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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3


page 65


The twenty-first annual volume of the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute is to hand, and is an exceptionally good one. At the same time, there is a feature in the latter portion ( « Proceedings » ), which is certainly open to criticism. We refer to the altogether disproportionate space allotted to the proceedings of the Wellington branch. This was noticeable in vol. xx, but is still more striking this year, where thirty closely-printed pages are devoted to this branch—nearly all the unpublished papers being represented by abstracts, and the trivial remarks and comments of members reported, while only seventeen pages are devoted to the other branches. This, to say the least, is making an invidious distinction, and indicates a want of judgment on the part of the Council. Had the other branches been similarly reported, this department would have filled 240 pages—an altogether unreasonable portion of the book. Reports of this kind are appropriate enough in a weekly or monthly scientific periodical; but are decidedly out of place in a year-book of transactions. The Transactions proper occupy 480 pages, or fifty more than last year, and are illustrated by numerous plates, lithographed in very good style by the Survey Department, the letter-press being executed by the Government Printer in his usual capital manner. The correction of the proofs of miscellaneous scientific papers is an exceptionally difficult task; but there is no more accurately-printed book in New Zealand than the Transactions. A scientific gentleman who contributes largely to the work once told us that in eighty pages sent to him for revision he did not detect a single error. This is high testimony to the skill and care of the proof-readers in the Government office. There is, however, in the lithographed plates, in vols, xx and xxi, an oft-repeated « literal » —a y for an n in the « ecclesiastical » running title. Unlike former volumes, where the zoological papers took first place, the present volume begins with botany, to which department the Rev. W. Colenso is as usual an extensive contributor. Mr Maskell contributes a long paper (illustrated) on New Zealand Desmidieæ, describing some new species, and Mr James Adams gives a graphic and interesting account of the botany of Te Moehau mountain, Cape Colville, of which he so far has been the only explorer. He found to his pleasure and surprise that the botany of this mountain differed from that of any other in the peninsula—that, in fact, « the top of Moehau was a veritable garden of rare plants that could not be found nearer than the Euahine range. » Mr Joshua Rutland contributes an exceedingly interesting and suggestive paper on « The Fall of the Leaf, » in which he attributes the characteristics distinguishing the British from the southern flora— « the prevalence of deciduous trees, the preponderance of herbaceous plants, and the comparatively few orders represented » —to the influence of the cold of the glacial period. « In the northern flora, » he says, « we seem to have the more or less altered descendants of a few original types; in the southern flora the waifs and strays from some rich and varied botanical region. » The zoological papers contain additional notes by Mr Cheeseman on the birds of the Kermadec Islands, and a note on the capture of a rare bird, the Shy Albatross (Diomedea cauta), near Auckland, and Mr A. Reischek writes on the Wandering Albatross (D. exulans.) Mr A. Hamilton describes the Brown Gannet (Sula fusca), rare in these waters, a specimen of which was caught in Napier Harbor. Mr Urquhart contributes a paper on new species of Araneidea, and another on a new species of Gasteracantha; and Mr Meyrick continues the subject of the micro-lepidoptera of the colony. Mr G. V. Hudson writes on three species of the same family, and also on the varieties of a common moth (Declana floccosa.) Mr Colenso describes a new species of the Hemideina, and contributes a note on ths handsome butterfly Pyrameis gonerilla, and another on the ruru, or small New Zealand owl. Mr W. W. Smith writes on the birds of Lake Brunner, and Mr James Park on the Notornis. Both Mr Smith and Mr Park are of opinion that specimens of this bird still survive in western Otago, the latter gentleman having obtained passing glimpses of the bird, and heard its deep booming note on several occasions. Mr T. W. Kirk contributes notes on some native birds, and also a paper on the mole-cricket, a recent and undesirable importation from Europe. Mr Chilton writes on the varieties of the native crayfish, Mr Maskell on some gall-producing insects, and Mr G. M. Thomson on some crustaceæ. The third section consists of geological papers. Professor Hutton discourses learnedly on the Amuri earthquake; and Mr H. A. de Lautour writes on the fossil diatomaceous deposits near Timaru, illustrating his paper with drawings of beautiful specimens of the diatoms. Mr A. Hamilton has a paper on his grand find of fossil bones of the moa (Dinornis), the extinct eagle (Harpagornis), and other birds in the Te Aute swamp, and Mr H. Hill records the very interesting discovery at Poverty Bay, of fossil moa feathers in rocks of the pliocene age. Professor Thomas contributes a paper on the geology of Tongariro and the Taupo district, with some interesting sketches of this volcanic region. There are a number of interesting papers, practical and theoretical, under the head of chemistry, and thirteen under the head of miscellaneous complete the volume. One of these, on « Vowel Sounds » by the editor of this paper, has already been mentioned in our pages; and the last in the volume, by Mr Tregear, occupying thirty pages, is entitled « The Knowledge of Cattle among the Ancient Polynesians, » and is a kind of supplement to his Aryan Maori.

