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Yesterdays in Maoriland

Yesterdays in Maoriland Andreas Reischek

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Yesterdays in Maoriland Andreas Reischek

New Zealand owes a great deal to one of its almost forgotten pioneers - an Austrian taxidermist named Andreas Reischek. For 12 years, from 1877 to 1889, Reischek roamed the bush and mountains of this group of islands carefully studying their flora and fauna, particularly their unique bird life.

In the course of eight extended expeditions into areas ranging from the far North to Fiordland and the remote islands of Antarctica, he collected the almost incredible total of 14,000 specimens of birds, fishes, reptiles and plants. On his return to Europe he presented the whole of this scientific treasure to the country of his birth. Before his death in Austria in 1902, Reischek recorded his discoveries, and adventures, and his impressions of New Zealand, particularly of the Maori people, in a book, "Yesterdays in Maoriland," an English translation of which, nowever, did not appear until 1930. Its inclusion, 40 years later, in Wilson & Horton Limited's facsimile series of notable books about New Zealand* will be welcomed not only by nature lovers but by all who enjoy a modestly told tale of early colonial adventure.

Reischek had the happy knack of recording his adventures (in several of which he could well have lost his life) in simple, non-technical language. Whether he is describing his part in arranging exhibits in the Christchurch, Wanganui or Auckland Museums; the pursuit of a particularly rare bird among the cliffs and chasms of Little Barrier Island; or the almost incredible sagacity of his dog Caesar, the constant companion of his travels, his style is always simple and unaffected.

Cover picture: Bush scene, from "The New Zealanders Illustrated," 1847, by George French Angas. By courtesy, Auckland Public Library.

* By courtesy of the Auckland Institute Library.