Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa
General and regional studies
General and regional studies
No comprehensive general study has yet been made of New Zealand publishing. Dennis McEldowney's essay in The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (1991) is the closest to a general survey. Penny Griffith's preliminary bibliography, Printing and Publishing in New Zealand (1974), includes monographs published between 1890 and 1960. Blackwood Paul surveyed 'Publishing and bookselling' for A.H. McLintock's Encyclopaedia of New Zealand (1966), and Gordon Tait contributed seven pages on New Zealand to The Book Trade of the World, Volume II (1976). Ray Richards takes a practical view in 'The man in the middle' (1974). Some historical treatment is to be found in the publishing research papers by Tony Murrow and Julie McCloy in Endnotes (1995). Working Titles: Books That Shaped New Zealand, ed. Susan Bartel (1993), the catalogue of an exhibition held at the National Library of New Zealand, provides an illustrated but necessarily selective range of publications which have been influential for New Zealanders. Fergus Barrowman briefly analyses fiction production from 1979 to 1994 in his introduction to The Picador Anthology of Contemporary New Zealand Fiction (1996) and notes the contribution that publishing history has yet to make to the study of New Zealand literature.
Publishing in New Zealand was initially concerned with producing utilitarian works. As the settlers were able to move from more immediate practical concerns—taming the land, providing shelter and food—so publishing altered, from publishing as an auxiliary activity of printers, to publishing as a separate specific activity. This is virgin territory for print culture historians and it seems especially significant to more carefully distinguish when the distinction between publishers, and publishing as an offshoot of printing, became clear cut in the New Zealand context. Also essential to explore is the role of publishers based elsewhere (notably London) who were closely identified with New Zealand. Aspects of the relationship between the British and New Zealand publishing trade are noted in Luke Trainor's contribution to this chapter about colonial editions and their role in New Zealand.
McEldowney indicates another factor which needs closer examination, that of the nature of what was published and its change from works of a practical nature to an output covering a wider span. No studies have yet been made of this and the balance needs to be further explored: an analysis of imprints listed in Bagnall's retrospective national bibliography volumes is a possible starting point for the earlier periods.
Few regional studies of publishing in New Zealand exist. More are needed; they are especially important for the 19th century before the communications infrastructure was sufficiently developed for New Zealand to be considered as a single unit. K.A. Coleridge's work on early publishing and printing in Wellington is a notable exception. Her contribution in this guide on regional publishing in Wellington, and George Griffiths's on Otago, suggest what needs to be done for other regions. Each takes a different approach to this topic: Coleridge suggests what needs to be studied to develop a fuller picture, whereas Griffiths has already done some of this detailed work for the Otago region and so can present a fuller description.
Colonial editions at special prices were a form of British publishing of, chiefly, fiction for the colonial markets. Study of the system offers a window on the British dominance of book culture in New Zealand until the third quarter of the 20th century and what that meant for local print culture.
The classic form of the colonial edition is exemplified by Rolf Boldrewood's A Colonial Reformer (London, 1890), number 116 in the Macmillan's Colonial Library series, which began in 1886. This is a copy of a novel purchased in New Zealand and its preliminary pages have on it the words 'This Edition is intended for circulation only in India and the British Colonies'. In form the book was like its British equivalent and was part of the same printing (indeed it became common for the sheets to be sold among publishers who then bound them for their own colonial series). Still this book, like almost all of its kind, was cheaper than the British version both in appearance—it had green cloth—and its noticeably lower sale price in New Zealand. British publishers delivered it to exporters at perhaps 50% of the price at which it was sold in New Zealand.
As this suggests, the significance of the colonial edition was not so much in any differences in production, which became small after World War I, but rather in its place in the marketing of British books, with all that meant for the colonial connection. Nineteenth-century novels, in three volumes or one, were too expensive for mass sale in New Zealand or other colonies. Local booksellers, agents and wholesalers needed the inducement of a cheap edition, extended terms of credit and—an important point—access to the most recent fiction. The colonial edition met this need. It also suited British print capitalism of the late 19th century by providing a facility for extended and cheap production, linked to heightened international competition where safe colonial markets were of benefit.
The first book issued in Macmillan's Colonial Library was Lady Barker's Station Life in New Zealand (1886). Boldrewood, the popular Australian novelist, and Barker (Mary Broome) did not, however, provide representative titles; most of the offering was popular British fiction put on the market at one title each fortnight from 1886 to 1913. Other British publishers also produced colonial editions: Bell was prominent, with 35 agents in New Zealand by 1901, as was Methuen with its editions of Kipling; some were paper bound, some cloth, some drab, like Macmillan, some gaudy with imperial symbols. The authors who were colonial, either by present or former residence, were only a sprinkling, regarded by publishers as interchangeable among their various colonies in providing frontier adventure in exotic settings. This may be seen from the reports of publishers' readers on New Zealand and on other colonial manuscripts submitted to them.
