Many ESA members will have known Dr. John Chapman who died on 30 June 2020. Edwin Jewell wrote a lovely tribute to John, we quote Ed:
I was a late starter to more serious collecting, in about my mid -twenties. As my father had introduced John Chapman to Australian historical medals, he then introduced me to John Chapman. I had developed a liking for the works of Norman and Lionel Lindsay, and it was thought I should speak to someone who knew about books and paper collectables. I still remember those first couple of meetings and was not put off by the amount of knowledge John had and how much I had to learn. There is always so much to learn.
John was so patient with a novice collector and happily gave his time and knowledge freely. John himself had a lifelong interest in collecting. His mother had run a furniture and collectables shop in Glenhuntly Rd, Elsternwick. The shop operated for 47 years and it strongly influenced John was and was where he gained an appreciation of antiques and historical items. The stock overflowed from the shop into their home and from a young age John was hooked on what he saw.
I have fond memories of visits to talk about both the paper and numismatic collections, over many cups of tea. John developed a taste for fine items in his collections but never an appreciation for good tea leaves. John always stressed that I should buy the best quality collectable, but when it came to tea, generic would do. It was best to avoid the cups of tea if possible.
John was an active collector of printed Australiana for well over forty years. He was seen at bookshops and auctions and was always near the front of the line at the opening of book fairs. His passion enabled him to make many rare acquisitions. He acquired the 1853 Bendigo Goldfields Petition which had many thousands of signatures. He later donated it to the State Library of Victoria. The original rejection of this petition by the Governor was one of the contributing factors leading to Eureka.
His book collection was sold by Peter Arnold in 2004 and included historical manuscripts, fine colonial bindings, pamphlets, parliamentary papers and material relating to Australian colonial exhibitions. The highlight of the sale was ‘The Deed of Settlement of The South Australian Company’; other rarities including significant manuscript material relating to the Port Phillip Association and so the settlement of Port Phillip.
The catalogue for the auction: The library of Dr John Chapman Australiana, printed & manuscript, & books on various subjects was prepared by Peter Arnold, (Prahran, Vic.: Peter Arnold Pty Ltd, ) 154 pages, colour illustrations, a colour portrait, colour facsimiles is an important reference for the collector and a memorial to a great collection and collector. As is The Dr. John M. Chapman Collection of Important Australian historical Medals prepared by Noble Numismatics. Looking back at both of the catalogues, I only wish I had purchased more from each.
John was always generous with his knowledge in both the book and numismatic communities. His generous spirit and enthusiasm will be greatly missed.
John collected with an eye to rarity and condition. His collecting interests over a lifetime encompassed stamps, printed Australiana and Australian historical medals, in each of these latter two areas forming very significant collections. He was an honorary Life Member and former President of the Victorian Division of the Book Collectors Society of Australia, on his death being Vice-President.
Republished from Ephemera Newsletter and What’s On # 11, March 2021.
The Allison carriage card is from the collection of ESA member Edwin J.