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Grey: Amassing Treasures for All TImes


Amassing Treasures for All TImes: Sir George Grey, Colonial Bookman and Collector

Donald Jackson Kerr

Release 25 October / illustrated / hardback $59.95

The governor with a literary obsession

Sir George Grey, governor of New Zealand, South Australia and the Cape Colony, was an outstanding British colonial statesman in the nineteenth century.

In his private life, he was also a passionate collector of rare books and artefacts. In Amassing Treasures for all Times: Sir George Grey, Colonial Bookman and Collector, author Donald Jackson Kerr reveals the genius and magnanimity of an increasingly controversial figure. This first study on Grey as collector will be released 25 October.

Grey was also an outstanding benefactor. He gave away two libraries in his lifetime: the first to Cape Town in 1861, the other to Auckland in 1887. The author is a former rare books librarian of the Auckland Grey collection and, along with an intimate knowledge of this collection, has studied the Cape Town Grey Collection. He shows that Grey's altruistic actions also had a degree of utility, revealing that the collections gifted were to be educational, moral and spiritual resources leading to the betterment of the societies established in New Zealand and South Africa.

An important aspect of Grey's collecting was his deliberate searches for printed material in indigenous languages in the three countries in which he served. But for his efforts, early publications in many languages would not have survived. Otherwise, his libraries reflect broad interests as a collector. There are medieval manuscripts and early printed books, major English literary works, such as Shakespeare First Folios and Spenser's Faerie Queene, books on travel and natural history, mathematics and science, and contemporary biographies and memoirs.

Political and collecting motives sometimes merged: in order to facilitate direct communication with Maori upon his arrival in New Zealand in 1845, Grey felt it was his duty to become acquainted with Maori language and customs. His Maori-language manuscript collection exceeds 9800 pages, numbers 147 separate works, and includes waiata, proverbs, whakapapa, and notes on Maori names and plants and birds. There is also an extensive collection of printed Maori language books.

Many of the publications Grey collected were ephemeral and often printed in very small numbers. They were not always easy to obtain, especially for someone so far from Europe. Grey worked through booksellers and their catalogues, and also through individuals. He fully utilised the contacts he made as colonial administrator, often obtaining works by word of mouth or direct appeal.

Amassing Treasures for All Times is published by Otago University Press and will be released 25 October.

Author For fourteen years, Donald Kerr worked as the rare books librarian in the Grey Collection at Auckland City Library. He is a passionate bookman, and is interested in book collectors, the collecting phenomenon, and the formation of private libraries.

He has edited Enduring Legacy: Charles Brasch, Patron, Poetry, Collector (2003) and is currently working on Dr Hocken as a book collector. Also in 2006, Random House is publishing his history of duelling in New Zealand, The Smell of Powder: A Histor of Duelling in New Zealand.

He lives in Dunedin and is Special Collections Librarian at the University of Otago.

Publication details Amassing Treasures for All Times: Sir George Grey, Colonial Bookman and Collector Donald Jackson Kerr Hardback. RRP $59.95 Release date:


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