E.H. McCormick

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Tuesday 5 October 2010
Ron Brownson



E.H. McCormick never let his books be authored by a simply phrased Eric McCormick. It wasn't because he was either shy or formal, he just was E.H.McCormick to his public.

Arguably our first professional art historian, it is E.H.McCormick that the Gallery's Research Library is named after. Not just for our own respecting of him. Eric ensured that research would continue its work here through a bequest which he especially dedicated to the Library.

Eric was himself a bibliophile and bibliomaniac. He adored libraries and their contents. He wrote the best biography of one of New Zealand's most committed bibliophiles and bibliomaniacs - Alexander Turnbull. His 1974 biography is one the most revealing accounts of a New Zealand book collector. Donald Kerr's stirring biography of Sir George Grey's massive book collecting is another treasure about a person entirely obsessed with books and book collecting.

Here are the details:
E.H McCormick, Alexander Turnbull - His Life, His Circle, His Collections, Wellington, The Alexander Turnbull Library, 1974.

Donald Kerr, Sir George Grey, Colonial Bookman and Collector, Dunedin, Otago University Press, 2006.

I thought you should have a sample of Eric's writing as it says a lot about how much of a stylist he was with English.

On page 9 of Alexander Turnbull - His Life, His Circle, His Collections we encounter a stirring account of Alexander's parents:
"Citing a colonial proverb, 'Single men may succeed, married men must. Hursthouse strongly urged any bachelor emigrant to 'pause at the eleventh hour ... and add to his outfit 'a wife'. Walter Turnbull had no need to consult this oracle for advice that was universally prescribed nor did he postpone matrimony until quite the eleventh hour; on 29 April 1857, nearly three months before taking ship, he married Alexandra Horsburgh at Tweed Green, Peebles. Both groom and and bride were past the age of impetuous youth (he thirty-four, she twenty-nine), but there are no grounds for assuming that theirs was a calculated union of convenience. Moreover, if Walter's testimony is to be accepted, marriage led to emigration rather than the reverse."

Marti Friedlander
E.H.McCormick 1976
Black and white photograph
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki,
gift of the Auckland City Libraries, 1998