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Former bookseller Tony Reeder (76) finally found time recently to clear the piles of books that had been serving as "insulation" in his garage since he sold his Dunedin shop, City Bookshop, 40 years ago.
Doing this he came across what he thinks is an important link to New Zealand artist Frances Hodgkins.
Among the remnants he found a French book detailing the history of Napoleon’s campaign in Russia.
The University of Otago research associate professor came across the name W.H. Hodgkins and an address on the inside cover of Campagne de Russie.
He soon realised it belonged to William Hodgkins, father of Hodgkins and an influential figure in establishing European art culture in colonial New Zealand.
Mr Hodgkins lived in Dunedin from 1862, having lived in France, England and Australia.
The book unsold before Associate Prof Reeder sold his bookstore, has now proved to be significant.
"The book may fill in some historic gaps about where Mr Hodgkins was living and what he was doing at the time.
"[Mr Hodgkins] went to Paris in June 1855 where he assisted in a literary work of some magnitude at Versailles.
"Little is known about this period of his life, including where he lived."
Associate Prof Reeder planned to take the book to the Hocken Library.
"I will have to seek collaboration from people with forensic bibliographical skills and a research interest in Hodgkins.
"For my part, I am happy to have been able to provide some evidence that helps to fill gaps in our knowledge about his life.
The artist Frances Hodgkins was born in Dunedin in 1869.