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Friday, October 30, 2015

From the collections

Extra-illustrations from Paxton's botanical dictionary. GC 580.3 P34.

An 1849 botanical dictionary in Special Collections provides a fascinating insight into the pursuits of a keen Victorian gardener who has personalised it with sketches, notes and pressed specimens.1

That gardener was one Richard Suter of Castle Hill, Maidenhead, based on an ownership inscription in the dictionary which matches the handwriting of most of the annotations.2 Richard Suter (1798-1883) was a London architect and surveyor whose work includes St Peter's Almshouses in Wandsworth. Suter and his first wife Ruth Anne Burn (c1804-1854) were the parents of Andrew Burn Suter, the second Anglican Bishop of Nelson, New Zealand from 1867-1891.3

This annotated copy of A pocket botanical dictionary : comprising the names, history, and culture of all plants known in Britain ... is one of only a few held in New Zealand libraries. A popular guide which reached multiple editions, the dictionary was compiled by Sir Joseph Paxton with assistance from botanist John Lindley (1799-1865).4 Paxton, perhaps best known as the architect of London’s Crystal Palace, was also a renowned gardener, author, publisher and MP.5

Catering to the strong Victorian interest in botany, the dictionary listed scientific and general information about plants in Britain, including recent introductions from distant lands. Paxton (1803-1865) told readers that with the dictionary in hand, `… the possessor or cultivator of plants may perambulate his own garden, visit those of his friends or public establishments, and attend floricultural exhibitions, in the full assurance that if any particular object engage his attention, he may at once derive every fact of interest…’6

It seems Richard Suter did plenty of perambulating. In notes dating primarily from the 1860s-1870s, he recorded plant sightings in and around Maidenhead, London and further afield, including a cuckoo flower `on the sloping ascent South Side of Poplar Station Nov. 27 65’. Suter also detailed who supplied cuttings, `geranium from Mr Shadwell of Slough Oct 24. 67’, from which countries plants originated, how they fared in his garden and tips such as `Mr John Higgs recipe for poisoning field mice.’

Suter’s annotations, drawings, watercolours and pressed specimens are on specially-inserted blank leaves and relate to the printed entries on the facing pages. These markings wonderfully bring to life some of the dry botanical listings, reveal a little of Suter’s life and times and ensure that this copy of the dictionary has research value beyond its text.

Jo Birks, Special Collections

1J. Paxton and J. Lindley, (1849), A pocket botanical dictionary : comprising the names, history, and culture of all plants known in Britain : with a full explanation of technical terms, London : Bradbury and Evans. Glass Case 580.3 P34.
2The handwriting also matches Richard Suter’s letters at the Alexander Turnbull Library and architectural plans at the London Metropolitan Archives.
3J.S. Curl, (2006), A dictionary of architecture and landscape architecture (2 ed.), online edition, Oxford University Press; Katherine W. Orr. 'Suter, Andrew Burn', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 26-Feb-2014; The Blain biographical directory of Anglican clergy, retrieved from
4Richard Drayton, ‘Lindley, John (1799–1865)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/16674
5John Kenworthy-Browne, ‘Paxton, Sir Joseph (1803–1865)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/21634
6Paxton and Lindley, (1849),

Friday, October 23, 2015

UNESCO World Day for Audio-visual Heritage

The 27th of October will mark the tenth World Day for Audio-visual Heritage. The day was established at the 2005 UNESCO General Conference as a way to acknowledge the importance of audio-visual archives and to raise awareness of the need to preserve them. 1The slogan for this year’s World Day for Audio-visual Heritage is ‘Archives at Risk: Protecting the World’s Identities’. 2
Here at Special Collections we hold a wide range of AV material, including poetry readings from the Alan Brunton and Sally Rodwell papers (MSS & Archives 2009/4), oral history interviews of   University of Auckland women alumni by Toby Harfield (MSS & Archives 2008/16), sound recordings of Auckland University Students’ Association carnival performances (MSS & Archives E-9) and American Samoa Community College video recordings from the Samoan Studies Institute (MSS & Archives 2009/5).
As the slogan ‘Archives at Risk: Protecting the World’s Identities’ implies, audio-visual archives are particularly vulnerable to deterioration, damage and obsolescence. It is estimated that most of these archives have a 50 year life span which is generally much shorter than that of paper records. 3 In order to ensure they are preserved for future use preservation work is a necessity. This includes storing them in acid free containers which help prevent environmental damage from light, dust and moisture. The containers are then kept in a stable, cool and dry climate to further slow the rate of deterioration. Once the material is organised and safely stored, transfer to digital media offers the best means of ensuring continued preservation and easier access for researchers.
Leah Johnston, Special Collections

