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

The people

The people

The key personnel in publishing are various in their roles: owners and proprietors, managers, editors, accountants, designers, typesetters, sales-persons, and so on. In the 19th century they were likely to be involved in other activities besides book publishing—in allied trades such as printing or bookselling, or in other kinds of business. For researchers seeking, in the first instance, to identify the individuals who have been involved in publishing, general sources such as directories and electoral rolls may be painstakingly combed. Published around the turn of the century, the Cyclopedia of New Zealand, in six volumes divided regionally, provides a useful index of professions and trades under whose heading for 'Printers and Publishers' some of the pioneers will be found. Newspapers are also indexed here.

In the earlier decades of European settlement in New Zealand after the missionary era, many newspaper proprietors dabbled in publishing. A number of them appear in G.H. Scholefield's Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (1940), and even more in the first volume (1769-1869) of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (1990), where they can be located through its Categories Index: headings for Commerce, Trades and the Press contain reference to individuals active in publishing. Key individuals in this period include the newspaper publishers and proprietors W.E. Vincent, —mainly political—activities. Barzillai Quaife, Julius Vogel, Samuel Revans and John Williamson, some of whom are better remembered for their otherHenry Wise the Dunedin directories magnate, the pamphleteer and controversialist J.G.S. Grant, and Pātara Te Tuhi, editor and publisher of the Māori King's newspaper Te Hokioi, are other notable figures. In the later decades of the 19th century the 'rag-planters', founders of provincial newspapers, proliferated. Ross Harvey's work on these individuals includes a substantial number of biographies published in 1993 in the DNZB's second volume (1870-1900). Other prominent figures who appear in this volume are the publishers J.R. Blair, W.R. Bock (of Bock & Cousins, lithographers), Henry Brett, G.T. Chapman and the Wanganui publisher A.D. Willis.

It is not until the early 20th century that the founders of the modern publishing industry appear. Who's Who in New Zealand, published from 1908, is the standard biographical reference for succinct information about individuals. George Whitcombe and George Tombs left no memoirs, but vivid impressions are recalled by former employees in Anna and Max Rogers's Turning the Pages (1993). Bertie Whitcombe, George's son, a fixture at Whitcombe & Tombs for more than 70 years (managing director for 41 of these, from his father's death in 1917) is the central figure in an unpublished centennial history by Arthur Johnstone, who joined the firm as office boy in 1909. Dennis McEldowney has contributed an entry on Bertie Whitcombe to the DNZB (vol.3, 1901-20, 1996). Whitcombe's editor from 1901 to 1907, James Hight, is better known in his academic context. His successors Arnold Shrimpton, Carl Straubel and David Lawson are more elusive, perhaps partly a consequence of the retiring, or at least back room, nature of the editorial profession.

A.H. Reed founded his Sunday School Supply Stores in Dunedin in 1907, although he did not begin publishing pamphlets until 1922 and ventured into books ten years later. He and his nephew A.W. (Clif, short for Wyclif) were better historians than their erstwhile competitors Messrs Whitcombe and Tombs. Besides the company chronicles mentioned already, A.H. produced an Autobiography (1967), and the prolific Clif (author of 160 books by 1966, to Uncle's 85) wrote a memoir of A.H., Young Kauri (1975), and Books are My Business (1966) for a British publisher's careers series. Elizabeth Caffin has contributed an entry on A.W. to the DNZB (vol.4, 1921-40, forthcoming). Both A.H. and A.W. have entries in A.H. McLintock's Encyclopaedia of New Zealand (1966), the only publishers who do.

To the activists of the new socialist and radical movements in the early 20th century, the printing and publishing of their message was a central concern. These include the Romanian-born W.P. Black and radical printing tradesmen and unionists J.T. Paul and R.S. Ross, all of whom appear in the DNZB (vol.3, 1901-20). The entrepreneur publishers Bertie Whitcombe and A.H. Reed sit perhaps uncomfortably alongside them.

Further information on individuals is to be found in general biographical sources such as the Alexander Turnbull Library's Biographical Index on Microfiche and New Zealand Biographical Clippings, 1890-1988 (also on microfiche, both 1997), the National Library's later computerised indexes, and G.R. Macdonald's 'Dictionary of Canterbury biographies' at the Canterbury Museum (Index on microfiche, 1987). Much biographical information can be gleaned from trade publications, the papers and records of publishing houses and the histories of firms and organisations. The Reed histories (1957 and 1968) contain lists of some staff, as does Glue's History of the Government Printing Office (1966). Other worthwhile sources of information on individuals include Rogers (1993), The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English, The Book of New Zealand Women (1991)—see the subject index under 'Literature and Scholarship' for editors—and the forthcoming Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature. The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography's database, accessible to researchers on application, contains data on many individuals who do not find a place in the published volumes. The fourth volume in the series, to appear in 1998, will include some of the figures who first made their mark in the third and fourth decades of the 20th century. The diverse sampling of those involved in publishing includes Leo Bensemann, Denis Glover, Bob Lowry, Harry H. Tombs, Henry Kelliher and the aerial photography publishing pioneer Leo White.

People in the broader cultural sphere who had an influence on aspects of the development of New Zealand publishing include the prolific scribblers James Cowan, Johannes Andersen, Pat Lawlor and Elsdon Best. All have collections of papers in the Alexander Turnbull Library. Women in publishing have been less effectively documented, despite the preponderance of women editors and publishers in many present day firms. Sources include the Herstory diary in general and the diary for 1988 in particular, and articles in Broadsheet by R. Taylor (1982) and P. Joyce (1985). (A cumulative name and subject index to Herstory was compiled by Kathryn Peacocke in 1990.)

Publishing's denizens may wield unbridled power in their shadowy enclaves but unless their reflected glory may sell a book they are inclined to shun the spotlight. Trade literature is the place to find out about these enigmatic figures. Since 1994 a series of 'Profiles from the Trade' compiled by Whitireia Publishing students has been an occasional feature of the BPANZ's newsletter The Publisher. Those profiled so far have included Wendy Harrex, Daphne Brasell, Tony Harkins and Ray Richards.

The richest lode for information about people in publishing is still largely unexploited. Many of the best sources of historical, practical and biographical information are still active in the trade. Ray Richards began at Reeds in 1936 as the office boy, became managing director and chairman of the firm's Australian subsidiary, left in 1976 to set up New Zealand's first literary agency and became the first executive director of the BPANZ. Now more or less retired from publishing (though still producing Pony Club Manuals with sales of over 100,000) he maintains his agency with over 100 clients. Hugh Price, formerly manager of Sydney University Press and proprietor of Price Milburn, continues to publish occasionally as Gondwanaland Press and assiduously collects and records information on New Zealand imprints. Others with long careers or broad experience include Fergus Barrowman, David Bateman, Graham Beattie, Helen Benton, John and Geoff Blackwell, Elizabeth Caffin, Christine Cole Catley, Jane Connor, David Elworthy, John Griffin, Wendy Harrex, David Heap, Bert Hingley, Ros King, David Ling, Ann Mallinson, Brian Phillips, Wendy Pye, Bob Ross, Rosemary Stagg, Alister Taylor, Brian Turner, Geoff Walker and Bridget Williams. Publishers may decry the desultory dabblings of effete academics and frivolous amateurs on the more salubrious margins of their risky and sometimes cut-throat business but few have had the inclination or the time to tell the story themselves. The researcher has a rich field for exploration.