Simon Nowell-Smith's International Copyright Law and the Publisher in the Reign of Queen Victoria (1968) alerted students to the importance of the colonial edition. The publisher John Murray was first in the field with his Colonial and Home Library (1843). It was triggered by British Copyright and Customs Acts passed from 1842 to 1847 which attempted to provide protection for British books throughout the empire. Although an interesting precursor, it did not have that key feature of later colonial editions, including Murray's own, that volumes were not to be sold in Britain. A nearer analogy is provided by Bentley's Empire Library (1878-81) and Colonial Library (from 1885) which developed in conjunction with Melbourne publisher George Robertson and his London agent, E.A. Petherick, another Australian.
The trans-Tasman connection was important for colonial editions. British publishers regarded Australia and New Zealand as one market area, their branches and agents covering both. Wholesale and retail booksellers and publishers such as Robertson and Angus & Robertson of Sydney, operated in New Zealand, just as Whitcombe & Tombs established a Melbourne office. The New South Wales Bookstall Co. under A.C. Rowlandson published cheap local fiction which circulated well in New Zealand, reminding us that neither British publishers, nor colonial editions, had a total predominance. This framework gives added relevance to the recent and most complete study of the colonial edition, Graeme Johanson's Monash University doctoral thesis 'A study of colonial editions in Australia 1843-1972' (1995).
There is some evidence that the Bentley initiative, as well as the Macmillan one and those that followed in the late 19th century, were influenced by fear of United States competition, both legitimate and illegitimate. Although world copyright was foreshadowed by the 1886 Berne Convention, the United States did not subscribe to the general exchange of the protection of original work of national authors. British publishers, such as Macmillan, set up United States branches to meet the provisions of United States copyright and to facilitate sales, and indeed some colonial editions were printed in the United States. However, although there are expressions of concern about American pirate editions circulating in New Zealand, for example a United States edition of Mrs Henry Wood's popular novel East Lynne (1880) sold in Christchurch at 1s 6d when the British price was 7s 6d, the evidence is fragmentary.
Whatever the truth, Johanson provides evidence of a striking increase in book sales by British publishers to Australia and New Zealand in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He suggests that the volume of British book exports to Australia had by 1914 increased by 2.6 times the 1893 level, and raises the possibility of a proportionate increase for fiction, which might have been 20% of the total. Although it is not certain that this translates into the sale of colonial editions in Australia, let alone New Zealand where the calculations have not been done, Johanson makes a convincing case for the importance of colonial editions in Australia, and the shared market area suggests that the same would be true for New Zealand.
The impact of World War I on colonial editions and British book exports to New Zealand is tolerably clear. Shipping was severely interrupted, costs of production rose with higher material expenses and wages, and binding costs, so important to colonial editions, trebled. Hardback colonial editions rose from 3s 6d to 6s and paperback editions were not produced. The formal differences between the British edition at 7s 6d and the local at 6s were reduced to a stamp notifying that they were colonial editions; the emphasis was now on the pricing arrangement, 'colonial terms'. British book exports to New Zealand fell sharply and the emphasis in the 1920s was on the protection of the booksellers' margins.
New Zealand had, in proportion to population, a large number of booksellers. The Booksellers' Association, formed in 1921, organised effectively to defend margins against, on one hand, the higher British prices and, on the other, the competition from drapers' stores. Overall, they were in a position analogous to the British book trade 20 or 30 years before and sought the same solution, a Net Book Agreement, to ensure that there was a schedule of prices without discounts enforced by agreement of the British publishers and the New Zealand booksellers. The Booksellers' Association helped form the Australian and New Zealand Booksellers' Association (1924-31) to present a united face to the publishers. Typically, they protested about libraries purchasing colonial editions direct from London, but they also demanded from British publishers' branches in Australia, such as the Australasian Publishing Co., the right of New Zealand booksellers to buy direct from London rather than getting their books from Sydney. In 1923 they asked the Publishers Association in Britain to intervene to prevent exporters directly sending colonial editions to buyers in New Zealand at cut prices. By the end of the decade a fixed schedule of prices was enforced by local booksellers and British publishers. One aim was to have the books sell in Australia at British retail prices. Colonial editions were excluded since they cost less in Australia than in Britain. Colonial editions were only a part of the total of British books, but they had over many years set the pattern whereby recent colonial fiction retailed in New Zealand at or below the British retail price, and the export price from Britain was about 50% of the sale price in New Zealand.
