Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Auckland Ghost

During August 1901 Aucklanders were being terrorised by a ghost. It haunted the central Auckland areas of Grafton, Eden Terrace, Newton and Western Park. The apparent apparition was heavily reported on in the newspapers and the cartoonists of the day all had a take on it as well. Even an advertising copywriter got in on the fun.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Monday, 22 June 2015

Auckland Libraries’ war memorial libraries

At least nine of Auckland Libraries’ past or present community libraries are either war memorial buildings or have war memorial associations.

The oldest of these is the Albany Memorial Library. On Peace Day 19 July 1919 a group of Albany residents resolved to build a library as their district’s war memorial. Architect Sholto Smith designed the building. Governor-General Lord Jellicoe opened the cottage-style, half-timbered structure on 21 December 1922.

The library was approached via a stone arch with ‘1914-1918’ inscribed on the keystone. The words ‘Albany Memorial Library’ were displayed above the entrance. The east window commemorated the Great War. Inside, a brick fireplace incorporated a green marble memorial tablet listing the names of 23 local men who gave their lives during the First World War. (Another tablet was later added honouring seven dead from the Second World War.)

The building functioned as a working library until 2004, and is still available for community use today.

Ref: Bruce Ringer, Three views of the Albany Memorial Library: 1, 2015.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Bookplates: Hilda Wiseman and the Auckland Ex Libris Society

The North Auckland Research Centre is hosting an exhibition of bookplates at the Takapuna Library in the Angela Morton Art History Reading Room. The exhibition is open during library hours through until Sunday 12 July. The Angela Morton Reading Room is a very appropriate venue for this exhibition as bookplates straddle the worlds of art and literature.

The most substantial monograph on bookplates in New Zealand is In another dimension by Ian Thwaites. He describes bookplates, or Ex Libris, as labels which are inserted into books to establish their ownership. He adds that “they are attractive items which often reflect in a unique way the personalities and interests of both owner and artist (p.9).”

In the preface of this book John Stacpoole states, “A bookplate helps to establish the provenance of a book, sometimes adding to its value, but always making a link between past and present owners whose hands have held it. It is a reminder that the owner is – or was – a real person, often the person to whom the book must be returned (p.5).”

Monday, 15 June 2015

Comment: Auckland's Review of City Affairs

In 1950s Auckland, a group of concerned citizens decided a periodical to keep tabs on the city leadership was needed. Thus was born Comment, published by Hobson Publications. The editorial board included managing editor Charles Fisher but besides Comment itself, the only other publication from the company appears to be a Hamilton yearbook published in 1955.

Friday, 12 June 2015

International Archives Day

Did you know that June the 9th is International Archives Day? To celebrate, archive services from around the world were invited to submit an image from their collections and send a message to archival colleagues around the world. See if you can find all the contributions from New Zealand in the photo page, according to the NZ Records email list there are nine.

Information about the gestation of International Archives Day and the reasoning behind it can be found at the International Council on Archives website. The hashtag #IAD15 was also really enjoyable to follow on Twitter throughout the day; happily Britain’s National Archives have collated them in Storify form.

All of Auckland Libraries’ Research Centres hold archival collections, as does the Birkenhead Library which is home to the Chelsea Sugar Refinery’s archive. Through sheer coincidence the subject of both of Auckland Libraries’ contributions were the personal papers of decorated war heroes.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Friday, 5 June 2015


Among the many items that Auckland bibliophile Henry Shaw (1850-1928) donated to the Library early in the twentieth century are a number of Asian and Middle Eastern manuscripts purchased from London booksellers. Shaw did not share Sir George Grey's interest in philology. His chief reason for collecting these manuscripts was aesthetic rather than linguistic. He was drawn to fine calligraphy and illustration.

One of Shaw's most exquisite donations is a handwritten Quran from India, bound in lacquered paiper-mâché covers that are painted on both sides with richly coloured floral patterns. The sacred text is inscribed in black ink on a gold background within blue and gold borders. Chapter headings are written in blue and accompanied with small ornamental devices. Many pages have skillful decorations in the margins.

On one of the pages Shaw has pasted a note from a bookseller's catalogue (probably J. and J. Leighton's), dating the manuscript about AH 1230 in the Islamic calendar. This translates to AD 1817 in the Gregorian calendar - a turbulent year in Indian history, with the British Army, commanded by governor general Rawdon-Hastings, Earl of Moira, engaged in protracted (and ultimately victorious) warfare with the forces of the Maratha Empire. It is not known, however, where or under what circumstances the manuscript was compiled. Dr Zain Ali, head of Islamic studies at the University of Auckland and the Auckland Library Heritage Trust 2014/15 Researcher in Residence at Sir George Special Collections, speculates that the Quran was a product of a Mughal court.

Non-Muslims may wonder why an Indian Quran should be written in Arabic rather than Urdu. In the Islamic world it is believed that the divine word of God, as revealed to the Prophet, assumed a specific, Arabic form that cannot be translated into other languages without losing crucial layers of meaning. For Muslims, a translation of the Quran is not the Quran itself - just an interpretation.

Similar in length to the New Testament, the Quran is divided into chapters, known as Suras, which vary in duration from ten words to 6100. The Suras are further divided into short passages, each of which is called an aya. Although this term is often translated as 'verse', the literal meaning is 'sign'. In the manuscript gold circles mark the beginning and end of each aya.

The Quran and associated Arabic manuscripts are on display in the Sir George Grey Special Collections reading room on Level 2 of Central City Library daily to 5pm until Saturday 13 June.

Information from Real Gold by Iain Sharp, Sir George Grey Special Collections.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Luna Park

Back in the day, Auckland had its only version of New York’s Coney Island - a fully functioning amusement park on the waterfront complete with dodgems, a roller coaster, stalls and sideshows.
The equipment had come from the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, a world fair that ran in Dunedin from 1925-1926. Held at Logan Park, it was most spectacular in the evening when lights highlighted the growing use of electricity. According to Te Ara, it was the most popular exhibition in New Zealand’s history.  Note the "scenic railway" to the right in the image below.

H. and G. K. Neill for the Auckland Weekly News, Comprehensive view of the Exhibition at Logan Park, Dunedin, 26 November 1926, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19251126-43-1. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Mauku Victory Hall

There is an interesting and rather beautiful little hall in Union Road, Mauku (a semi-rural locality between Waiuku and Pukekohe). Known as the Mauku Victory Hall, this was formally opened by Governor-General Viscount Jellicoe on 7 June 1922.

Ref: Bruce Ringer, Mauku Victory Hall, August 2014.