Living history

I’m a big fan of ebook readers - I basically don’t read paper books any more. But there are some cases where there’s no substitute. This is one of those cases.

As I recently mentioned, my folks are in the middle of a major house clear-out, so I’m inheriting a bunch of junk and some treasures. This item’s in the latter category..

My Dad worked most of his career for one of NZ’s two main beer companies. At some point back in the 80s the head office library at his work was being downsized and they junked some old items. Dad scored this off the throw-out pile:


It’s an 1879 first edition English translation of Louis Pasteur’s seminal work on brewing and winemaking. Pasteur was the first person to figure out what fermentation actually is and how it works, and that alcohol doesn’t just come from mixing organic matter with water and yeast and waiting for the fairies to do their work. This particular book was the personal copy of Charles Speight, son of the founder of arguably NZ’s most iconic brewery. Charles was the brewer who made Speights by far the country’s largest beer brand in the early 20th century, and the instigator of the merger that formed New Zealand Breweries (subsequently Lion Breweries and now part of Kirin). “World Famous in New Zealand”, as we say round here. It’s signed by him and has notes all through the margins in his handwriting. It also shows all the signs of having had a hard life as a working lab text - I suspect that spectrographic sampling of the cover would let you recreate most of the original Speights recipes.

I mean seriously - how the heck do you chuck something like this out and call yourself a librarian; never mind a librarian for a fucking brewery?

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