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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, June 1929

A University Press

page 11

A University Press

Sapientia magis auro desideranda.

—An old motto, now forgot.

In the regulations governing the award of the Jacob Joseph Scholarship, the curious reader may find the following passage:

"He (the Scholar) shall submit to the Professorial Board a thesis, or other prescribed written record of his work for the Scholarship. . . . He shall supply a copy of this thesis for the College Library."

That there is nothing extraordinary in this regulation I am well aware, but it prompts me to ask, through your ever hospitable pages, Spike, a question which to me seems of more than passing interest. I feel an overwhelming impulse to inquire whether there is anyone so fortunate (excluding the Librarian himself) as ever to have seen any of these theses.

For many years now there must have been an annual accession of Jacob Joseph and other theses to the Library. What has become of them! I have never seen them; neither has anyone of my acquaintance. Indeed. I know of one individual who once (he was very young and bold then) asked the Librarian whether he might be permitted to examine a Jacob or Joseph thesis of fairly recent date. A search was made for it, but it could not be found. It had vanished, presumably, into some dim corner of the annex, there to do its share in educating the more radical of the Salamancan spiders in the intricacies of industrial arbitration in New Zealand.

Is it not time, therefore, that the Senate of this University considered the question of establishing a University Press? Such an institution (for which, as we know, there is ample precedent) would save a great deal of good work from oblivion. In the past few years alone, students of this College (to say nothing of those from other centres) have written admirable theses, not only for Scholarship purposes, but as part of their Honours courses. To name but a few: Mr. R. M. Campbell gave a learned paper on the I.C. &A. Act; Mr. R. F. Fortune on the mind in sleep; Mr J. C. Beaglehole on some aspects of New Zealand history; Mr. A. E. Campbell on juvenile laughter; and Mr. E. Beaglehole on propaganda and the present status of ethics. Of these theses (with the exception of one on which I am not competent to express an opinion) I have seen only the last -named— a very scholarly and valuable essay—but I am assured that there is not one of them which is not eminently worthy of publication in book form. Two. indeed, have been published—one in England and the other in the United States (a country which, as we all know, is so devoted to the dollar that it is vastly our intellectual inferior). Are we to have it said that sonic of the best minds produced by our University find their own country so inhospitable that they must seek elsewhere—even in a foreign land—for publication?

It will, of course, be said that a University Press in this country would not pay its way. But why not? At the present time any work published page 12 in New Zealand dies a speedy death. There is not a publisher worthy of the name from the North Cape to Stewart Island. What self-styled publishers we have are ignorant alike to the technicalities of book production and of methods of publicity sufficient to give them even an Empire market. Every aspiring New Zealand author is compelled to go to England before he can hope for recognotion. Has there ever been a book published in New Zealand which has been either a fine piece of craftsmanship from a technical viewpoint or a commercial success? I venture to doubt it.

There is no need to begin in too grand a fashion, nor need we confine ourselves to scientific works. Such a Press, following the example of Oxford, could publish an infinite variety of work, provided it were forthcoming. And it will be forthcoming, is now indeed, to a great extent. Such a Press could bear the costs of production, and look to a capable administration and a sound system of publicity for the recovery of expenses.

And even if there should be for a few years a deficit—would not that be better than that so much excellent work should be consigned to the oblivion of the Library, unavailable even to the student who is brave enough to ask for it, and who is exceptionally qualified in that he knows no fear of spiders?

What do you think about it. Spike—C.G.RJ.