Royal Reels: Gambling


Originally, I had no idea that this cover would reveal such an unusual man, William Legrand, Naturalist (Natural Scientist). The cover spoke to me, and I was not disappointed by the amount of information, albeit at times with conflicting data which was found (Name: Le Grand, Legrand; Origin: English, French; Age at death: 82 or 84 and 86). The cover had two stamps of New South Wales, the blue ‘TWO PENNY’ and the dull red ‘ONE PENNY’ QV stamps issued as early as 1862. They were cancelled with a single strike of a fine duplex of SYDNEY/ C/ FE 24/ 72/ A, with a vertically placed N.S.W obliterator.  The cover was addressed to W. Legrand Esqr, Naturalist, Hobart Town, Tasmania (Figure 1).

The reverse has two fine postmarks a black unframed HOBARTTOWN/ D/ FE 29/ 72/ TASMANIA and a red handstamp in a ‘diamond’ SHIP LETTER-INWARDS FREE/ 28 FE 28/ 1872 (Figure 2).

The Colonial Times Hobart on 3 December 1855 states that W. LeGrand arrived at Port of Hobart Town by Vice Admiral Gobius, a barque of 595 tons. One of the most rewarding of references was the Mercury (Hobart) 16 June 1902 in which there was a description of William’s ill health, which can be summarised as follows: Mr. Wm. Le Grand, one of Hobart’s old industrious, and respected citizens, whose book-shop near the corner of Collins and Argyle streets has long been the resort of bibliophiles. He has been a patient in Hobart General Hospital for the past 3 weeks suffering from general break-up of constitution, having attained the age of 84. His wife died many years ago and he has lived a very secluded life at the old shop accumulating books, old prints, newspapers, magazines, relieved only by chats with the more intelligent class of people callers. Pictures of William in his earlier years with his wife at the door of his bookshop (note spelling of name) and in his bookshop in later years, are seen in Figures 3 & 4.

He had been found in his shop in an insensible state which he claimed was due to someone who chloroformed him, and who had stolen £40. In hospital his health improved, but he complained of pains in the head. When he arrived in Hobart from London in 1855 he set up a book shop, for he had been a lover of books from his youth. His present collection numbers about 80,000 volumes. He has been for a great many years a correspondent with professors, government officials, antiquarians, and scientists etc. In particular he was very interested in early colonial history, and had many conversations with notable visitors that he named. William’s death was recorded in Walch’s Tasmanian Almanac (1903) p. 389 as 1 July, 1902 in Hobart at the age of 86. Elsewhere his life span was recorded as from 1818-1902, which would suggest that he was 84 at death.

So far nothing has been noted why the sender of the letter addressed him as a naturist, which implies he was natural scientist, and as an amateur he was regarded as a conchologist who studied the shells of land snails, first around Hobart, and later farther afield. Tom Iredale writes about a small, very rare, self-printed book by William Legrand entitled “Collections for a monograph of Tasmanian Land Shells”, published at Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town, Tasmania.

He was engrossed in shell collecting and had a very extensive collection which he catalogued and some are still named after him, for example Discocharopa vigens (Legrand, 1871)Although he was not a member of the Royal Society of Tasmania, William Legrand published a paper ‘On a new genus of freshwater mollusks’ in Papers an Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 1871: 27-28 [1872].

I am indebted to Luana Nandan, Special Collections at the University of Hobart who provided the majority of the text and the figures, much of which I could not access directly.

Addendum (June 2010):    Two examples of the SHIP LETTER INWARDS FREE are shown taken from Campbell, Purves & Viney’s Tasmania:  The Postal History and Postal Markings is shown as Figure 5.

Categories: Science