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  • Australian Born Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry – [Sir] John Warcup Cornforth – Signed manuscript letter

    Australian Born Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry – [Sir] John Warcup Cornforth – Signed manuscript letter

    A very special letter (dated 1980) not only because of its truly distinguished author but here we have real content. Letters by Nobel Prize winners are not terribly rare but so often are perfunctory, relating to meetings, events or simply lunch. Here we have real, in depth, chemistry. The receiver, Dr Buckel, a distinguished scientist in his own right, may have been rather embarrassed on receipt. Cornforth believes that Buckel had tackled his work from completely the wrong route … indeed Cornforth is puzzled and goes on to set out in great detail his preferred option(s). In our view the content reveals the manner in which Cornforth visualises the solution to the problem from first principles then more complex mechanisms and solutions and alternative options as his thinking develops. The fact of his genius is plain in the writing. We love it.

    The only Australian to date to have won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

    Dear Dr Buckel

    Thank you for your letter of 7 October. I was interested by your account of the work with glutaconate, but rather puzzled that you did not try the degradation to malate in the way you say I suggested. I have forgotten the details of our conversation during your very welcome visit, but certainly I would expect direct oxidation of glutaconate to malate by permanganate to be most unfavourable. This is because in glutaconate one has the combination of a double bond deactivated by conjunction with a carboxyl and a strongly activated methylene group. In these circumstances one would expect permanganate to attack the methylene group to a considerable and perhaps predominant extent, before the double bond was attacked. This is why it would be preferable to use a specific agent first to hydroxylate the double bond. Indeed, it should be possible to proceed in high yield to malic acid by making use of the fact that one of the hydroxyl groups will form a lactone. Thus: … chemical formulae.

    He goes on …

    The opening of the lactone ring is generally faster than the hydrolysis of an ester group (especially a benzoate) so that if you put the acetyl or benzoyl-lactone in hot water and neutralized the acidity as it appeared you should be able to get a clean ring-opening without other chemical changes. I really think you should try this – it seems so much simpler than the routes you have explored.

    I will ask at Sittingbourne if they have any chiral acetate left – I brought none of it here. It will be ten years old now and will have lost nearly half its original radioactivity but a specimen tested for chirality about five years ago seemed not to have been racemized by radiolysis or by preservation in the form of aqueous potassium acetate. However, I wonder if this is the best way to make chiral 4-substituted glutamates and I wonder if you could do this from chirally tritiated malate using R-citrate synthetase and malate dehydrogenase, following this by treatment of the citrate with aconitase, isocitrate dehydrogenase etc. This should give you a totally chiral product whereas by starting from acetate you are at the mercy of isotope effects.

    Cornforth goes on to offer his help in finding candidates for research, a task he may achieve on Thursday at The Royal Society where he is attending a discussion on glycolytic enzymes. There it is again proof The Royal Society …is the best Club in the World!

    Sydney born Cornforth was totally deaf by the age of twenty but already recognised as and exceptional academic. He went to England, Oxford, along with a similarly gifted chemist Rita Harradence, who he later married. His relationship with Rita started over a broken Claisen flask .. Cornforth was a expert glassblower … something that was essential in the aspiring chemist in the 1930’s. Interestingly, there was no place in Australia where one could do a decent PhD in chemistry at that time. Naturally at Oxford Cornforth was in his element. He went on to be the first to synthesise cholesterol and had a hand in stabilising penicillin building on the work of fellow Australian Howard Florey. Cornforth was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1975 and coincidental with being made “Australian of the Year”. Cornforth also won the Davy Medal, Copley Medal, was Knighted and made Fellow of the Royal Society

    Scientific gold – Manuscript letter with considerable scientific content by Australian Nobel Prize winner John Warcup Cornforth


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  • Keith Miller – Signed letter three days before the First Ashes Test in Brisbane November 1954

    Keith Miller – Signed letter three days before the First Ashes Test in Brisbane November 1954

    The great Keith Miller was getting near the end of his test career and was overlooked as Captain for this Ashes series in Australia.

    At the time he was the main writer for the Sydney based “Sporting Life”. Here he is writing to Sri Lankan identity Percy Samarawickrama.

    On Sporting Life letterhead …

    Dear Percy

    Many thanks for your kind thought in sending along the drawing which I thought excellent.

    We start the Test against England on Friday and I think the games should be fairly even.

    So far the English batsmen have failed, but they are too good to miss out for much longer.

    Anyway, Percy many thanks again, it was appreciated.

    Your sincerely
    Keith Miller

    Envelope post marked 22nd November 1954. The first Test of the 1954/55 ashes series was to begin four days later on Friday 26th November at Brisbane.

    Miller made a good contribution with bat and ball despite being injured for the second Test. The Brisbane Test went Australia’s way and they lead the series before Sydney. Captained by Len Hutton England fought back, both through the bat as Miller suggests but, and also through the ball. England’s new terrific fast bowler Typhoon Tyson took 28 wickets in a Series won by England 3:1.

    Cricket legend Keith Miller forecasts an improvement in the English batting line up, but not the “Typhoon”, four days before the first Ashes Test 1954.


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  • Antarctic Curiosity – Regarding Scott’s Last Letter to Sir Joseph James Kinsey, Christchurch 24th March 1912. [Letter and photographs dated 1923]

    Antarctic Curiosity – Regarding Scott’s Last Letter to Sir Joseph James Kinsey, Christchurch 24th March 1912. [Letter and photographs dated 1923]

    There is a sequence of letters Robert Falcon Scott wrote in his diary before they died in terrible circumstances on their way back from the South Pole.

    Our ephemeral item has special interest in a year were his earlier letter, an original, (16th March 1922) to Sir Edgar Speyer has just this month achieved a world record for such an item of over four hundred thousand pounds at Bonham’s in London.

