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Historical Records of New Zealand Vol. II.


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This volume is issued in accordance with the line of policy laid down in the Preface to Vol. I—to place at the disposal of the Public a further instalment of material when sufficient had accumulated to enable that to be done.

As recent events in Parliament have shown that considerable misunderstanding exists regarding these Records, and the relation of the writer to them, the latter takes this opportunity of stating the position. There is in New Zealand no Department of Archives, nor are there any officers with the duty imposed upon them of collecting, arranging, and publishing material regarding the infant days of the Dominion. The writer's connection with the work is purely honorary, and comes about in this way: He is engaged privately in investigating the early history of New Zealand, from its discovery by Tasman in 1642 until the Proclamation over it of British Sovereignty in 1840, and from time to time publishes the results of his investigations. At present, having completed the southern, he is working on the history of the northern, portion of the Dominion. All that is quite apart from this work. Some years ago he was asked by the Ministry then in office—and the request has been endorsed by all their successors—to place at the disposal of the Dominion for publication all the documents which came to light in his search, and which, in his opinion, were worthy of publication in extenso. It was thought—and in the writer's opinion wisely thought—that many documents were of value quite apart from what the writer might take from them for the narrative in his private work. To this request the writer agreed, as also to a request later on that he would edit them. Thus did the supply of these historical page iv documents to the Government, and thus did their preparation for publication, fall into the hands of the writer.

The documents reproduced, with few exceptions, relate to the period before the Treaty of Waitangi, because the Editor in his private research work is confining himself to that period. Though in each volume the papers are arranged in chronological order, each volume covers the same period. The Editor does not defend this plan, nor does he excuse it; he simply says that the documents are obtained by him at the most unexpected times and places, and, if they are to be published before his private work is finished and his search is ended, there is no other way known to him by which it can be done. But while Vol. II cannot be made exclusive of Vol. I in regard to time, an effort has been made to gather into it as much matter as possible relating to the great voyages of the early days of New Zealand's history; hence the presence of matter dealing with Tasman, Cook, De Surville, Marion, Vancouver, Biscoe, and Balleny. By this means it is hoped to give a distinctive character to a volume which collects material over the whole period. The overlapping of dates in the different volumes is proposed to be overcome by complete tables of Contents, and in this volume are the tables for Vols. I and II. By this can be seen at a glance what documents are printed, and their chronological order can be followed by any one desiring to do so.

The question has been raised that there are not sufficient notes made by the Editor to enable the various documents to be understood by the reader. This has always presented a difficulty. The Editor thinks that notes in Records should be conspicuous by their absence; what is wanted is an exact reproduction of the original, and notes tend to put the Editor's interpretation, which may be a wrong one, into the mind of the reader. We must always recollect that, in the main, Historical Records are to supply in its purest form material to the specialist. It is the writer on this material who supplies the work which the general reader will peruse. If there is anything which is noticeable in the original, and which cannot be reproduced, it should be commented on by the Editor. In this category come additions to the page v text, in the same or in a different handwriting; erasures also sometimes show a change of mind of the writer, as, for example, when Cook struck out the name “Endeavour Bay” and substituted “Poverty Bay.” Only a photograph would detect that, and the Editor is within his duties in noting it. To make the book more popular by the introduction of interesting explanatory matter, some of which may turn out not to be quite accurate, is outside the duties of an Editor who has no commercial considerations to weigh. For these reasons notes are deliberately reduced to a minimum, and the reader is here warned that they form no part of the Records.

Volume I consists of the references to New Zealand which were contained in the printed and unprinted Records of New South Wales, and, in regard to the unprinted documents, the Editor had to rely upon the copies sent him without being able to verify the accuracy of the transcription. It now appears that, while not altogether inaccurately copied, there is a want of completeness in the work which is greatly to be regretted. This weakness commences on page 316, and is found to the end of the volume. The Editor hopes that in the next volume he will be in a position to state exactly what this deficiency is; for the present it may be said not to affect the general contents of any document, but to make some of them not exact reproductions of the originals. Meantime, notes to the table of Contents have been inserted to correct errors in dates, &c. A long experience of this class of work on the part of the Editor satisfies him that the camera alone copies accurately, and that when other methods are adopted some allowance must always be made for error and inaccuracy; in this case, however, the quantum of error is beyond a reasonable allowance. The pages of the Log of the “Endeavour” will show the ideal method of reproducing Records, except that, if the system were generally adopted, a size of reproduction more nearly approximating to the size of the original would have to be employed.

The thanks of the Dominion are due to Mr. A. H. Turnbull, of Wellington, for permitting his Log of Captain Cook's “Endeavour” to be photographed, and his Journals of the various officers in Cook's and Vancouver's Expeditions to be page vi copied, and reproduced here. The presence of these Journals alone would give this volume a world-wide value. Special mention should also be made of the Journals of Tasman's sailor, and of De Surville's and of Marion's Expeditions, never before published in their own or in any other language. No such array of Journals of great voyagers has ever before been published in one volume in connection with the Records of any British Possession.

Robert McNAb.

Knapdale, Gore,
21st April, 1914.