We have a parcel of useful and interesting publications from the Government Printer. The splendid work by Sir W. Buller on the native birds is a luxury beyond the reach of most people; but in the neat little Manual of the Birds of New Zealand, by the same author, we have the essential parts of the larger book, and at less than one-twentieth the price. The illustrations are on a much smaller scale, are in monochrome instead of in the natural colors, and are confined to birds that are found only in New Zealand. With this limitation, there are thirty-seven plates, besides a number of woodcuts in the text. The numerous birds of this country form the most beautiful and interesting part of its fauna, and comprise several unique types—many of which are fast disappearing; and this manual will be indispensable to all who take an interest in ornithology of these islands.—The Kermadec Islands: their Capabilities and Extent, by S. Percy Smith, is a pamphlet of 32 pages, with illustrations, of the latest dependency of New Zealand. For ten years a gentleman named Bell has, with his family, inhabited Sunday Island, the largest of the group. The. reports of the fertility of the island have induced some adventurous young men to form a company to settle the unoccupied portion of the island. As, however, the island is six hundred miles from New Zealand, is only about twenty miles in circumference, possesses no harbor, has only a very limited extent of available land, and possesses a big active volcano, 1700 feet high, which in late years has more than once « erupted » so violently as to terrify all inhabitants from its shores—it seems scarcely a promising field for colonization.—Now that the flax industry is reviving, Dr. Hector's work on Phormium Tenax as a Fibrous Plant should should be in demand. The first edition of the book (published in 1872) has been long out of print; the new edition brings the information to date, and deals exhaustively with the subject.—All the bookwork from this establishment is unexceptionable as regards the composing department; but as so many of the works are of permanent value, we think it would be truer economy to use a higher grade both of paper and printing-ink.

The baneful tendency of the modern « shocker » in suggesting methods of crime is not realized as it should be. A vulgar story « The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, » lately had a great run. One mode of advertising the book was to drive a cab containing an imitation corpse through the London thoroughfares—an unseemly exhibition which the authorities should have suppressed. A murder has now been committed in Manchester under precisely similar conditions to those of the fiction, and the body of the victim, who had been drugged and robbed, was found in a cab. There appears to be something more than a coincidence here.

Mr Firth, of Auckland, is engaged on a new work—Our Kin on This Side of the Sea; or, Nation Making: A Story of New Zealand, giving an account of the Maoris and the early history of the colony—to be published in London about September or October.

The popular song Listen to the Mocking Bird brought its composer, Septimus Winner of Philadelphia, $100,000. It was published under the nom de plume of « Alice Hawthorne » the maiden name of the author's mother.

Frank Howard, the singer and composer, tells a little story concerning the inspiration which caused him to write the song, Only a Pansy Blossom. He had gone to Greeley, Iowa, accompanied by his wife, to see about buying a farm for a homestead. They walked through some lovely meadow land which they liked; and in one of the winding paths through the tall grass Mrs Howard lingered. « What are you picking? » the singer called. « Only a pansy blossom, » was the answer. Out of her expression grew the idea of the song. The royalties the composer received almost paid for the farm; and now he has a garden on the spot where his wife found the pansy blossom.