John Edward Fletcher

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John Edward Fletcher (18 January 1940 – 1 June 1992) was a British-Australian scholar best known for his research and publications on Athanasius Kircher as well as several other Germans who had lived in and/or influenced Australia.



John Edward Fletcher was born in the industrial city of Bradford in Yorkshire to a printer/soldier father and a millworker mother. There he attended Thornton Grammar School of which in his final year he became Dux and School Captain.

He went on as a scholarship holder to read for his BA degree at Queen Mary College, University of London, where he studied under such famous scholars of German as the Medievalist A.T. Hatto and the Renaissance and Baroque specialist Leonard Wilson Forster, later Schroeder Professor of German at Cambridge.

On graduating he moved on to the University of Durham to obtain Diploma of Education and then back to the Queen Mary College on a postgraduate scholarship intending to do his PhD under Dr Claus Viktor Bock on the 17th-century German polymath and polyglot Father Athanasius Kircher. His first task was to come to grip with Kircher's vast body of writings on most branches of learning of his age, for example: mathematics, astronomy, music, oriental languages - including Egyptian hieroglyphics, which Kircher was certain he had deciphered, but of course hadn't. The second task he and Dr. Bock set was to edit the immense correspondence from and to Kircher. Fletcher succeeded by 1966 in producing an extremely erudite thesis of over 900 pages - somewhere around the size of many of Kircher's own publications.


Fletcher then emigrated to Australia and took up the position of Senior Teaching fellow in the Department of German at Monash University. Almost immediately he began to indulge his lifelong passion for books and bibliography.

In 1968 he took up the first full lectureship in German Baroque Literature in the Department of German at Sydney University and was promoted to Senior Lecturer a few years later. He was to spend the rest of his life at Sydney University where he continued his research on Kircher.

His study leave was spent often in the British Museum Library, but more often in the Duke Augustus Library in the charming little north German town of Wolfenbuettel with its notable collection of 16th and 17th century books. Much of his research here was funded by the highly prestigious post-doctoral Alexander von Humboldt scholarship, which Fletcher had been awarded. He was also invited to organise the Library's International conference on Kircher and to edit the resulting book.


Back in Australia, John Fletcher worked particularly hard on books that threw light on all sorts of Australian-German contacts, especially of the 19th century. Amongst other things this led him to take part in the setting up of the Christopher Brennan Society, a literary society devoted to researching and publishing on the life and times of that brilliant but tragic figure in this University's history who had studied in Berlin around 1890, was famed as a poet in his own rights and who, as Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, lectured on several ancient, medieval and modern languages and literatures until he was sacked by the Senate for adultery and/or drunkenness in 1925.

Later in his life he had begun publishing studies of Germans in 19th century Australia and published one also on the Tasmanian Frederick Sefton Delmer who was a university teacher in Germany at the turn of the century. Fletcher collected all the poetry publications other than anthologies that had appeared in New South Wales between 1950 and 1980 and he published a comprehensive catalogue of these in the process. He also created a collection of poetry books that is the envy of public and university librarians throughout the country because, as the Fisher Librarian Dr. Neil Radford has said, no library can possibly have certain of these books, since they never went on sale anywhere.[1]

Late life[edit]

Soon after his arrival in Sydney, John Fletcher joined the Friends of the University Library and as a committee member, its Treasurer, Secretary and, at the time of his death, President. He was long a member of the Book Collectors Society of Australia and was at his death its President and Publications Editor, having produced his own last book in their series of Studies in Australian Bibliography.[2]



  • Fletcher, John E.: A brief survey of the unpublished correspondence of Athanasius Kircher S J. (1602–80), in: Manuscripta, XIII, St. Louis, 1969, pp. 150–60.
  • Fletcher, John E.: Johann Marcus Marci writes to Athanasius Kircher. Janus, Leyden, LIX (1972), pp. 97–118
  • Fletcher, John E.: Athanasius Kircher und seine Beziehungen zum gelehrten Europa seiner Zeit Wolfenbütteler Arbeiten zur Barockforschung, Band 17, 1988. -
  • Fletcher, John E. "Johann Marcus Marci writes to Athanasius Kircher", Janus, 59 (1972), pp 95–118.
  • Fletcher, John E. Athanasius Kircher : A Man Under Pressure. 1988
  • Fletcher, John E. Athanasius Kircher And Duke August Of Brunswick-Lüneberg : A Chronicle Of Friendship. 1988
  • Fletcher, John E. Athanasius Kircher And His Correspondence. 1988
  • Fletcher, John E. A Study of the Life and Works of Athanasius Kircher, ‘Germanus Incredibilis’. Edited by Elizabeth Fletcher. Brill Publications, Amsterdam, 2011.


