Friday, 18 December 2009

Holiday reading

We've been putting up a few books online recently that make great holiday reading, and it turns out that there's a bit of a shipwreck adventure theme going on, all with a New Zealand focus of course.

First up is François Raynal's Wrecked on a Reef, which recounts the almost two-year stint of Raynal and his shipmates on the Auckland Islands after their ship, the Grafton, is wrecked. Amazingly, the Grafton crew survived their ordeal in relative health and comfort, while unbeknowen to them another group of survivors, who were wrecked later and rescued earlier, almost all died.

This sucess at surviving in an environment where it rains for 30 days a month and there is little to eat except molly mawks and an occasional seal was largely down to Raynal's remarkable talents for improving their conditions in spite of few resources, and they managed to make soap, tan leather, build a comfortable lodge, and make a forge and iron tools.

It's a fantastic read, and ended up being an influence on Jules Verne when he wrote The Mysterious Island. The edition we have online contains fascinating commentaries from Christiane Mortelier, which she has kindly allowed us to republish online.

The Auckland Islands feature again in The Castaways of Disappointment Island, an account of the wreck of the Dundonald, and another great read.

The Auckland Islands were responsible for a significant number of the shipwrecks occuring in New Zealand waters, of which probably the most famous was the wreck of the General Grant. In the days of sailing ships, the quickest route across the Pacific was typically via the latitudes of the Roaring 40s, to the south of New Zealand; however, with the Auckland Islands smack in the middle of the route a number of ships came to grief, and survivors typically had to endure for many months before there was a chance of rescue.

A book covering the fascinating history and geography of the Auckland Islands is Allen Eden's Islands of Despair. He goes into detail about a number of the wrecks, including the General Grant, the Grafton, the Dundonald, the Derry Castle, the Invercauld and others, but also covers the story of the Erlangen, a German steamer which used the Auckland Islands as a base during a successful effort to escape New Zealand waters at the beginning of the Second World War. The Erlangen managed to escape from Otago harbour and reach South America without detection, though even with stopping at the Auckland Islands to cut a large quantity of wood for fuel, the Captain was forced into using many of the wooden fittings on board in order to reach the destination.

A more modern tale of shipwreck disaster is The Wahine Disaster, by Max Lambert and Jim Hartley. The authors, both journalists, do a great job of weaving together the different stories of the survivors and evoking the atmosphere of that tragic day. The result is a book that is highly readable but also quite sobering, and is essential reading for anyone interested in the disaster.

Another book well worth reading that we've had available online for a while now is Elsie K. Morton's Crusoes of Sunday Island, an account of the life of the Bell family on Sunday Island (now known as Raoul Island) in the Kermadecs. What seems at times an ideal, if at times difficult life, is put into contrast by the events at the end of the book which force the family to flee the island.

If shipwreck adventure is not your cup of tea, then you could try some of our more literary additions:

Katherine Mansfield's Novels and Novelists, a collection of reviews Mansfield wrote on leading authors of the day originally published in the Athenæum between April 1919 and December 1920. This work contains 150 reviews of 127 books by authors including Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence and many others.

Pageant, a 1933 (our edition from 1935) New Zealand novel from the pen of Edith Lyttleton (writing as G.B. Lancaster) which sold more than 50,000 copies in the United States alone during the first two years of its release. As Terry Sturm notes in his comprehensive article on Lyttleton's publishing career and her entanglements with publishers and literary agents, "It was by far the most widely read novel ever written by a New Zealander, up to that time." We also have two of Lyttleton's other novels available online: Promenade and The World is Yours.

Jane Mander's The Passionate Puritan, according to the New Zealand Book Council, "is a rather cheerful account of kauri milling, apparently written with an eye on the cinema (‘a mistake’, Mander claimed, she ‘ever afterwards regretted’)". Mander is probably best known for her novel The Story of a New Zealand River, which was adapted for the screen by Jane Campion as The Piano, and which Mansfield rather critically reviews in Novels and Novelists.

Margaret Bullocks's Utu: A Story of Love, Hate and Revenge. Part of the Nineteenth Century New Zealand Novels collection, this edition of Utu has been extensively footnoted and prepared with an introduction to the work of Margaret Bullock by Vicki Hughes, a student from the University of Victoria Department of English postgraduate programme. As Vicki notes, "Deceit, revenge, murder, incest, cannibalism and false identities, Margaret Bullock’s Utu: A Story of Love, Hate and Revenge has it all."

If we're talking favourites, then mine would have to be Raynal's Wrecked on a Reef, which is truly stranger than fiction, and an amazing tale of resourcefulness in the face of adversity.

For Stuart, his choice is Archibald Baxter's We Will Not Cease, an account of the author's horrific treatment during the First World War as a conscientious objector including imprisonment, beating, the infamous "Number 1 Field Punishment" (essentially day-long cruxifiction), and being left for dead on the battlefields of France. It's a truly remarkable book, and one for which the matter-of-fact tone is amazing, given the tribulations that the author experienced.

