UNDER THE HAMMER: Ivan Hodges with some of the rare books and pamphlets, found in a heap of materials in a Wellington home, which will be auctioned in Nelson. Photo: Charles Anderson.

‘Gems’ of rare books discovered in the rough


Ivan Hodges’ heart started to race more than once while sorting through 10 tonnes of material.

He had been brought in to sort through the estate of Euan Stewart – a man with a varied taste in rather obscure books and pamphlets.

Euan had died and left behind an unruly amount of old treasures. But they were hidden in among everything else.

“This chap was collecting for mega years,” says Ivan. “This is the real thing – things I’ve never seen.”

So, as Ivan was sorting, he would come across things like a booklet on rugby rules from 1894, early Maori history, instructional pamphlets for ‘tommy gun’ automatic rifles and guides to diamond mining in South Africa.

Most of it hails from the late 19th century or early 20th.

“There are some real adrenaline rushes when you are sorting it,” Ivan says.

But to get there he had to sort through two storage units and a flat. In the pages of magazines there would be reports on early Maori artefacts.

“You couldn’t trust anything.”

Of the 10 tonnes, Ivan thinks he has brought about 15 per cent back to Nelson – “the real gems”.

“It’s an emotional issue for me to get right inside someone’s life.”

Ivan says that the collection is a “monumental thing” for Nelson and he never thought he would see anything like it after the Wakefield collection which was auctioned off several years ago.

The auction is at Lipscombe Auction House on New St at 12pm on Thursday 31 May, and 10am on Friday 1 June.