  • Between Two Worlds : "Loss Of Faith" And Late Nineteenth Century Australian Literature / essays By Vincent Buckley ... [Et Al.] ; Editors: Axel Clark, John Fletcher And Robin Marsden. 1979
  • For Personal Pleasure : Gerald Lyn Fischer And The Pump Press, With A Bibliography / by Geoffrey Farmer. 1993
  • Frederick Sefton Delmer : From Herman Grimm And Arthur Streeton To Ezra Pound / John Fletcher. 1991
  • Friends Of The University Of Sydney Library 1961-1984. 1984
  • Georg Philipp Harsdoerfer, Nuernberg, Und Athanasius Kircher. 1972
  • German Books, 1501–1800, In Australian Libraries; A Survey 1969
  • German Language Books : In The Libraries Of Canberra, Melbourne And New South Wales / ed. By John Fletcher And Marlene Norst. 1972
  • German Manuscripts (1538-1864) In The Libraries Of Sydney : A Descriptive Catalogue / John Fletcher. 1988
  • Hermann Lau And His Sojourns (1854–1859) In Sydney, Goulburn, Braidwood, Araluen, Moruya And Shoalha / John Fletcher. 1991
  • The Jane Windeyer Bookplate Collection In The University Of Sydney Library : A Catalogue / John Fletcher. 1990
  • John Degotardi : Printer, Publisher And Photographer / John Fletcher. 1984
  • New Beginnings : Germans In New South Wales And Queensland : A Commemorative Volume / edited By Johannes H. Voigt, Assisted By John Fletcher And John A. Moses = Neuanfänge : Deutsche In 1983
  • Poetry Books And Poetry Broadsheets Published From 1950 To 1980 In New South Wales : A Catalogue / John Fletcher. 1989
  • A Short-Title Catalogue Of Sixteenth Century Printed Books Held In Libraries And Private Collections / compiled By John Fletcher And Rose Smith. 1979
  • St. James' Church, Forest Lodge : A Chronicle Of Parish Life (1877–1977) / compiled By John Fletcher. 1977
  • Story of William Pratt 1847-1933 and the Poems that Weren't Published in 1917 Studies in Australian Bibliography Fletcher, John Studies in Australian Bibliography Book Collectors Society of Australia PB 86
  • Frederick Sefton Delmer From Herman Grimm and Arthur Streeton to Ezra Pound Studies in Australian Bibliography Fletcher, J Studies in Australian Bibliography Book Collectors Society of Australia PB 62
  • W Kirsop 'Review of John Fletcher, The story of William Nathaniel Pratt (1847–1933) and the poems that weren't published in 1917, Sydney, Book Collectors' Society of Australia, 1990 in Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand bulletin, 18, 2-3, p...' Book review 1994
  • W Kirsop 'John Fletcher, or the achieving power of individual energy and determination' (article in scholarly refereed journal) Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin 18:2-3, 67-80, 1994
  • W Kirsop 'Review of John Fletcher, Hermann Lau and his sojourns (1854–1859) in Sydney, Goulburn, Braidwood, Araluen, Moruya and Shoalhaven, Sydney, Book Collectors' Society of Australia, 1991 in Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand bulletin, ...' Book review 1994 Vol 71, pt 3 (December 1985) JRAHS John Fletcher, 'Karl Scherzer and the visit of the Novara to Sydney, 1858'

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Taylor, Brian. John Fletcher Obituary. Sydney University News, August, 1992.
  2. ^ Stitz, Charles (2010). Australian Book Collectors (Charles Stitz, editor), pages 264 - 268. Bendigo: Bread Street Press.