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Paul Brunton

Paul Brunton
Paul Brunton is Emeritus Curator, State Library of New South Wales and an Honorary Associate of the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University of Sydney. He was Senior Curator, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, from 2002–12 and Curator of Manuscripts from 1986 to 2001. He is preparing an annotated edition of the original handwritten journal and logbook of William Bligh kept on HMS Bounty, 1787–1789, for publication by Allen & Unwin.

Paul Brunton reviews ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography: Supplement, 1580–1980’ edited by Christopher Cunneen

February 2006, no. 278 01 February 2006
The first volume of the Australian Dictionary of Biography appeared in 1966, the sixteenth in 2002, by which stage the series included persons who had died prior to 1981. This one-volume Supplement includes those who were for one reason or another omitted from the main volumes. It is an impressive achievement. There are 504 biographies, written by 399 authors. Almost all are well written and caref ... (read more)

Paul Brunton reviews 'Life After Death: The art of the obituary' by Nigel Starck

December 2006–January 2007, no. 287 01 December 2006
Nigel Starck has read a lot of obituaries. His doctoral thesis was on the obituary and newspaper practice, and he teaches obituary composition in South Australia. This book, though, rarely rises above the commonplace. I suspect it is written as a text for students; the final chapter is ‘How to Write Obituaries’. Even students would find the content fairly undemanding. A chapter telling us that ... (read more)

Paul Brunton reviews 'Paper Empires: A history of the book in Australia, 1946-2005' edited by Craig Munro and Robyn Sheahan-Bright

September 2006, no. 284 01 September 2006
This eagerly awaited volume is the last in a trilogy which will recount the history of the book in Australia. The first volume, which will cover the years to 1890, is in preparation. Volume Two, A History of the Book in Australia, 1891–1945: A National Culture in a Colonised Market, edited by Martyn Lyons and John Arnold, was published in 2001. What is a history of the book? The present volume ... (read more)

Paul Brunton reviews 'Memory, Monuments And Museums: The past in the present' by Marilyn Lake (ed.)

May 2006, no. 281 01 May 2006
This book consists of sixteen essays based on papers delivered at the symposium of the Australian Academy of the Humanities held in Hobart in 2004. The title of the book was the theme of the symposium. A conference must have a theme, of course, or no one would ever fund the participants, but individual speakers do not always address it, or they do so tangentially. We have all been at conferences w ... (read more)

Paul Brunton reviews 'Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 325: Australian writers, 1975–2000' edited by Selina Samuels

May 2007, no. 291 01 May 2007
This volume is the fourth and last dealing with Australian writing in this American series of reference books. All four volumes have been edited by Selina Samuels; the editor and contributors are Australian. Fifty-seven writers who produced their first major work after 1975 are included. What is literary biography? According to the DLB advisory board, it is ‘career biographies, tracing the deve ... (read more)

Paul Brunton reviews 'The Diaries of Donald Friend, Vol. 4' edited by Paul Hetherington

November 2007, no. 296 01 December 2007
The final volume of the diaries of Donald Friend covers the years from 1966, when he was fifty-one, to 1988, the year before his death. For a little over half this period (represented by more than two thirds of the diary entries), Friend lived in Bali. He did so in some splendour, waited on by a retinue of houseboys and visited by the distinguished and the celebrated. This was before mass tourism. ... (read more)

Paul Brunton reviews 'My Congenials: Miles Franklin and friends in letters' edited by Jill Roe

October 2010, no. 325 01 October 2010
My Brilliant Career, the book Miles Franklin published in 1901 when she was twenty-one, cast a shadow over her entire life. It sold well and made her famous for a time, but it did not lead to the publication of more works. The glittering literary career foretold by the critics did not eventuate, at least in Franklin’s opinion. ‘The thing that puzzles me,’ she wrote to Mary Fullerton on New Y ... (read more)

Paul Brunton reviews 'A Forger's Progress: The life of Francis Greenway' by Alasdair McGregor

March 2015, no. 369 26 February 2015
The twenty or so elegant Georgian buildings designed by Francis Greenway that stand in Sydney today are a civilising presence. Yet these represent less than a quarter of his output. The destruction has been wanton and impoverishing. Greenway was born in November 1777, near Bristol. His father was a stonemason and builder, as had been generations of Greenways. Nothing is known of his early years, ... (read more)

Paul Brunton reviews 'Book Life: The Life and Times of David Scott Mitchell' by Eileen Chanin

July–August 2011, no. 333 29 June 2011
This is the first major biography of Australia’s greatest book collector, David Scott Mitchell, whose peerless Australian and Pacific collection established the Mitchell Library. Mitchell was born in 1836, in Sydney. He rarely left the city and never ventured beyond New South Wales. Living on inherited wealth, he devoted his life to collecting 40,000 printed works, as well as manuscripts, maps, ... (read more)