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A French Celebration: All For One And One For All

July 8 2002

People who have read and loved The Three Musketeers and other works by celebrated French author Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) will get the chance to see the original manuscripts in a display at the Auckland Central City Library from July 8 until October 12.

University of Auckland PhD student Donald Kerr, who curates the printed books at Special Collections, says the Reed-Dumas Collection is priceless and of huge international significance.

"Not many people know that Frank Reed, the older brother of publisher A.H. Reed, became passionate about Dumas' works after he read Dumas' novel 'The Queen's Necklace' at age 12. When Reed’s family moved to Whangarei from England in 1887, Frank continued collecting Dumas' works.

"He had the good fortune to establish contact with booksellers in England, and he wrote endless letters requesting manuscripts and books by Dumas be sent to him for his collection."

Reid eventually became an international expert on Dumas. At the age of 45 he taught himself French, translated 72 of Dumas' plays, and completed a definitive bibliography of all Dumas' writings.

He donated his entire collection to the Auckland Library in 1953. The collection contains well over 3000 volumes, 2000 sheets of original manuscripts by Dumas, 500 first editions in French and English of Dumas' plays and novels, newspapers such as Le Mousquetaire, the Robert Singleton Garnett collection, and associated materials such as film posters, maps by Cassini of pre-industrial France, and memoirs and biographies of many of Dumas' contemporaries (Balzac, Nodier, Hugo).

There are also 51 typescript volumes of Frank Reed's translations, letters, and bibliographies.

These works, which reflect Dumas’ brilliance as a writer, have not been on public display for over 12 years.

Classic books such as The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Black Tulip will be brought out of temperature-controlled storage to make up the exhibition, ‘Celebrating Dumas: His Life and Legacy’, to honour his 200th birthday.

"We are lucky that here in Auckland we house the largest collection by and about Dumas outside of France. The material on display includes original Dumas manuscripts and first editions of many of his works."

In true French tradition, gastronomy will also feature in the programme of events to celebrate Dumas' legacy.

"We are having a Dumasian feast based around recipes in his famous cookbook. This event will be held in the library on 24th July, Dumas' 200th birthday," says Kerr.

Other events celebrating Dumas' birth include a talk by Dr Jean-Christian Pleau who will discuss ‘French Myths in Alexandre Dumas and their After Life in Film’ at The University of Auckland's Centre for Continuing Education on July 25. He will introduce some of the historical myths that have been popularised in Dumas' fiction, and use visual media to illustrate Hollywood's fascination with Dumas' work and the real history behind the well-known tales.

A round table discussion with 19th century specialists from The University of Auckland, Danielle Jamieson, Jean-Christian Pleau and Dr Kerr will be held on July 30. The panelists will discuss the life and times of Dumas.


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