From John Fairfax & Sons1    21 August 1877

"The Sydney Morning Herald"


21st August 1877.

Baron Ferd. Von Mueller C.M.G. M.D PHD. F.R.S.



Dear Sir,

We have just purchased from George Robertsons your "Introduction to Botanic Teachings at the Schools of Victoria."3 We should like very much to reproduce the work in the "Sydney Mail" with the illustrations which we could, no doubt, get electrotype of from the Government Printer in Melbourne. Of course we should not think of doing this without your full concurrence, indeed, permission. We regard the "Introduction to Botanic Teaching" as containing information that should be known to everybody & as our motto is "Knowledge is power" we desire to put that power into the possession of the people in the country particularly.

We take this opportunity of thanking you very sincerely for your kind letter of sympathy4 on the decease of our venerated Senior Mr Fairfax.5

We remain

Dear Sir

Yours faithfully

John Fairfax & Sons6

MS annotation by M: 'Answ 25/8/77. F.v.M.' Letter not found. See M to W. Odgers, 7 September 1877.
MS bears the decorative letterhead of the newspapers.
Letter not found.
John Fairfax died on 16 June 1877.

The file includes a letter written by John Fairfax & Sons on 3 September 1877 to Victoria’s Chief Secretary, G. Berry: 'Recently was published a book, on the authority of the Victorian Government, entitled "Introduction to Botanic Teaching." We have seen the work, and highly approve of it. In the hope of diffusing botanical knowledge among the classes, we applied to the author, Baron F. von Mueller, relative to reprinting the book, but that gentleman has advised us to make a direct application to you, we now most respectfully ask you to grant us permission to reprint the book in the columns of the Sydney Mail newspaper, together with the favour of a loan of the wood engravings used in the work. Should it not be desirable to lend the woodcuts, we shall be willing to pay a reasonable charge for electrotypes'. This letter was referred to M for comment on 7 September. He replied the same day (see M to W. Odgers, 7 September 1877), urging that the proposal be considered favourably 'as the reproduction of the little book will do credit to Victoria in the sister-colony, will cost us nothing and promote our knowledge elsewhere'.

On 10 September the Under Secretary, W. Odgers, asked the Government Printer, J. Ferres, for a 'report in regard to the wood cuts'. Ferres replied the next day: 'The drawing and engraving of the illustrations to the work cost £230, and an edition of 3000 copies was struck off. An individual in this Colony purchasing a copy must pay 2s/6d for it; but, supposing the Messrs. Fairfax's request acceded to, a copy could be procured in N.S.W. for sixpence. Even though it may be desirable to disseminate botanical knowledge among the classes, it would seem but just that the community who has borne the expense of originally publishing such information should be able to procure it as cheaply as one who has not borne any. Both the "Leader" and "Australasian" have an extensive circulation in the country districts of this Colony and also N.S.W.; and therefore, if it be expedient to republish this work in a newspaper, their claim to consideration should be prior to the "Sydney Mail." I cannot recommend the loan of the woodcuts because of their liability to damage. The expense of electrotyping would be about £24. But it is proper to observe that as electrotypes are in every respect equal to the woodcuts themselves, the supplying of electrotypes to Messrs Fairfax [would] virtually be presenting them with £230 — the value of the woodcuts.'

Permission to reproduce M's book in the Sydney mail was minuted by Odgers who wrote to J. Fairfax & Sons on 3 October: 'I have the honor to inform you that in compliance with the request conveyed by your letter of the 3rd ultimo permission is granted to you to reproduce the "Introduction to Botanic Teaching" by the Government Botanist in the Sydney Mail. The cost of Electrotypes of the Illustrations would be £24. I shall be glad to be informed if you wish them to be prepared.' (Unit 47, p. 323, VPRS 1187/P, VA 475, PROV).

On 6 October J. Fairfax & Sons wrote to G. Berry asking for the electrotypes and two copies of M's book (L77/11119, unit 982, VPRS 3991/P, PROV). Odgers requested Ferres to supply the books (10 October) and the electrotypes (11 October) (Unit 47, p. 431, VPRS 1187/P, VA 475, PROV). In forwarding the two copies of the book to J. Fairfax & Sons on 11 October, he reported at the same time that the Government Printer had been instructed to send them the electrotypes (Unit 47, p. 432, VPRS 1187/P, VA 475, PROV).

Ferres wrote to Odgers on 13 October: I do myself the honor to inform you that having no adequate means of doing the work in this Office, I have made enquiries and find that Messrs Walker, May & Co. are prepared to Electrotype the cuts & supply them ready for mounting at 7s/ each, should you think fit to authorise the expenditure, which will amount to £19.19.0 there being 57 plates' (L77/11283, unit 982, VPRS 3991/P, PROV). Odgers replied on 16 October giving permission for Messrs Walker, May & Co. to proceed (Unit 47, p. 473, VPRS 1187/P, VA 475, PROV). Ferres informed Odgers on 1 December that the electrotypes had been despatched to J. Fairfax & Sons, and enclosed an account for £20.6.0 (L77/13292, unit 982, VPRSE 3991/P, PROV). Odgers forwarded the account to J. Fairfax & Sons on 12 December (Unit 47, p. 1173, VPRS 1187/P, VA 475, PROV), who sent a cheque to G. Berry on 18 December (L77/13292, unit 982, VPRS 3991/P, PROV) which was acknowledged by Odgers on 28 December (Unit 47, p. 1329, VPRS 1187/P, VA 475, PROV) and forwarded to Ferres the same day. On 3 January 1878 Ferres sent Odgers a receipt for the cheque from Messrs Walker, May & Co. (L77/13992, unit 982, VPRS 3991/P, PROV) which Odgers forwarded to J. Fairfax & Sons on 7 January (Unit 47, p. 1369, VPRS 1187/P, PROV).

Serial publication of M’s book began in the supplement to the Sydney mail, 5 January 1878, pp. S 4-5 (B78.01.02) but with figure 1 printed upside down so that the leaves of Eucalyptus appear to project upwards rather than hang down. The final installment of 22 was published on 28 June 1878, p. 884 (B78.06.06).

Please cite as “FVM-77-08-21,” in Correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller, edited by R.W. Home, Thomas A. Darragh, A.M. Lucas, Sara Maroske, D.M. Sinkora, J.H. Voigt and Monika Wells accessed on 2 December 2022,