    We do not have the original letter otherwise we would now be in the Bahamas.

    We have a handwritten letter from an unknown party based at The Hotel Mansion, Bayswater Road, Darlinghurst, Sydney on 28th March 1923. It is addressed to Mrs Craven of South Devon England on the very distressed envelope.

    The letter says … “this as a photograph of the late Captain Scott’s last letter. The two words in the margin “now mine” [Actually Now I] were added the day before he died. I have held the original of this letter in my hand – it is one of Sir Joseph Kinsey’s cherished possessions. I was greatly impressed by all I heard about Scott and would like to talk about it some day”.

    And, enclosed are the two photographs that cover the letter that was torn from Scott’s journal for delivery .

    Scott’s letter reads

    To J.J. Kinsey – Christchurch – March 14th 1912

    My dear Kinsey – I’m afraid we are pretty well done (now I). Four days of blizzard just as we were getting to the last depot my thoughts have been with you often. You have been a brick. You will pull the expedition through. I am sure.

    My thoughts are for my wife and boy. Will you do what you can for them if the country won’t.

    I want the boy to have a good chance in the world, but you know the circumstances well enough.

    If I knew the wife and boy were in safe keeping I should have little regret in leaving the world, for I feel that the country need not be ashamed of us – our journey has been the biggest on record, and nothing but the most exceptional hard luck at the end would have caused us to fail to return. We have been to the S. pole as we set out. God bless you and dear Mrs Kinsey. It is good to remember you and your kindness.

    Your friend
    R. Scott

    Scott’s Last Letter to Kinsey – An early original reference from 1923


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  • Edward Elgar Symphony No 2 – with Expert Manuscript Annotations

    Edward Elgar Symphony No 2 – with Expert Manuscript Annotations

    Published by music score specialists Novello of Sevenoaks, Kent. No date originally published in 1911 and dedicated to the memory of the then late king Edward VII.

    Written, or designed as Elgar would have it, in 1910 as a tribute that missed publication before the King’s passing.

    Soft cover 171 pages of score Symphony No 2 in E Flat Op 63, copyright by the publisher. Printed in a facsimile style of the original. Carried the name at front John Snowdon, probably the musical talent who lives in the Huon area.

    What makes this special in our view, apart from the magnificence of the piece, is the manuscript interpretive annotations, mainly towards the front of the work … robust theme; E Flat with colouring; rising 5th syncopation; similar to Brahms; wild outbursts of orchestral virtuosity; ghost episode … we love it.

    Elgar’s magnificent No 2 with expert annotations.


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  • A Living Voice of the Living Bush – William Ricketts – Wonderfully Annotated and Signed.

    A Living Voice of the Living Bush – William Ricketts – Wonderfully Annotated and Signed.

    First and only edition published by the Victorian Forestry Commission in 1965 celebrating the incredible art of William Ricketts. Larger format soft cover, 24 pages with sixteen colour illustrations. A bit marked and aged on the cover, clean inside, forgive any deficiencies for his manuscript additions.

    The annotation on the first blank page reads as follows … “From my Mountain of Remembrance where we remember with love everything that was created … [followed by his creation symbol underscored with his signature] … The Prayer of the Mountain – The Prayer of the Forest – My prayer – all are one Prayer … “

    Added in different hand the name of the receiver.

    William Ricketts (1898-1993) misunderstood and maybe he misunderstood … regardless he made beautiful objects. If it offends, well then that’s a bit sad. He was a religious man and felt the earth and whether he misrepresented and misplaced .. well that gives a job for the academic critics. Just enjoy them. They were badly damaged in a massive storm a couple of years ago … we hope they have been resurrected.

    In the 1950’s he spent quite some time with the Pitjantjatjara and Arrente people in Central Australia … they inspired his work among the trees in the Dandenong Mountains.

    William Ricketts – A rare annotation we believe.


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  • One Ceremony One Song. An Economy of Religious Knowledge Among Yolnu of North-East Arnhem Land. A PhD Thesis – Australia National University – 1978 – Ian Keen

    One Ceremony One Song. An Economy of Religious Knowledge Among Yolnu of North-East Arnhem Land. A PhD Thesis – Australia National University – 1978 – Ian Keen

    An original copy of the monumental Thesis written by Ian Keen to obtain his PhD from ANU in 1978. Keen to go on to be a respected anthropologist holding positions at Queensland University and ANU and spending time at Oxford, visiting Professor at Osaka etc.

    Perfect bound in blue cloth covered boards, gilt titles to front and spine. Typed on one side 412 pages with 19 pages of plates from the authors photographs; 72 Figures in text; 45 tables of information and 4 maps. This copy gifted to “Jimmy” clearly an associated academic with a few marginal notes etc. Over 3 kgs in weight so if Overseas a postage supplement will be necessary.

    The English born author was late to the academic world having first worked as an art restorer before doing an undergraduate degree at the University of London under Mary Douglas in his mid thirties. He did well and soon won a scholarship to work on Aboriginal religion through song symbolism in Arnhem Land, Northern Australia. This thesis demonstrates the depth of his research and provides a meticulous record of his findings.

    He commenced his work on the island of Milingimbi in 1974 and worked there for fourteen months before completing a further 10 months on the mainland at Nanggalala. Its is not surprising that “’writing up” took him some time.

    His “Abstract” explains his examination of the relationship between the organisation, ownership and content of religious practice and knowledge, marriage and power relations in Yolnu society. He argues that older men require the authority gained through their control of secret ceremonies and religious knowledge, in order to sustain a polygamous regime. Making possible a system of marriage through which some men gain many wives. Keen’s description of the various ceremonies is highly detailed … we doubt if any broadly published material covers such content with similar vigour.

    A special reference relating to the Yolnu of Northern Australia.


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