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Twilight of Empire display

Photo, WPHC 10/XV/325/009. Western Pacific archives. 1875-1978. MSS & Archives 2003/1, Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services
Detail from `Preparation for a feast at Santa Anna', ca1939-49.1

Items from the Western Pacific Archives are on display outside Special Collections in the General Library until early October.
The Western Pacific Archives (WPA) contains the records of the British colonial administration in the Western Pacific from 1877-1978. This covers the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Pitcairn, and Kiribati and Tuvalu, and was transferred from the UK in 2002.
Its historical and research significance was reflected in the UNESCO Memory of the World Regional Register for Asia/Pacific award which was presented to Special Collections in 2014. This award was in recognition of the great importance of the archive to the whole region, and justifies its return to the location where most research is likely to be undertaken.
Spanning more than 760 linear metres (about 2,800 archive boxes), the WPA was transferred to the University Library in 2002, following negotiations with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and with the consent of all interested governments in the region.

Since the transfer in 2002, the WPA has attracted local and international researchers who have ranged across such diverse topics as the history of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony, the interface between native medical practitioners and the colonial administration, German migrants in Tonga, the history of coastwatchers, children of servicemen in World War Two, and numerous family history projects.
For more information on the collection, see this Special Collections webpage.
Stephen Innes, Special Collections
1 WPHC 10/XV/325/009. Western Pacific archives. 1875-1978. MSS & Archives 2003/1, Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.

Friday, July 10, 2015

No Bombs South of the Line

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (NZ) flyer for 1963 petition.

Special Collections have put together a small display to mark the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. Rather than focusing on the actual events of 10 July 1985, the display explores the history of New Zealand campaigns against nuclear testing in the Pacific from the 1950s to the early 1980s.  
The title for the display comes from the New Zealand Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s 1963 petition for a nuclear free Southern Hemisphere which was signed by over 80,000 New Zealanders.  This flyer outlining the aims of the petition is featured in the display along with other items from Special Collections’ extensive holdings of material relating to New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance. These holdings include the records of the New Zealand Peace Council covering the period 1948 to 1971, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (NZ) from its formation in 1957 to 1994 and the Auckland Hiroshima Day Committee for Peace from the 1960s.
Katherine Pawley, Special Collections
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament petition, 1963. New Zealand Peace Council records. MSS & Archives A-287, item 4/3. Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Emplaned at Whenuapai

1953 emplaning check from Kenneth Cumberland papers.

Special Collections has recently completed processing the papers of the University of Auckland’s first Professor of Geography, Kenneth Cumberland. Born in Yorkshire in 1913, Cumberland came to New Zealand in 1938 to teach at Canterbury University and was appointed Senior Lecturer of Geography at Auckland University College in 1946.  During his first year at Auckland, Cumberland was the Geography Department’s only member of staff; however the new subject proved so popular with students that two more staff were appointed in time for the 1947 academic year.  In 1950 Cumberland was made chair of the Department and remained its professor until his retirement in 1978.

During his academic career and retirement Cumberland travelled a great deal both within New Zealand and overseas. Beginning in the 1950s he retained all his tickets, itineraries and other travel ephemera, carefully arranging the collected material chronologically by decade.  Among the material from the 1950s are a number of emplaning checks issued by the New Zealand National Airways Corporation (NAC); which was New Zealand’s main domestic carrier between 1947 and 1978.  In 1978 the airline was merged with Air New Zealand, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

Issued for a flight from Auckland to Dunedin in November 1953, the emplaning check above is part ticket, part boarding pass. Besides being entranced by the term ‘emplaning’ I was intrigued to see that rather than checking in at the airfield; passengers reported to the NAC Office in the city centre and were transported to the airport by the airline. Professor Cumberland obviously made his 8.00 pm flight as the bottom of the check has been neatly stamped ‘Emplaned at Whenuapai’.

Katherine Pawley, Special Collections.


Kenneth Cumberland papers. MSS & Archives 2013/4, item 10/1/2. Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.

A brief history of Air New Zealand, focusing on highlights and major events’. Retrieved from

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Orientation at the University of Auckland

During the early days of Auckland University College first year students were referred to as “Freshers” and their orientation experience would have been quite different from that of first year students today. In our Fun for Freshers! display we take a look back at past orientation activities through a selection of printed material and archives held here in Special Collections. Included are orientation programmes, early student handbooks, student magazines and photographs providing snapshots of Auckland University orientation from the early 1900s to the late 1990s.

As a relatively small college, with only 156 students in 1901, the social life at Auckland University College was not well established early on. 1 It wasn’t until the 1930s that clubs, associations and societies were formed and began to host events such as the Freshers’ Debate and Freshers’ Welcome.

