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New Zealand Studies: A Guide to Bibliographic Resources

13. Libraries and the book in New Zealand

13. Libraries and the book in New Zealand

Very little has been published on printing and the book in New Zealand. A count of the footnotes in Fiona McMillan's volume on New Zealand in Colin Clair's The Spread of Printing yields over a dozen separate references mostly to monographs, for the period up to the 1890s, but all of these are worked hard throughout her paper.

A survey of the wider subject of libraries and the book has yielded more references, but the core literature is still very small, and most of it is scissors and paste work. In the last ten years or so libraries and scholars have begun to gather the documentary sources necessary to support research, and the archives of printers, publishers, booksellers, and others involved in the book trades from the 1920s, are being collected actively by libraries.

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Unfortunately the records for nineteenth and early twentieth century printing are very sparse.

The proportions of the published literature as between types of libraries and newspaper/book/periodical publication and their emphases lend further weight to conclusions reached in the earlier survey of the bibliographic literature: that this antipode is indeed a back to front world.

The national English language imprint begins with newspapers and only slowly develops into books; Maori language publishing begins with books and slowly develops into periodicals and newspapers; libraries begin with public lending libraries. Research libraries, a much later development, are as a consequence seen by most as mutations from a parent lending library stock. While research on libraries and the book in Pakeha New Zealand is substantially a provincial sub-field of the history of public libraries and popular reading, the field of Maori language publishing provides rich and instructive parallels with the spread of literacy and printing in the old world. Some ways forward in this grossly neglected field have been suggested by D. F. McKenzie in his presidential address to the Bibliographical Society early in 1983, 'The Sociology of a Text: Orality, Literacy and Print in Early New Zealand' (published in December 1984 in The Library).