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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa

Colonial consolidation, 1900-1960

Colonial consolidation, 1900-1960

During the main period of New Zealand's administration of Pacific Islands territories there is little evidence of publishing activity in the indigenous languages in fields other than religion and education (discussed in preceding sections). Only about 50 items have been identified in the main institutional collections, fewer than half published in New Zealand.

The Polynesian Society appears to have been the most significant publisher. M.P.K. Sorrensen notes in his centennial history of the Society (p.33) that its Journal had published relevant papers both in the indigenous language and English translation since the first issues in 1892. In its second decade, for example, there were articles in Niuean, Tahitian, and Rarotongan, on topics such as traditional tales and chants. The Society occasionally reprinted these articles separately, for example Wyatt Gill's Rarotonga Records (1916). The scattering of other publications printed in New Zealand were mostly grammars and dictionaries, including Tregear and Smith's Vocabulary and Grammar of the Niue Dialect (1907), and Whitcombe's Tongan Phrase Book (c.1945).

Most vernacular publishing during the period occurred in the Cook Islands and Western Samoa. It appears that almost nothing was published in Niue or Tokelau—the latter being already supplied with Samoan language material.

In Western Samoa, the long-established LMS printery at Malua at times supplemented its religious and educational output with commercial printing work. It printed a little annual calendar in the years around 1915-20, O le Kalena Samoa, which in 1918 carried an advertisement seeking more local work for its printing, bookbinding and paper ruling establishment. In 1922, it produced a pamphlet in English and Samoan on the Duties of Officials, and in 1930, O le Tusi Faalupega o Samoa, a guide to Samoan ranks and names. Samoan versions of some classic European tales were also printed, including Stories from the Arabian Nights (1925) and Stevenson's The Bottle Imp (1926). From 1948 annual reports of the Department of Island Territories are sources for details of information services, printing and publishing (e.g. AJHR A.4, 1955, p.116 for the Malua printery).

Local politics and government administrative duties produced some publications in both Western Samoa and the Cook Islands. Many were bilingual; some had parallel texts, while in others, the English and vernacular texts covered quite different subjects. In the Cook Islands, the political paper Ioi Karanga (1898-1901) and the administration's Cook Islands Gazette (1898-1926) and Cook Islands Review (1954-70) are examples. The Government Printer in Rarotonga also printed such items as a Translation of the Cook Islands Act 1915 into Rarotonga Maori (1915), Trotter's Glossary of English and Rarotongan (c.1917), and H. Bond James's Rough Notes on Rarotongan (1923).

From 1905, the Western Samoan government published O le Savali monthly in Samoan for officials, continuing throughout the colonial period. English was used for most government publications until the later 1940s and early 1950s, when the Western Samoa Gazette (1920- ), some ordinances and legislation, and at least one departmental circular were produced in both Samoan and English. Proposals for constitutional development in the 1950s were bilingual.

The weekly independent local newspaper the Samoa Bulletin (1950-67) was also published in both languages. New Zealand's Department of Island Territories reported in 1957 that the Samoa Printing and Publishing Co., publishers of the Samoa Bulletin, undertook a variety of other work, including government publications. The New Zealand government was at this time assisting the Samoan government with equipment and technical assistance in setting up its own printing press, which began operation early in 1958.