Story: Publishing

Page 2. Early publishing for Pākehā and Māori

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Books for settlers

As the numbers of European settlers increased from 1840 they provided an audience for publications – either polemical pamphlets on religious or political topics, or practical manuals and advice books. New Zealand publishing was always connected to a wider world: general guides for immigrants were similar for other colonies and published by London firms. But settlers needed specifically New Zealand guides to sheep farming, beekeeping and gardening, and directories, almanacs, maps and gazetteers.

Only fit for the colonies?

In 1889 Julius Vogel’s Anno domini 2000, or, Woman’s destiny was published in London by Hutchinson and Company and was also published in the same year as a colonial edition for distribution in New Zealand. In his 1909 bibliography of New Zealand literature, T. M. Hocken described it as, ‘A poorly written novel, sketching the condition of affairs in the far future, with woman at the helm. The scenes are apparently laid in New Zealand.’

Most were produced by printers in the main towns, such as Lyon and Blair in Wellington or Mills, Dick and Company in Dunedin; or by newspaper proprietors such as Creighton and Scales in Auckland. George Chapman, an Auckland bookseller, produced the first publishing list in the early 1860s full of such books. H. Wise and Company published its first directory of Dunedin in 1865 and in 1872 produced a national directory, which appeared annually until the 1950s. A rival Dunedin publisher, Stone, Son, and Company, produced provincial directories over the same period. Henry Brett, owner of the Auckland Evening Star, was an ambitious and successful publisher of useful volumes, especially Brett’s colonists’ guide (1883).

Māori traditions

Māori were a prime subject of interest to colonials. During his first term as governor (1845–53) George Grey undertook to record their traditions in book form. He believed that learning about Māori could assist him in governing the country. He also wanted to record a culture widely thought to be doomed and which he respected for the literary qualities of its songs, stories and sayings.

Grey’s first collection, Ko nga moteatea, me nga hakirara o nga Maori (1853), was in Māori and was printed in Wellington by Robert Stokes of the New Zealand Spectator. Grey compiled three other important books of oral traditions in Māori, two of which were published in Cape Town (South Africa) after Grey had left New Zealand.

Another Pākehā recorder of Māori oral tradition was John White, who, after a long career as an official interpreter and land agent, was in 1879 appointed by the government to prepare an official history of Māori. Six bilingual volumes appeared from the Government Printer in 1887–89.

These publications were problematic. White and Grey intervened in ways that distorted the oral texts, they obscured tribal differences in legends and traditions, and style and purpose were often lost. Some iwi were uncomfortable with yielding their songs and stories to a form controlled by Pākehā. Though purportedly directed at Māori, these books often reappeared swiftly in London with independent publishers. Ko nga moteatea was quickly followed by Polynesian mythology, an English selection of 23 of the 31 stories published by John Murray in 1855.

Colonial editions

Most substantial books on New Zealand topics were published elsewhere, or were, like Frederick Maning’s Old New Zealand (1863), published simultaneously or soon after in London. Lady (Mary Anne) Barker’s Station life in New Zealand was published by Macmillan in 1870 and several editions later was the first in Macmillan’s Colonial Library (books published for the colonial market). Several British publishers produced popular books in cheaper editions for the colonial market, thus asserting their prior claims. Travellers’ tales had long been published in Britain.

How to cite this page:

Elizabeth Caffin, 'Publishing - Early publishing for Pākehā and Māori', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 13 July 2024)

Story by Elizabeth Caffin, published 22 Oct 2014