Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fairfield: A History of the District by Vance George.

Fairfield: A History of the District by Vance George.  Hardcover book published 1991.

Some of you may have noticed an unashamed egotistical pride in some of my blog entries.  Usually this is in regards to my ability in picking a great/interesting book from the mountains of rubbish books that I peruse through.  The truth is I only write about my successes and I try to avoid writing about my failures.  In an effort to be slightly more balanced and a little more humble, I want to tell you about one of these failures.

Recently I experienced an overwhelming feeling of success and achievement in unearthing this particular title.  So great was this feeling, that I even contemplated doing a little victory dance whilst holding the book high in the air swiveling my hips and shouting “Yes, Yes, Yes”.  Fairfield is an inner suburb of Melbourne which is here in Victoria.  In other words a history of Fairfield has some local relevance and one would assume is 1/ of incredible interest, 2/ popular and 3/ much sought after, particularly to those who are interested in inner city histories.  Outer suburb histories for some reason, are less popular*.  I guess there’s less history on the fringes of cities whilst the closer you get to where a big city began, the more history there is.  Therefore my thinking is: Fairfield = Inner city history = Much sought after.

The book is a hefty tome and is a title that I had never seen before… it’s uncommon… at least it’s uncommon within my knowledge.   I was with a few other booksellers at the time of this unearthing, and proudly displayed my find and from memory they were impressed as well and why wouldn’t they be, this book has everything going for it.  So I get it home, still feeling the pride, still wanting to dance and look it up on line to get an idea of an approximate value and… it’s NOT worth the big $$$ that I intuitively felt that it should be worth. 

Let me recap before I continue.  This is an uncommon book on a subject that should be a surefire seller worth the big $$$.  So what’s the problem?

This book isn’t a history of Fairfield, Melbourne.  It’s a history of Fairfield, Sydney which is not an inner suburb of Sydney.  As I mentioned above, outer suburb histories are a little harder to sell and a history of Fairfield, Sydney (located 29 kilometres west of the Sydney central business district) is just that little bit less desirable (possibly a lot less desirable) than a history of Fairfield, Melbourne (6 km north-east from Melbourne's central business district) and I guess the online value of the book is probably the best demonstration of this. The book is of course of interest to anyone who is interested in Fairfield (Sydney), but I have a feeling that if it had of been a book about Fairfield (Melbourne) it would have been of more of interest / sold by now.  In other words, the book is not what I thought it was.

So my dancing shoes have been packed away and my unashamed egotistical pride has been deflated.  Yes readers, for every “The New Hotdog Cookbook” there is a “Fairfield: A History of the District”.  I will continue to search for that elusive (maybe non existent) history of Fairfield, Melbourne as you never know, one day the dancing shoes may once again be contemplated.

*Based on personal experience.


  1. If it was a book on Fairfield Melbourne and was so rare that I had never heard of it then I am sure it would be worth a lot of money. Fairfield was once part of the Shire and City of Heidelberg and so is mentioned in the histories dealing with this area. (The Heidelberg Historical Society also holds material relating to Fairfield). However, the social and developmental history of Fairfield is best understood by reading Andrew Lemon's 'The Northcote Side of the River' as its growth was more closely aligned with the development of the general Northcote region than of Heidelberg. The Lemon book is regarded as scare and has increased in value over recent years, although it is still possible to purchase it for a reasonable price from a private seller on ebay, for example.

  2. Hi Daniel,
    Thanks for the comments. I haven't seen a copy of The Northcote Side of the River but will certainly keep my eyes open.
    All the best

  3. Paul at AllSorts Books 275 High St NorthcoteJanuary 8, 2012 at 2:41 AM

    I was asked for a copy of Northcote Side of the River today (my shop AllSorts Books is in Northcote!) but, tragically, I couldn't see any on the net under $100.