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Your KS #49: Signature in a book

Last night when I should have been doing something else, I took one of my most prized KSP books off the shelf. It’s a first edition of Working Bullocks (1926) with a striking dust-jacket. I’d never paid much attention to the owner’s signature, but it suddenly leapt out at me: ‘G-- Wirth, 26/10/28’. Wirth, as in Wirth’s Circus. Katharine, her husband Hugo Throssell, and five-year-old son Ric went to a performance of Wirth’s Circus in Midland in September 1927. She told Hugo during the performance that she would like to travel with the circus to research a new book, and at the end of the show he asked the owner, Philip Wirth, who agreed. Katharine packed quickly that night and took the train the next morning to meet them at Moora, north of Perth, where they performed that night. She travelled on their private train for two weeks for the rest of their Western Australian tour, putting on shows at ten towns across the Wheatbelt and Mid West. In October, she met them again when she was in Melbourne and put on a party to thank them at Green Mill Dance Hall. In my excitement, I had my dates wrong and I thought I could place my copy of the book to that thank-you-party—perhaps, I imagined, Katharine had presented the book to one of the Wirths but just forgotten to sign it. But I was wrong—the party happened a whole year earlier. One of the family was Gladys Wirth (1911-1960), an accomplished equestrian; perhaps the signature is hers. There’s a chance my book had travelled for years on the Wirth circus train with her, somehow staying in good condition. On the other hand, it’s also possible the book belonged to another Wirth, with no connection to the circus. I’ll never know for sure, but the book has become a little more precious to me.

- Read more about Katharine on Nathan’s blog,

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