been parties around the folly, mystery murders in the cellar and of course, girly nights in the new part of the house.

I first visited Bedervale in the late 1980s when I joined the Spinners and Weavers. I had longed to use our spinning wheel and now here were women to teach me how. We would meet in the old kitchen and chat while we carded wool, spun or wove.

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Sonia and Margaret, daughter and mother both gogeters in their own right, with the Lesleys, in the old kitchen

It is a house full of relics;  it contains furniture and bric a brac of various importance relevant  to three families, the Coghills, the Maddrells and the Royds. My parents being antique dealers I really didn’t pay much attention to any of it; it was just more furniture and stuff. However now that I am a book sleuth, it occurred to me on Friday night while we were sipping champagne, that perhaps there was a library here.

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Interesting side of the library

As a National Trust home, this library has been catalogued. The books were brought over by the first owners of the house the Coghills. Many of the books carried bookplates from Brompton Library. We looked at a few books and many dated to 1830s or more, right when machine made paper was taking over the printing and bookbinding world.

I was anxious to see if I could find watermarks. Randomly Lesley and I pick out

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Lesley is now fascinated about watermarks. Not only does she want to read this travel guide to Syria and Egypt, dated 1788, but she wants to find watermarks as well

Unlike many of the other small books in the library it is bound in-grain, however due to its size very few marks are visible, a few circles at  the head, a cut off  fleur de lis? Unfortunately no photos because my phone ran out of juice. But as I proceeded to peer into random books, I would show Lesley the difference between chainlines and laid lines and machine made paper. She started to get excited, and now understood my fascination with watermarks.

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the effect of cheap sheep leather…

We were here for dinner, so we decided to go back to the old kitchen in order to quiz Margaret. The books, it seems, were probably first bought as a job lot – after all, members of the squattocracy had to seem reasonably well read. And then as various members developed interests, the library became populated with books that followed a purpose such as Maddrell’s medical training in Germany: so lots of medical books and german literature.

What a good excuse for returning more often to Braidwood. If you are in this part of the world Bedervale runs a bed and breakfast and week end tours of the homestead, so you could take a peek at it yourself.

Watch this space for more on the library…..





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