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New Zealand Studies: A Guide to Bibliographic Resources

3. Printed matter: serial publications

3. Printed matter: serial publications

If New Zealand's cultural topsoil was deficient in monographs, it was enriched by the newspaper printing press from the very beginnings of European settlement. Dr G. H. Scholefield in his Newspapers in New Zealand (1958) notes that our first locally printed newspaper appeared in Wellington on 18 April 1840, some three months after New Zealand became a British colony, and comments on the rapid spread of newspapers. By 1851, according to his count, sixteen newspapers had been established; by 1858 twenty-eight. Between 1860 and 1879, the gold rush period, 181 newspapers were founded. The latest count, in Ross Harvey's Survey of New Zealand Newspapers: Final Report (1983), is of some 800 newspaper titles published before 1940.

Conditions in New Zealand in 1840 suited the growth of the cheap, small edition, community newspaper, and in the first 60 or so years of settlement most communities of 1,000 could support a newspaper and jobbing establishment. Editions were small, and an edition of 100 to 200 copies was not uncommon, and it is clear from the high failure rate that these were only marginally economic enterprises. Such newspapers, because they were present in every large town—and 1,000 was a large town— from the very beginning of New Zealand's settlement, attracted to themselves a disproportionate share of community information. In the early period the periodical press was weak and locally printed monographs few and far between. In more established societies a different balance was struck between books, periodicals and newspapers. In the old world books had a strong hold before the appearance of periodicals and newspapers: in New Zealand the newspaper established itself first (that is among the European community: the very reverse is true of printing in the Maori language). The result is that for the early period the page 12 newspaper is regarded by researchers as primary source material for New Zealand studies.

The first bibliography and finding list of New Zealand newspapers was compiled by Dr Scholefield and published in 1938. The second edition of his Union Catalogue of New Zealand Newspapers appeared in 1961, and this will soon be superseded by a publication based on Harvey's computerised listing of New Zealand newspapers before 1940.

For more recent newspapers one should consult the General Assembly Library's Newspapers Currently Received (1947-1976) and for current listings the New Zealand National Bibliography, the Post Office's List of Newspapers and Magazines Placed on the Register at the General Post Office, and various media guides issued by advertising agencies.

Only one newspaper has published an index; between 1946 and 1958 a minor provincial newspaper, the Northern Advocate from Whangarei, issued 31 volumes of an index to its contents. The great value of newspapers as sources of information has stimulated hundreds of indexing ventures by individuals and organisations. Some have been issued in typescript but most are still in card files. The importance of these scattered indexes has long been recognized: an inventory of them compiled by A. G. Bagnall was published in New Zealand Libraries in 1948, and updated in 1960 and 1963. New projects since then are listed annually in Bibliographical Work in New Zealand.

The periodical press in New Zealand has not yet found its bibliographer. It is a moot point whether the lack of a retrospective listing of New Zealand periodicals (compounded by the paucity of indexes), or their overall weakness both in persistence and content, has contributed most to their lack of use by researchers. Social historians are beginning to explore the byways of the New Zealand periodical literature but most scholars have kept to the handful of quality journals that have managed to survive at the margins of commercial publication. The smallness of our population and the ready availability of quality weeklies, monthlies and quarterlies from Britain, Australia and the United States has stunted the development of a quality national periodical literature.

The Union List of Serials in New Zealand Libraries and its successor the Finding List, do include New Zealand serials but they are a small minority in the long list of the holdings of serials in our libraries. Between 1949 and 1971 the General Assembly page 13 Library published regularly Copyright Periodicals Currently Received, a good listing of titles currently available. Current births and deaths were reported in the New Zealand National Bibliography until 1985; from then on new titles and changes in title are recorded.

Literary periodicals are relatively well treated, with Commonwealth Literary Periodicals: a Bibliography issued by the Working Party on the Library Holdings of Commonwealth Literature in 1979, and Iris Park's New Zealand Periodicals of Literary Interest (1962) covering the period from 1850 to 1959.

A national index to the periodical literature began in 1940 with the Index to New Zealand Periodicals, now published by the National Library, which 'scans' some 200 titles for 'articles considered to be of lasting value'. In 1979 Newzindex commenced, a monthly index to business and commercial information. Among the few indexes to individual periodicals those to Tomorrow 1934-40 (1962) and Landfall from 1947 to 1981, are worthy of mention. Libraries have for their own purposes established card file indexes to several heavily used periodicals and the Turnbull Library is investigating ways of publishing its indexes to the New Zealand Listener and Building Progress.

Parliamentary papers are well documented. As well as regular indexes issued by the Legislative Department there is Robertson and Hughes's New Zealand Royal Commissions, Commissions and Committees of Inquiry 1864-1981 (1982), J. O. Wilson's A Finding List of British Parliamentary Papers Relating to New Zealand 1817-1900 (1960), and the Irish University Press's Index to British Parliamentary Papers on Australia and New Zealand 1800-1899 (1974).