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David Bateman: A Loss to New Zealand Publishing

By January 18, 2012 No Comments

The New Zealand book industry was sad to learn of the death of David Laurance Bateman, who died on December 23 in Auckland of complications following a major stroke. David was the chairman and founder of publishers David Bateman Ltd, and a life member of PANZ.

Born in Plymouth, UK, 80 years ago, David did his National Service after leaving Tippins Grammar and then spent time in Kenya and Egypt before joining Collins Publishers on returning home. He married Janet in August 1954.

Working for Collins, David was in Johannesburg for three years and seven in Southern Rhodesia (as it was at that time.)

They returned – with four children – to the UK in 1964, then in 1968 moved to New Zealand as Managing Director of Collins. In total, David was with Collins for 30 years before setting up David Bateman Ltd in 1978. The company started sales and distribution of agencies the following year, and published its first title in 1980.

Initially, the David Bateman premises were in View Road – almost opposite Harper Collins – but moved to a specially built distribution and office facility in 1995.

The still proudly independent family-owned company publishes around 30 – 40 new general trade books each year and works on co-editions for the New Zealand and international markets.

 

Titles of which David was especially proud were The Noble Horse for the international market and locally, the impressive Bateman New Zealand Encyclopedia which ran to six editions and Bateman New Zealand Historical Atlas.

David also led the export drive for New Zealand titles through the 1970's and 80's. Present at many book fairs around the world, he was a pioneer in exporting many of our titles to overseas markets.

David held a number of key roles in the development of New Zealand’s book and publishing industry, and with his friendly, easy personality he was liked by all he met.

Upon “retirement” David was still a daily visitor to the offices, only becoming less frequent recently as he made more time for gardening, golf and grandchildren.

He remained remarkably fit, and according to son Paul Bateman, never spent a day in hospital until his unexpected stroke – David and Janet had hosted a staff Christmas party the previous evening.

David’s legacy is the just over 600 titles published and the sales of over six million Bateman books since he founded David Bateman Ltd.

David Bateman, a personal appreciation from David Emanuel

I met David when he was on his first New Zealand tour as the new Managing Director of Collins in 1968. In those days, Collins was the number one book and stationery company in New Zealand and we all waited with some concern about how well we would connect with the new chief executive. We had no worries. David was the friendliest and most helpful person you could find. He was always very approachable.

London Bookshops was a young expanding company, and sometimes we had to hold payments past their due date, but a phone call to David was all that was needed. He helped many other booksellers, and even helped one provincial bookseller to finance the purchase of his building and enabled that person to become one of New Zealand’s leading independent booksellers.

My wife Susanne and I soon became close personal friends with Janet and David. We toured together, both in New Zealand and overseas, tried fly fishing, but not very successfully, and went fishing in the Bay Of Islands.

David was a keen photographer, and we often spent time looking at photos, especially for the family history he was preparing for his grandchildren. There were also the many evenings spent with David and Janet at their home discussing books, gardening, travelling and bridge. David had just completed a new draft of his novel, soon to be published this year. We found the early draft fascinating, as it was obviously drawn on his life. We are sad he is not going to be here to see the publication.

David had two great loves, apart from Janet, after he left Collins. First was always his family, his children and grandchildren. He was head of a very close family and it was always a pleasure to see him connect with whoever visited him.

The second was his own publishing company, which he built from nothing into one of New Zealand’s great icons. It must have been so difficult to move from being one of the most important book personalities, with big expense accounts, to start a new company from scratch. But sheer hard work, helped at all times by Janet, showed the true mettle of David. His first book, Auckland is a Garden was the start of a great series, and a great publishing house.

We will all miss David’s friendliness, his helpfulness, his optimism and his just being there when needed.

David Emanuel, with his brother Peter, grew their father’s lending library to become the flourishing and innovative London Bookshop chain of stores, a major force in the book trade from the 1960’s until they were sold to the Graeme Hart-run Whitcoulls in 1993.