Researching the life of Alexander Turnbull

In May this year the Friends of Turnbull Library reaches a milestone anniversary, celebrating 80 years of supporting and promoting the work of the Alexander Turnbull Library. One of the ways we have begun to mark this special birthday year is by commissioning two writers to produce research essays on the life of our benefactor, Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull. Both Robyn Maree Pickens (of Dunedin) and Redmer Yska (of Wellington) will be writing biographical essays on Alex Turnbull’s life for us, and will be investigating areas such as his alleged homosexuality and drug addiction.

Redmer Yska (pictured left) has already produced a preliminary article (“A Collector’s Habit”) for the NZ Listener, 22 December 2018. For those who missed it, there is a link below to an online version of his piece, which begins:

“In 1901, wealthy Wellingtonian Alexander Turnbull, founder of New Zealand’s greatest private library, enjoyed an idyllic Christmas cruise in the Marlborough Sounds on his yacht Iorangi. Within a few years, he spiralled into depression and cocaine addiction. What went wrong?  He’s the handsome devil with the waxed moustaches who died a century ago. Alexander Turnbull, the millionaire bookman whose 55,000 volumes made a library, has been the toast of Wellington in 2018. There’s been a “Smart Alex” writing contest, a memorial walk, an iced cake as big as a shelf of encyclopedias …”