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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Expansion of Book Production

Although over 2,000 books and booklets were recorded as being in print in New Zealand in 1961, publishing of books has always been in a relatively few hands. There are at present only seven firms producing books in any number and two of these, Whitcombe's and Reed's, are by far the largest. Paul's Book Arcade (now Blackwood and Janet Paul Ltd.), the Pegasus Press, and Price Milburn have fairly recently come into the field. The period since the war has been notable for an increase in the number of novels and biographies published locally. Such books had been produced in New Zealand up to the turn of the century, but from then till 1950 authors usually turned to English publishers. The practice of publishing jointly with an English publisher, begun in the nineteen thirties, has been extended. The period since the war has also seen the very slow beginnings of local publishing for children. The publication of verse has continued, usually with the assistance of the New Zealand Literary Fund, whose help to publishers has undoubtedly ensured the publication of many books (prose as well as verse) which would not otherwise have found their way to print. It is nevertheless true that the supposedly greater prestige of overseas publication still persuades many good authors to seek a British publisher first.

The following table gives the number of new titles published in recent years in New Zealand, and a comparison is given with Canada, Australia, and South Africa, all countries which depend mainly on imports for their reading.

Any book or pamphlet containing five or more pages complete in itself as a single publication is included in this table. Official publications are not included in the Australian, Canadian, or South African figures, but most New Zealand official publications are included. Even so, the New Zealand production of titles is fairly high considering the population. Though the local publishing trade does not supply as large a proportion of its booksellers' stock as does the Australian publishing trade to its bookshops, the sales of local books have greatly increased recently.

New Zealand Australia Canada (20 per Cent in French) South Africa (English Language Only
1950 262 745 .. 612
1951 267 688 .. 626
1952 297 627 .. 477
1953 294 516 .. 583
1954 335 538 .. 637
1955 480 552 1,094 824
1956 456 643 1,522 755
1957 488 663 2,413 928
1958 412 720 1,537 891
1959 462 812 2,542 1,595
1960 546 830 2,743 1,472

(More recent figures are not available. – Ed.)

Bookselling in New Zealand obviously developed in a considerable way even during the pioneering era. According to the 1861 census there were 10 booksellers in Christchurch which then had a population of 3,205. Moreover, its bookshops had big stocks. J. Hughes of Cashel Street, Christchurch, advertised in the Southern Provinces Almanack for 1865 that he had – “BOOKS. Upwards of 30,000 Volumes in Stock including Standard Works in History, Biography, Travels, Science, Divinity, and Fiction”.

The craving of the New Zealander for the printed word continued. In 1901 Hamilton, with a population of 1,000, had two bookshops (and two daily newspapers). The proportion of booksellers to the population is still high, and the average purchase of books per head compares very favourably with other countries of the British Commonwealth, being considerably in advance of Australia. The average New Zealander probably spends or has spent about 35s. on books.

At various periods since 1940 the book trade has had to contend with import licensing which has been applied, usually with no great severity, to books. Books were exempted from licensing in 1963.