The bookbinder at sea

Naval history bound by naval hero – Vice-Admiral Sir John Augustine Collins

Vice-Admiral Sir John Augustine Collins

Libraries Tasmania recently purchased a two-volume set of Australian naval history.

It is of special interest as the bookbinder was none other than Vice-Admiral Sir John Augustine Collins – a great Australian naval hero. Sir John also happens to be Tasmanian.

Sir John was the son of Michael John Collins, a medical practitioner from Ireland, and his English wife Esther, née Copeland. He was born in Deloraine on 7 January 1899, and is the brother of Dale Collins, the Australian novelist.

Sir John was one of the first Cadet Midshipmen to enter the Royal Australian Naval College after it opened at Geelong in 1913. He showed early promise and won many honours throughout his illustrious career.

Sir John held positions such as:

  • Director of Naval Intelligence
  • Rear Admiral
  • First Naval Member of the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board
  • Chief of the Naval Staff, and
  • Vice Admiral.

He became a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE). He later served as Australia’s High Commissioner to New Zealand between 1956–1962.
What’s more, his hobby was bookbinding!

Apparently, Sir John mostly bound books for friends and family, so Libraries Tasmania is especially fortunate to have these two volumes.

He bound the volumes in 1970, as you can see from the handwritten note on the front endpaper of both books. He used black Morocco leather, with gilt tooling and decorations (‘dentelles’), marbled endpapers, and the top page edges also in gilt. The head bands are neatly hand sewn and, all in all, it’s an impressive achievement.

On the Royal Australian Navy website it is noted: “Sir John died peacefully aged 90 on 3 September 1989 and was commemorated with full Naval honours. In recognition of his service to the RAN, the Collins Class of submarines was named in his honour”.

Amanda Double, Cataloguer, Libraries Tasmania

Australia in the war of 1939-1945. Series two, Navy. 2 volumes: 1939-1942; 1942-1945 (published 1957-1968).

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