In May this year, Whangārei illustrator and book lover Mike Ferris opened an old journal at the Piggery Bookshop which led him to an intriguing story about a Northland man and a great French writer.
Inside, Ferris found a folded sheet of paper he almost discarded, a copy of an article from the magazine Chemist and Druggist, dated June 29, 1935. The article, A Unique Hobby, was written by Frank W Reed, at the time a pharmacist and book seller in Whangārei.
Ferris was intrigued at the connection between a well-known Whangārei family — Frank was the brother of publisher and conservationist A H Reed — and the French writer.
The ''unique hobby'' to which Reed referred was his research and translation of works by Alexandre Dumas. The French essayist, author and playwright wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, among many other novels.
As a boy, Reed read Dumas' novel, The Queen's Necklace, sparking a life-long fascination with the French writer. As a man, he amassed the greatest collection of Dumas' books and manuscripts outside of Paris.
Reed corresponded with eminent English and French literary mentors, at one time receiving a 550-page bibliography of Dumas' works.
He spent a year teaching himself French and translated much of Dumas' material into English. He also presented typed and bound copies to the British Museum and the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, for which he received decorations for services to French literature.
For many years, patrons at what is now the Old Library were familiar with the Reed Room, a reading room named in honour of the man who would bequeath much of his book collection to his hometown library.
That collection disappeared, thought to be in the 1970s when a leak in the roof caused it to be transferred to Auckland Library where Reed had bequeathed his internationally notable Dumas collection.
Ferris will give an address, titled Frank W Reed and his World Famous Dumas Collection, and also talk about Reed's community life, in Whangarei Library's May Bain Room tomorrow at 2pm . Booking are essential, at email@example.com