When the Edinburgh publishers, William Blackwood, produced two novels with Australian settings by Miles Franklin (Brent of Bin-Bin) in 1929-30, they set a price for T.C. Lothian, their agents who travelled New Zealand, of 3s 3d and a sale price of 6s. Lothian took its 10% and country booksellers would buy from wholesalers but there was a substantial basis here for an alliance between local booksellers and publishers at 'Home', especially when the British retail price was 7s 6d.
This well-decorated display stand, presumably at a local trade exhibition, dates from about 1920, the year the Brett Printing and Publishing Co. became a public company. The photographer is unknown. The Auckland business was developed by Sir Henry Brett (1843-1927) from 1870 when he bought into the Evening Star, and went on to become known for a number of popular guidebooks and almanacs, such as Brett's Colonists' Guide. Brett's biography in volume 2 of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (1993) provides more detail of his achievements, and notes that in 1929 the company bought out the Lyttelton Times Company to form New Zealand Newspapers.(Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, reference number F-125518-1/2-)
Johanson (1995) quotes a report for British publishers in 1929, 'the phrase "colonial edition" connote(d) not necessarily a distinctive format of a novel, but merely the practice of selling the ordinary English edition at considerably reduced rates (of a discount of 50%) for export purposes'. He traces the colonial edition through to its demise with the end of resale price maintenance in Australia in 1972. Before then, however, the writing was on the wall. In 1946, publisher A.W. Reed remarked that 'the dice are loaded against the New Zealander in his own country'. In Australia a former publisher, P.R. Stephenson, commented in 1962 that 'Australia remains a colonial dependency of Britain . . . In so far as the mind of a nation is conditioned by reading matter, the minds of Australians are conditioned 90% by imported books' (Trainor, 1996, Trainor, 1997). Similar issues may be raised concerning the impact of colonial editions on New Zealand authors. Some were published under this system and enjoyed a circulation that they might never have secured from local publication—Boldrewood provides an Australian example—but national literature may have been stunted by the British dominance.
Colonial editions are an obvious agenda item for the study of print culture. Their significance will not be known until the detailed work is done, including that on periodicals and readership. Then we shall be better placed to understand the longstanding dominance of British books, the internal dynamics that made that possible in New Zealand, and what that might have meant for the colonisation of the New Zealand mind.
Regional publishing: Wellington
There has been virtually no work on patterns of publishing within the Wellington region, apart from the brief survey article by Coleridge, 'Printing and publishing in Wellington, New Zealand, in the 1840s and 1850s' (1986), which is primarily statistical in nature. McEldowney (1991) touches on the localised character of a number of the publishers that he discusses, but this must be extracted from the general discussion in the text. This section examines the studies that need to be undertaken to present a fuller picture of patterns of publishing within the Wellington region.
The first need for any study of regional publishing is to identify the works and the publishers. Item by item scanning of The New Zealand National Bibliography to 1960, ed. A.G. Bagnall (1969-85), and of the annual volumes of the 'Current National Bibliography' (1961-65), and New Zealand National Bibliography (1968-83), will provide a comprehensive list which can then be sifted to identify the specifically regional publishers, as distinct from Wellington-based national publishers such as the Government Printing Office. Assistance can be found in the bibliography compiled by Hilda McDonnell, Wellington Books (1992), covering Wellington City, the Hutt Valley, Porirua City, and the Kapiti Coast. McDonnell's bibliography reveals the range of the very many specialist works with a distinctively regional or local character published by organisations such as schools, churches and local history associations. It does not, however, cover non-historical works, such as poetry or educational material, which are also published by very localised specialist publishers. Searching by place of publication in electronic databases, such as the catalogues of some New Zealand libraries, will also assist.
Publishers can be identified through business directories, such as the Universal Business Directory (1948- ) and other directories which are listed in Don Hansen's The Directory Directory (1994). This exercise will identify a number of publishers based in Wellington, but will miss many of the small part-time and one-person operations which were sometimes significant commercial publishers in specialised areas. For the earlier years, up to perhaps 1930, it will be desirable to also identify the printers in this way, since nearly all except the largest publishers were chiefly printers or booksellers, possibly acting on commission from the author.
