AN obsession with a watercolourist who died in 1843 meant an ignominious end to Harris Myers' civil service career. It was the 47 reams that went to produce 750 copies of the 288-page William Henry Pyne and his Microcosm that the former Cambridge University Press chief Myers failed to pay for that led to him being charged with accepting an advantage. Myers had spent more than 20 years researching Pyne's work and working on the manuscript. In February 1995 he approached Hans Lodders, managing director of Agfa Hong Kong, then Agfa-Gevaert, prosecutor Ian McWalters told Eastern Court. Mr Lodders agreed to help Myers by sponsoring production of the book, because special printing techniques for coloured pictures were only available from Agfa, Mr McWalters said. In return, Myers was to give Agfa 100 copies of his book so the company could use them to promote its new technology, he added. Myers instructed his staff to print 750 copies of his book, with Agfa's technical assistance. Most of the books were sent to Britain, while 100 copies were set aside for Agfa and had not been released, the court was told. In October 1996, Myers applied to Secretary for Civil Service Lam Woon-kwong for approval, but was told the book represented a conflict of interest. Last May, he was told to repay Agfa and the department - but he did not pay for the paper. Last month the Independent Commission Against Corruption investigated after receiving a complaint. Myers acknowledged he had not paid for the paper, worth almost $34,000, and settled the amount. In mitigation, defence barrister Edward Laskey said the defendant had been foolish and obsessed by producing his book on the 19th-century artist. 'It has never been a case of a government servant enriching himself illegally and immorally from his position,' Mr Laskey said. 'It is more the case of a tragedy . . . a man who had an obsession, perhaps a life ambition, to produce this book.' Myers had received letters of praise from Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Tung Chee-hwa for his good work, Mr Laskey said. The book, which is available in Britain for GBP35 ($440) was published on July 1 last year. Myers, who lives in Deep Water Bay Road, is the most senior civil servant arrested by the ICAC. He was to start retirement leave today and his final one-year contract is due to expire on April 27.