The Polynesian Society (Incorporated, 1926) was founded on 8 January 1892 at a meeting in Wellington called by Stephenson Percy Smith and chaired by Colonel W. E. Gudgeon. The initial membership was 112, since grown to 1,300 (1965), and the quarterly Journal of the Polynesian Society was decided upon. Since then the Journal has appeared regularly and is the principal vehicle of the society's programme of gathering and publishing information on the indigenous races of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. The full series of the Journal is today regarded as the richest repository of the lore of the peoples of Oceania. The first editors were S. Percy Smith and Edward Tregear, but after 1901 the former conducted the Journal till 1922. He was followed by W. H. Skinner, Elsdon Best, Johannes C. Andersen, H. D. Skinner, C. R. H. Taylor, G. S. Roydhouse, W. R. Geddes, W. C. Groves, and B. G. Biggs (present editor).
Presidents have included Bishops W. L. and H. W. Williams, Edward Tregear, S. Percy Smith, Elsdon Best, W. H. Skinner, Sir Apirana T. Ngata, H. D. Skinner, and J. M. McEwen (now in office). Except for the period 1901–25, when the headquarters were at New Plymouth, the society has been based on Wellington.
The society has assembled a considerable library of printed books, periodicals, and manuscripts. In 1960 this was deposited with the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, where it is accessible to students.
In addition to the quarterly Journal, the society has published a long series of memoirs, notable among which are: History and Traditions of the Taranaki Coast (1910), The Lore of the Whare Wananga (1913–15), both by S. Percy Smith; The Moriori People of the Chatham Islands (1911), by A. Shand; The Maori (1924) and Tuhoe (1925) both by Elsdon Best; Maori Music (1934), by J. C. Andersen, and A Pacific Bibliography (1951), by C. R. H. Taylor. A reprint series and a Maori monograph series are also published. Maori Marriage, by B. G. Biggs, and Maori Warfare, by A. P. Vayda, both 1960, have appeared under this latter heading.
Other notable books have been published elsewhere after being serialised in the Journal, such as Hawaiki and Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century (1904), both by S. Percy Smith. The standard Maori dictionary has, since 1917, been published under the auspices of the Polynesian Society, edited in 1917 by Bishop H. W. Williams and, in 1957, by J. M. McEwen.
The society has received financial assistance from the Maori Purposes Fund Board since 1924, and itself, upon occasion, gives assistance to other causes, publications, or persons.
by Clyde Romer Hughes Taylor, M.A., DIP.JOURN., formerly Chief Librarian, Turnbull Library, Wellington.