Once publications have been identified, reviews of them may provide further information about the publishers and their activities. Reviews can be located by using the Index to New Zealand Periodicals (1940-86), Index New Zealand (1987- ), and the specifically business index Newzindex (October 1979- ). For the period before 1940 the only universally applicable method of locating relevant articles is by direct searching of the newspapers and periodicals, although some individual titles have been indexed (often selectively) in the Alexander Turnbull Library and other institutions.
Regional publishing: Otago
Dunedin's economic vigour enabled it to dominate southern publishing in the 19th century and lead the field in New Zealand. Of the 550 items listed in the New Zealand National Bibliography as being published south of the Waitaki River to 1890, 90% came out of Dunedin. Few of them carried a publisher's imprint, 10% carried no imprint at all, and most were attributed to a printer: 67 items for the Otago Daily Times, Mills & Dick 65, Fergusson & Mitchell 38, and so on. Printing in smaller towns was confined almost entirely to local newspaper offices.
In subject matter, religion (66 titles) headed the list, publications on evolution, free thought and spiritualism swelling the total to 88 (several titles, fitting more than one category, have been counted into each category). Verse (31), fiction (17), and 'general literature' produced 89; local bodies and amenities 56, commercial 44, education 36, and politics 32. Clubs and societies, and personal pamphlets each produced 24. Such modern preoccupations as women, Māori and sport together barely reached double figures.
Local bodies, companies and organisations issued many of the items, and so did private individuals—mostly in testimonials, petitions and pamphlets, but also in more ambitious works. Victor Nicourt, French master at Otago Boys' High School, published the Otago French Primer for Beginners on his own behalf in 1866. The most prolific individual publisher, so prolific that he distorts the statistics, was J.G.S. Grant, who pumped out 60 literary, political and philosophical pamphlets.
Though some Otago writers had work published abroad, there was a noticeable willingness to publish within the local community, for the gold-rushes enabled enterprising booksellers and printers to reach an adequate market. Title pages seldom stated when bookseller or printer was also doubling as publisher, but in some cases the distinction is clear. Ben Farjeon's 1866 novel Grif: A Story of Colonial Life was issued by 'William Hay, Publisher, Princes Street'; and the title-page of J.T. Thomson's Rambles with a Philosopher (1867) and the verso in John Barr's The Old Identities (1879) credit Mills, Dick & Co. as both publisher and printer.
Booksellers such as Hay, J. Wilkie, James Horsburgh, Joseph Braithwaite and R.T. Wheeler developed publishing as a sideline. Horsburgh leaned towards religious and prohibition titles, but also issued Professor Black's Chemistry for the Goldfields (1885); Braithwaite favoured the Freethinkers. Wilkie, in 1888-89, published five competent works of fiction by four different authors, all using pseudonyms.
Surviving information on print runs suggests that 19th-century publishing in Dunedin could easily be underestimated. Salmond's The Reign of Grace (Horsburgh, 1888) went through five editions, each of 1,000, in a year; Marshall's Homeopathic Guide, issued by a local pharmacist in 1884, had a print run of 5,000; and J.F. Neil's New Zealand Family Herb Doctor (1889) reached three editions and 5,000 copies by 1891.
Dunedin publishing did not end with books and pamphlets, for newspapers and periodicals abounded. More surprising was the city's investment in directories. Local directories had already been issued before the 1870s by Lambert, Harnett, Mackay and Wise. But Wise's New Zealand Post Office Directory (1872) laid the foundations of an empire which took in New Zealand and parts of Australia. John Stone, who entered the field in 1884 and was outstandingly successful with his Otago-Southland directories, also serviced North Island markets.
Though the bookseller R.J. Stark issued Thomson's A New Zealand Naturalist's Calendar in 1909, southern publishing in the early 20th century generally depended on printers. Newspaper offices such as the Southland Times, Gore Publishing Co. and the two Oamaru newspapers frequently issued in pamphlet form material from their own columns, and the Otago Daily Times published many notable regional histories: Memories of the Life of J.F.H. Wohlers (1895), Gilkison's Early Days in Central Otago (1930), Pyke's Early Gold Discoveries (1962), and the three-volume Advance Guard (1973-75), before its publishing department stuttered to a close.
The rise of Whitcombe & Tombs changed the regional pattern considerably. George Whitcombe, bookseller, and George Tombs, printer, merged their independent Christchurch businesses in 1883 then took over a branch of Fergusson and Mitchell in 1890, creating a base in Dunedin. Bertie Whitcombe, general manager from 1911, opened bookshops throughout Australasia and soon dominated New Zealand publishing, particularly in children's books.
