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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa



Periodicals include glossy magazines, annual reports, newsletters, critical journals, conference proceedings, monographs in series, directories and almanacs. They are published for a variety of purposes by private firms, government agencies, educational institutions, political parties, individuals, church and community groups. Many periodicals are not strictly published items, for example, newsletters that are intended solely for the members of a club. In New Zealand most periodicals have been written in English, but some have been written in other languages, especially Māori. They are usually published on paper but sometimes in microform and now electronically. Some periodicals are produced simultaneously in more than one medium. Some have been copied to other media, such as microform, for preservation.

Periodicals, along with newspapers, have been very important in the development of New Zealand literature. In the 19th and early 20th centuries they were the main outlets for writing in New Zealand because of the commercial difficulties of publishing books here. The publishing of periodicals has until recently paralleled that of newspapers, and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish one from the other. The pictorial newspapers such as the Otago Witness and New Zealand Free Lance that were popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries have been considered as both newspapers and periodicals.

Newspapers and periodicals have been published since the early days of European colonisation. Most had a short life span. In the 19th century periodicals and newspapers regularly failed because the population was too small and scattered to support them financially. In the 20th century there were additional reasons for their failure, such as shortages of staff and paper during World War II, and the competition from broadcast media, especially television. Periodicals have, in New Zealand, also had to compete for readers with overseas magazines like the Bulletin. Newspapers and periodicals also competed with one another, especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when newspapers regularly carried literary pieces and published weekly digests and pictorial issues.

Most popular and serious periodicals published in New Zealand have lacked originality. They were usually modelled on British and Australian titles. In the last 20 years there has been a resurgence in periodical publishing with the success of general interest magazines like Metro and North and South and niche magazines like New Zealand Gardener and Marketing.

Despite their undistinguished and often ephemeral nature, New Zealand periodicals are a valuable source of information, covering a wide range of topics. They can all conceivably be used for research. They often provide a record of an organisation and its business. However, there has been little research into periodical publication in New Zealand. Only literary periodicals have received much attention, although there has been a little done on directories and almanacs by Hansen (1994).

The essays by McEldowney and Thomson in the Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (1991) and G.A. Wood's Studying New Zealand History (1992) are the starting points for research into periodicals in New Zealand. They give some history and cite the basic sources for research. Research into periodical publication is, however, hampered by the fact that there is no definitive listing of New Zealand periodicals. It is probably impossible to know how many periodicals have been produced because so many were ephemeral, short-lived and local. The Alexander Turnbull Library estimates that there have been at least 20,000 titles produced. The Union List of Serials in New Zealand Libraries, (3rd ed. 1969) has over 40,000 titles, but unfortunately the New Zealand titles are not distinguished from the overseas ones. According to the New Zealand Official Yearbook 1990, 560 periodicals that accepted advertising were published in 1989. New periodicals have been catalogued in the New Zealand National Bibliography since 1966. Periodicals registered with the Post Office were listed annually in the List of Newspapers and Magazines Placed on the Register at Post Office Headquarters, Wellington (1886-1986).

Some subject bibliographies of periodicals have been published, such as Iris Park's New Zealand Periodicals of Literary Interest (1962), and subject bibliographies that include some periodicals, for instance Ann Burgin's Women's Societies in New Zealand (1965). Periodicals are often cited in the bibliographies included in monographs.

The best collection of New Zealand periodicals is held at the Alexander Turnbull Library, which is responsible for building and maintaining the nation's collection of serials published nationally. Local periodicals are only collected comprehensively for the Wellington region. Good collections of New Zealand periodicals are also held at the National Library, the Parliamentary Library, the Hocken Library, the larger public libraries, the university libraries and the libraries of the major museums.

Periodicals need indexing to improve access for researchers. Although considerable indexing of New Zealand periodicals has been carried out, much of it is recorded on card indexes in libraries and is not readily accessible. The Index to New Zealand Periodicals (1941-86) is the most important index. This was continued as Index New Zealand and is available online as INNZ through Kiwinet. Other databases on Kiwinet include entries for periodicals, such as the Legal Index (LINX) and Newzindex (NEWZ). Some periodicals issue their own indexes, for example Landfall, and indexes have been published for some periodicals, for instance J.J. Herd's Index to 'Tomorrow', 1934-40 (1962).

Even when periodicals have been identified, the next problem is locating them. Many important older periodicals, such as New Zealand Building Progress and the New Zealand Tablet, are quite rare. The National Library of New Zealand has recently begun microfilming periodicals, for example Tomorrow, in an attempt to improve access. On-line indexing, and indexes on CD-ROM and microfiche, will also raise awareness and appreciation of periodicals as a research source, and encourage further research into their publication.

The scope for further research into New Zealand periodicals is immense. There is a great need for subject bibliographies of periodicals to augment the basic bibliographical details given by library catalogues. Research is needed into the commercial aspects of periodical publishing. Some starting points are available: Here and Now and Comment published articles on these aspects in the 1950s and 1960s, and Nielsen Press Research have published media guides since the middle of the 1980s that give information on print runs, circulations, subscriptions and advertising rates. Coleridge (1995), Harvey (1993b) and Cave (1989) have published articles on the commercial aspects of the press in New Zealand in the 19th century. While these articles are mostly concerned with newspaper publication, their approach can be applied to periodicals. Anniversary issues of periodicals sometimes contain information about their publishing history.

Some other areas that require research include: popular periodicals, especially women's magazines and sports magazines; the influence of overseas periodicals on New Zealand periodicals; politics and periodical publishing, for instance, the role of government in periodical publishing, the ideological underpinnings of periodicals, and the influence of periodicals on public opinion.