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Ivan Jones Page (1938–2012)

by Juliet Flesch

Ivan Page, n.d.

Ivan Page, n.d.

With the sudden death in Melbourne of Father Ivan Page, M. Afr., Bendigo has lost a ''retired'' priest who greatly contributed to the diocese of Sandhurst and the cultural life of Bendigo. He was 74.

The Australian scholarly community lost a man who enjoyed an extraordinarily rich and varied career, and his friends and family lost the company of an enthusiastic campanologist and connoisseur of wine and food (which made him a wonderful companion in Rome and Paris as he explored their culinary possibilities). He was also an extremely knowledgeable art historian who delighted in sharing his discovery of little-known treasures and appreciation of well-known works.

Page was born in Scone, New South Wales, to Frederick and Mary Page. At the time his father managed a sheep station but later joined the Royal Australian Air Force (winning a DFC) and was posted to Sydney and then to Sale. The family moved to Melbourne in 1948 and Page attended St Kevin's Christian Brothers College and the University of Melbourne, from which he took a bachelor of arts degree in 1957.

After four years with the Defence Department he moved to Canberra to begin a 15-year career with the National Library, becoming its first keeper of rare books in 1968 and its liaison librarian for Europe, a position based in London, in 1975.

On his return to Australia in 1979 he announced his intention to join the Missionaries of Africa (formerly known as the Peres Blancs).

After study in England, Switzerland and France he was ordained in Canberra in 1986, when he was sent to the diocese of Kaya in Burkina Faso. He was to remain there for a decade, rejoicing in the missionary work, learning the local language and travelling widely throughout the continent.

In 1996 the archivist and librarian of the order died and this, possibly combined with the state of Page's own health, meant his recall to Europe to take over the position in Rome for which his early training had so admirably fitted him.

In this third stage of his career Page, who had already published two notable bibliographical works, began a program of reorganising the library and archives and making them both more easily accessible to visitors to Rome and, through his publications, to scholars worldwide.

He translated and annotated the works of earlier missionaries, wrote and spoke extensively in English and French on the publications of the Missionnaires d'Afrique and published an account of the printer Claude-Gilles Lecamus and his family, who worked as printers for the clergy of Toulouse.

In 2008 he ''retired'' to Bendigo, where he undertook, as so many ''retired'' priests do now, a busy program of ministry and scholarship, continuing to publish on bibliographical matters.

Page's contribution to the National Library extended from the acquisition to the cataloguing and description of notable collections, particularly of 18th century material, and assistance to scholars in the library itself and beyond.

His generosity towards his alma mater took the form of many gifts to the University of Melbourne library, ranging from a collection relating to the Sitwell family, theatre programs, art exhibition catalogues, religious works and rare French books.

He is survived by his sister and her family.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Juliet Flesch, 'Page, Ivan Jones (1938–2012)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

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