Hocken: Prince of Collectors, by Donald Kerr (Otago University Press, 2015), 424 pp., $60
The first thing one notices about Donald Kerr’s handsome new appreciation of Dunedin bibliophile Thomas Morland Hocken is its expanse: 300 pages of body text, followed by 100 closely printed pages of appendices, notes and bibliography. In Otago University Press’s previous excursion into this territory – The Fascinating Folly: Dr Hocken and his fellow collectors (1961) – Eric McCormick dealt not only with the doctor’s bookish fixations but also those of the country’s other two pre-eminent library donors, Sir George Grey and Alexander Turnbull (i.e. the entire ‘Holy Trinity’, to employ Kerr’s reverential phrase), in just 40 wryly worded pages. Where McCormick was content with a mandarin overview, however, Kerr probes steadily into the details of how Hocken chose, acquired and arranged his collection.
In his introduction Kerr apologises for the selective nature of his study. Considerations of space prevented him from providing data on each of the 5200 books, 2800 pamphlets and 650 manuscripts that Hocken bequeathed to the nation. In an ideal world, blessed with readers of unyielding stamina and publishers with limitless resources, Kerr would have furnished us, I am sure, with a multi-volume work. [Read more…]