Whitcombe's success, coinciding with a developing New Zealand identity, offered an example for other firms to emulate. Two such—Coulls Somerville Wilkie and the House of Reed—had Dunedin origins. The economic situation after World War I had caused disarray in the city's bookselling and printing trades. J. Wilkie and Co., taken over by the Somerville family in 1894, produced Wilson's Reminiscences of the Early Settlement (1912), but in 1922 amalgamated with Coulls, Culling & Co. to create the enlarged printing firm of Coulls Somerville Wilkie. As for the book trade, the only survivors in Dunedin were Whitcombe & Tombs, A.H. Reed and Newbold's secondhand bookshop. Reed, then a wholesaler of devotional literature, formed a partnership with his nephew and occupied a gap left by the financial collapse of the Bible Depot.
In 1932 Coulls Somerville Wilkie and Reed jointly published Samuel Marsden's letters and journals on behalf of the University of Otago. Coulls Somerville Wilkie, more conscious of good design than many contemporaries, continued in book work until after World War II, but remained essentially printers. The two Reeds, however, became increasingly involved in authorship and publishing, and their Dunedin operation laid the foundation for a national publishing firm.
Early in 1946, two years before the centenary of the Otago settlement, a special committee commissioned a history of the province, expanding the concept to include 20 district histories under the general direction of A.H. McLintock. The project was outstandingly successful: 16 ancillary titles eventually appeared, totalling some 25,000 copies; a volume in matching format was commissioned by Western Southland; McLintock added The Port of Otago (1951); and the Otago Daily Times ran a novel-writing competition which produced Georgina McDonald's Grand Hills for Sheep (1949). The body of Otago history almost doubled overnight. Unfilled gaps became apparent and the concept of publishing by community committee showed how those gaps might be filled.
In another development the McIndoe family's long-established jobbing printing firm was led by John McIndoe junior, back from RAF service, into publishing from 1956. In the following 30 years until his retirement, McIndoe became one of New Zealand's best publishers, showing an awareness of literature and social issues. Significant works of poetry, novels, short stories and substantial histories of Otago and Canterbury, as well as booklets of charm and individuality, were produced. Generally southern publishing has been solid but unstylish, but John McIndoe had an eye for design and typography.
In 1968 McIndoe also became publishers to the University of Otago Press. Prior to this, university publishing activities included those of the Bibliography Room which in the 1960s and 1970s produced booklets of verse by such writers as James K. Baxter, Hōne Tūwhare and Ruth Dallas. An attempt in 1948 to establish a University Press came to nothing and though the Press adopted an imprint in 1959, its early titles never achieved viability.
Under the editorial direction of first W.J. McEldowney and from 1988 Helen Watson White, and with production and distribution by McIndoe from 1968, more substantial works appeared. John Parr's Introduction to Opthalmology, feared uncommercial, turned out to be a runaway success. In 1993 Wendy Harrex was appointed to run the Press full-time on the lines of an independent publishing house, increasing output to 20 titles a year and broadening its range.
Individual publishers, mainly of verse, appear from time to time. The most determined of them has been Trevor Reeves, of Caveman Press, who issued numerous booklets of poetry and crusading politics. But neither the individuals, nor such provincial newspaper jobbing offices as the Southland Times and the Oamaru Mail, both of which published books with short bursts of enthusiasm, have become full-time permanent publishers.
In Invercargill, the Southland Times interest was taken over in the 1960s by Craig Print, its work in this field greatly expanding as Southland communities, following Otago's example, began producing many substantial local histories. In 1976 the company published Sheila Natusch's On the Edge of the Bush on its own behalf and has since maintained a steady output, mainly of history and non-fiction, and not restricted to Southland. It has now printed or published over 300 titles.
Since the late 1970s Otago Heritage Books, functioning as both publisher and bookshop, has issued many titles on aspects of southern history, including the notable four-volume Windows on a Chinese Past (Ng, 1993- ). Longacre Press, set up by McIndoe's former editorial team when that firm moved out of publishing, began operations with the sumptuous Timeless Land (1995). Its main thrust has been in the field of young adult fiction, and its products have been popular in Australia as well as in New Zealand.
Marketing is a permanent problem for southern publishers. Population imbalance and transport costs meant that a publisher of McIndoe's standing found it barely possible to distribute good quality poetry nationwide. No southern publisher has tackled the national popular market front on. Craig Print and Otago Heritage design their output to markets within reach, Longacre aims for a niche market, and the University of Otago Press depends in part on its academic and textbook interests. Nevertheless, considering the region's small population, publishing in Otago and Southland has maintained quite remarkable vigour, particularly in the field of history.