From the 1960s onwards the term “Freshers” was used less and was instead replaced with the more familiar “Orientation”. Activities available to students were similar to those offered today. They included an Orientation dance or prom, clubs and society welcome events and film screenings. The 1968 Orientation Programme shows that the movie The Scream of Fear was being shown, but was “not recommended for nervous persons” and the German Students Society held a Frankfurter Evening to welcome new students. 2

The picture shown above is taken from a collection of Public Relations Division photographs and shows a typical scene of Orientation activities being held in the Quad during the 1990s. 3 If you look closely you can see that Mad Max was the lunchtime movie showing at the Maidment for which tickets were $1.00. By the 1980s and 1990s Orientation had become a well-established event on the University calendar and one that has continued to grow and evolve to the present day.

Leah Johnston, Special Collections

1. Sinclair, K. (1983). A history of the University of Auckland, 1883-1983. Auckland, N.Z. : Auckland University Press: Oxford University Press (p.33).
2. Auckland University Students' Association Orientation Programme, 1968. University of Auckland historical collection. Part 1. MSS & Archives E-8, box 7. Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
3. Orientation activities held in the Quad (ca 1990). University of Auckland Department of External Relations, Public Relations Division photographic collection. MSS & Archives. 2007/10, item 9/1/3/1. Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Remembering Aldus Manutius


Detail from 1554 Aldine edition of Demosthenes
The Aldine press device and a wood-cut from Demosthenes, (1554), Orationum, Venetiis : Paulo Manutio.

Pocket-sized books and the italic typeface are two enduring printing innovations introduced by the Italian Renaissance printer-publisher Aldus Manutius, who died 500 years ago. 
Born ca. 1450 near Rome, Aldus Manutius or Aldo Manuzio was a humanist scholar. He worked as a tutor before moving in about 1489 to Venice where he set up the Aldine press with backing from established printer Andrea Torresani (1451-1529) among others.  Aldus, who produced his first book in 1495, is perhaps most widely renowned for publishing the first printed editions in Greek of the works of many classical Greek writers, such as Thucydides and Herodotus.1
For his books in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and the vernacular Italian, Aldus commissioned several typefaces, including Bembo and the first italic typeface from the type designer Francesco Griffo.  The italic type was used in the small-format `octavo’ books Aldus introduced in 1501, which he called `libri portatiles’ or portable books. He also collaborated with leading scholars of the day, including Desiderius Erasmus and Thomas Linacre.  Following Aldus’ death on 6 February 1515, the Aldine press was carried on by Torresani (by then his father-in-law) and later his son Paulo Manutius (1512-1574) and grandson Aldus Manutius (1547-1597).1
The above images are from the 1554 Aldine edition of Demosthenes' Orationum, which was printed by Aldus’ son Paulo.2 This three-volume work in Special Collections is bound in ca. 19th century half-vellum. Each volume carries the armorial bookplate for William Henry Dutton (1827-1896), a lawyer and book collector of Hewcroft, Newcastle, England, whose library was sold in London by Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge in 1903.3 One volume has the signature of an earlier Greek owner.  
Special Collections also holds a fine facsimile edition of Aldus’ most famous work, the 1499 Hypnerotomachia poliphili,4 which is hailed for its typographical design and its many exquisite woodcut illustrations.  
This year, numerous exhibitions and symposia will explore the legacy of Aldus Manutius 500 years after his death, including the 2015 conference of the Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand.
Jo Birks, Special Collections
1 M. Davies, (1995), Aldus Manutius : printer and publisher of Renaissance Venice, Malibu, Calif.: J. Paul Getty Museum; M. Lowry, (1979), The world of Aldus Manutius : business and scholarship in Renaissance Venice, Oxford : Blackwell.
2 Demosthenes, (1554), Orationum, Venetiis : Paulo Manutio. Glass Case 885.6 A
3 (1903), Catalogue of the interesting library of books and manuscripts of the late William Henry Dutton, Esq. (of Hewcroft, Newcastle, Staffordshire) : comprising incunabula and other early printed and modern books illustrating the history of printing ... , London : Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge.
4 F. Collona, (1963), Hypnerotomachia Poliphili [facsimile], London : Eugrammia Press. Glass Case 093 C71

Friday, January 23, 2015

Auckland Anniversary Day

Enjoying the Auckland Regatta, an illustration from the programme for the 1890 anniversary celebrations

