In Memory of David Diprose
I was making the slide show for the bookseller picture gallery on this website, and I realized I didn’t have any pictures of me bookselling prior to working at Chapters Bookshop in Wynyard in about 1984.
This got me thinking about David Diprose. David was the owner of Gallery Books, a fine arts bookshop in North Sydney. I was his bookshop manager there in late 1979 and came back to work for him part time after Nick, my first child, was born.
So I googled him. I have googled him before but not found any result. This always surprised me because he had one of the first apple dealerships so I always thought he’d have a website sooner or later. I knew he’d moved back to Tasmania.
The results of my search this time, indicated that David died last year.
When I browsed his family’s website memorial and saw the pictures of him and his wife I felt sad. He hadn’t changed so very much, 30 years older but not really changed, I would have recognised him instantly especially with that expression.
I copied this photo from his families website. I do not have any photographs of him. I hope his wife doesn’t mind. I was very touched to read her eulogy, it was honest and charming and really good to know that he was loved. And that he still loved his books even if he never read them all…
You all know his books; he loved buying them, holding them, reading them. He read voraciously, but he only finished one book in my years with him. Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander. He actually read parts of all of his books across those years. All books are for reference. His beautiful dictionaries, his Filemaker manuals, his poetry, his speech books. You know how he loves a tale well told.
Its sad to think that when people are searched for they may only come up as an obituary. Facebook may have a lot of faults, but even the barest of profiles can put you in contact with people before its too late.
How I Remember David…
The Galerie Books bookmark with this message to me was left overnight for me to see the next morning when I came to work. The day before I’d become upset because I’d done something wrong and cost him money. He was rightly cross with me but the message told me I was forgiven. He was kind.
I had just moved back to Cremorne from Bondi when I answered the advertisement to manage a bookshop in North Sydney. It was 1980. Two of us interviewed for the job, myself and Paula, we both had bookshop experience. Since David couldn’t choose between us, he employed us both.
Paula was studying clothes designing, so she was happy to work part time. David was meant to be available to work, but he’d just got his Apple license, so I was really glad to have Paula to help me in the Bookshop.
Walker Street in North Sydney was a hub for artists and advertising designers. Close to Lavender Bay, we were patronised by such local celebrities as Ken Done, Brett and Wendy Whitely and Tim Storrier. Galerie Books specialized in the expensive, the exclusive and the exciting. It was busy and well stocked with expensive gifts. We sold Ken Done’s posters, stationary and the first lines of his T Shirts.
Galerie Books had shelves filled with fine art books and advertising year books, architectural and photography coffee table books, and the biggest range of limited editions locked behind glass in cabinets, I’ve ever seen then or since.
We had cheeky greeting cards and stupid gift items like a tin of wine cellar dust. We had plenty of fiction of all genres for all the people who ride on the train and bus. We had a select range of non fiction and hardcovers for cooks, the intelligent and politically minded. We were top of the range and I was proud to work there and it was my most favourite bookshop of all I have worked in.
We also had a back wall with shelves full of computer programming books. We were the place to go for computer books, no one else had any range. We had Basic, FORTRAN, Dos, Machine Language, Pascal and who remembers what else. It was thirty years ago!
The back of the store also had 2 x Apple 2 computers on a desk in a niche. These were constantly surrounded by intense looking men fascinated by one of the first microcomputers to be almost affordable to normal people.
On the right is an extract from a book that mentions David’s Computer Galerie, published a few years later.
“Diprose bought an Apple II. He used it to list all the books in stock by coding them so that a record of every volume was stored on one floppy disk. The code was recorded when each book was sold, and reordering became much more systematic.”
Forgive me but I beg to differ! I re-ordered by memory for nearly ten years after this before a decent software program was available to booksellers.
In fact this was the procedure we used at Galerie. Enter each book into the computer program with its title and ISBN. Write the entry record number on the sticker. Enter that number in the computer when the book is sold.Check once a week and see about 20 records where we sold over 1 copy and pages of single book titles unsortable by distributer or any other means.
It doesn’t matter really. All that was needed was some example he could show of what was to come. The word processor was about the only program that was actually useful back then. That is unless you could program a computer and not many could.
Computers were frustrating, data disappearing, time consuming, money demanding, heavy electronic potential machines back then.
I’m sure David could visualise the yet to come software that made a booksellers life so much easier, but I couldn’t. He was a visionary and indeed it was he that said to me that the best part of bookselling is always knowing what is new and the trends that people are into. That’s what he liked best, being at the forefront of knowledge and exploring the future.
He was a kind and generous boss. When I became pregnant with my first child, he was thoughtful and helped me out as he could. When I wasn’t ready to come back to work, he insisted on giving me a part time job, he called me every month for six months till I caved.
He loved books and so did I. He let me choose a limited edition book from those glass cabinets as a Christmas bonus each year and I treasure them.
Jim McGivern managed the new shop, also called Galerie Books, and I went to work there too. Within six months David got into financial difficulty paying the huge rent there. Jim and his partner bought the bookshop from him, and renamed it Chapters, but it was doomed from the start. Between the rent and the competition Chapters lasted a mere 2 years and eventually sent both owners into liquidation. That was a sad time. It’s hard to live through that kind of loss and debt and I watched three people do that in those 2 years.
Looking back now, so much comes back about David. He seemed able to jump into new ventures with wild enthusiasm and I remember him saying how easy it was to start a bookshop. He almost always wore a suit and appeared very business like, until suddenly his laugh filled the room and gave the lie to his sternness. He was a leftie and an aries and a bit of a lech, but what male wasn’t back then.
I have never forgotten his kindness or his openess to emotional goodwill and I never will.
Filed under: Bookselling