Yesterday I explained to my teenage son that he starts back at school next Tuesday because Monday is a public holiday.  “Why,” he asked.
 “Because it is Auckland Anniversary Day”, I explained.
 “Why,” he asked. 
So we looked it up and I was surprised to find that the holiday actually marks the day that Governor William Hobson landed in the Bay of Islands on 29 January 1840, not the founding of the European settlement of Auckland. Officially, Auckland was established on 18 September 1840 when Hobson’s deputy, Captain William Symonds, hoisted the Union Jack at Fort Britomart.  
The holiday was established in January 1842 when Governor Hobson directed that “Saturday, the 29th instant, being the Second Anniversary of the establishment of the colony…be held a general holiday, on which the Public Offices will be closed.”1  
This association of the holiday with the foundation of the colony is apparent in the introduction to the programme for the Auckland 50th jubilee celebrations in January 1890. The illustrated, 48-page programme, held in Special Collections, outlines a whole week of celebrations “on a scale of grandeur hitherto unknown in this part of the British Dominions” to mark the “proclamation of the Queen’s sovereignty over the islands of New Zealand”.  Events included a procession of Friendly and Trade Societies from the Ponsonby Reservoir, along Karangahape Rd and down Symonds Street to the grounds of Government House,  a horticultural show, athletics and swimming carnivals, rowing races, Maori canoe races, horse racing and of course a Jubilee Regatta.

Katherine Pawley, Special Collections


1. New Zealand government gazette. 26 January 1842, Vol. 2 , 4th edition, page 16.

'Auckland's first Anniversary Day Regatta', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 29-Oct-2014.

Auckland jubilee celebrations 1890: guide book and official programme for use of visitors and others (1890). Auckland, NZ. H. Brett. NZGC 042 7.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The joy of reading

Two girls reading in classroom.

Do your plans for the summer holidays include reading a good book or two?  I know mine do; but do you remember learning to read?  Perhaps one of the reading books currently on display outside Special Collections will jog your memory.

The books document some of the ways in which New Zealand children have been taught to read over the last 100 years.  Nearly all the books are illustrated and it is these colourful images, more than the text, which you may remember.  

Given the time of year we have included a copy of Christmas shopping from the New Zealand Education Department’s Ready to Read series of readers in the display.  Published in 1966 the book tells how Mark and his sister are taken Christmas shopping by Mother; they visit Father Christmas, buy a hose for Father and slippers for Grandma.  As you will see Mark looks suitably impressed.

The books are part of an extensive collection of school text books amassed over a period of 20 years by writer and publisher Hugh Price (1929-2009) and described in his 1992 publication School text books published in New Zealand to 1960.  In 2001, Price generously donated his collection to the Alexander Turnbull Library and the University of Auckland.  The books donated to the University are held in Special Collections as The Hugh Price Collection and are available for use in the Special Collections reading room.

Katherine Pawley, Special Collections


Price, H. (1992). School text books published in New Zealand to 1960. Wellington, NZ: Dunmore Press and Gondwanaland Press.

Roberts, M., & School Publications Branch, New Zealand. (1966). Christmas shopping. London: Methuen. (Price 25/193 1966).

Photo of girls reading – New Zealand Educational Institute Collection. Retrieved from

Friday, October 24, 2014

Labour Day celebrations

Auckland Labour Day Celebrations, Certificate of Merit. Boilermakers’ Union records

Auckland Labour Day Celebrations, Certificate of Merit. Boilermakers’ Union records. 2
On Monday many New Zealanders will celebrate Labour Day with a day free from work. Like most public holidays its origins are largely forgotten and it is viewed as just another day off. However, Labour Day used to be marked with public processions to celebrate the establishment of an eight-hour working day and people, like Samuel Parnell, who had made it possible.1
The image above is a Certificate of Merit awarded to the Auckland Boilermaker’s Union for ‘Most complete trades’ union working display’ during the 1921 celebrations. The item was found while processing the Auckland Boilermaker’s Union records here in Special Collections and provides a record of one of the many events which made up Labour Day festivities that year.2
The aim of the Labour Day Committee in 1921 was to put on the best Labour Day Auckland had seen, stating ‘The main idea is to give the women and children a really good day-outing’.3 Advertisements in the papers promised a procession of unionists and local businesses led by a bullock team along Queen Street.4 The procession finished at the Domain with a public picnic, sporting events, Highland dancing, tug of war and a baby show.5
The event was to be one of the last of its kind held in celebration of Labour Day. As more local businesses began to use the day as an opportunity to advertise, less and less union content was included. Eventually, the day became viewed as a day for the ‘bosses’ and the large public picnics and sports events began to die away.6 Archives such as the certificate remind us of the day’s origins and of the people who fought for our right to a day off.
Leah Johnston, Special Collections
1 Roth, H. Parnell, Samuel Duncan, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 7-Jan-14.
2 Auckland Labour Day Celebrations, Certificate of Merit. Boilermaker’s Union records. MSS & Archives 2014/13, item 5/1. Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
3 Labour Day. (1921, July 30). Auckland Star, p11.
4 Labour Day. (1921, October 22). New Zealand Herald, p8.
5 Advertisements Column 1. (1921, October 22). Auckland Star, p16.
6 Ministry for Culture and Heritage. (2014). Labour Day. New Zealand History, updated 5-Aug-14.