These books described above are all available as ePub eBooks (and occasionally PDF), downloadable for reading on your mobile device such as the iPhone / iPod Touch, or electronic ink devices such as the ecoReader which VicBooks here at Victoria University is now stocking. While we don't expect too many New Zealanders to be reading ePubs such as those mentioned above this holiday season, if the pace of developments in 2010 is anything like it has been this year, then we think that in twelve months time we'll see quite a few more people downloading ePubs from the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre website.

For us, the rapid acceptance of eBooks has been the biggest surprise of the year, and we're glad that we can help to ensure that New Zealand's historical cultural texts can be represented in this brave new world. We look forward to making many more titles of interest to the New Zealand public freely available online during 2010.

Wishing everyone a relaxing and enjoyable time over the holiday season,


Thursday, 17 December 2009

Katherine Mansfield as reviewer

Like most people that have passed through a New Zealand university, I've been exposed to a strong dose of writing by Katherine Mansfield, who even today ranks as New Zealand's pre-eminent writer. I've marvelled at the technique in her short stories, and enjoyed the candidness of her writing in the diaries and letters, and even enjoyed a number of books about her, including Antony Alper's biography and Margaret Scott's enjoyable reminiscenses about following the Mansfield trail.

However, I'd never really realised the strength and wit of Mansfield's writing as a reviewer, as illustrated in her reviews written for The Athenæum, the literary magazine edited by her husband, John Middleton Murry.

Spanning a period of only 21 months, Mansfield produced reviews covering more than 150 works of 127 authors, totalling more than 100,000 words, before becoming too ill and disinterested to write more. These reviews exemplify the wit, charm, and caustic exactness of Mansfield's writing, and should be regarded as an essential resource for those studying her work and technique.

She recognises the talent of her contemporaries, extolling with pleasure on Virginia Woolf's Kew Gardens:
Mrs. Virginia Woolf's story belongs to another age. It is so far removed from the note-book literature of our day, so exquisite an example of love at second sight. She begins where the others leave off, entering Kew Gardens, as it were, alone and at her leisure when their little first screams of excitement have died away and they have rushed afield to some new brilliant joy
She is no less taken by Woolf's Night and Day:
The strangeness lies in her aloofness, her air of quiet perfection, her lack of any sign that she has made a perilous voyage—the absence of any scars [...] It is impossible to refrain from comparing ‘Night and Day’ with the novels of Miss Austen. There are moments, indeed, when one is almost tempted to cry it Miss Austen up-to-date. It is extremely cultivated, distinguished and brilliant, but above all—deliberate.
However, she is also not reluctant to unlease her acerbicness for those works that fail to impress her. For instance, in her review of Jerome K. Jerome's All Roads Lead to Calvary:
‘All Roads Lead to Calvary’ is another novel. It is not more; it is one of that enormous pile of novels…. ‘Are they fresh?’ ‘Yes, baked to-day, Madame.’ But they are just the same as those that were baked yesterday and the day before—and the day before that. So much flour, a sprinkle of currants, a smear of sugar on the top. Melancholy, melancholy thought of all those people steadily munching, asking for another, and carrying perhaps a third one home with them in case they should wake up in the night and feel—not hungry, exactly—but ‘just a little empty.’
Her easy manner and facility with language emerge strongly from her reviews, and make them a pleasure to read, whether or not we are familiar with the work being critiqued:
Public Opinion, garrulous, lying old nurse that she is, cries: ‘Yes! Great books, immortal books are being born every minute, each one more lusty than the last. Let him who is without sin among you cast the first criticism.’ It would be a superb, thrilling world if this were true! Or if even a very moderate number of them were anything but little puppets, little make-believes, playthings on strings with the same stare and the same sawdust filling, just unlike enough to keep the attention distracted, but all like enough to do nothing more profound. After all, in these lean years of plenty how could it be otherwise? Not even the most hardened reader, at the rate books are written and read nowadays, could stand up against so many attacks upon his mind and heart, if it were. Reading, for the great majority—for the reading public—is not a passion but a pastime, and writing, for the vast number of modern authors, is a pastime and not a passion.
For those studying Mansfield and her influences, there is plenty to focus upon, whether it be references to the writers that deeply influenced her, such as Jane Austen, Chekhov and Dostoevsky, or allusions to childhood and her New Zealand past:
Perhaps one of the rarest and most delicious is meeting with an old play-fellow who is just come from the country of our childhood, and having an endless talk with him about what is changed and what is the same—whether the Aliens still live in the same house, what has become of the huge Molesworth family, and was the mystery of old Anderson ever solved?
We shall never see these people again; we shall share nothing more with them. We shall never push open their garden gates and smell our way past the flower bushes to the white verandahs where they sit gossiping in the velvet moonlight. Why should we feel then this passionate interest? Is it because, prisoners as we are, we love to feel we have inhabited other lives—lived more lives than one—or we are reluctant to withdraw wholly because of that whispered word ‘Finis’ which locks the doors against us, one by one, for ever?
But in case we ever think she is becoming sentimental in her critique, there are plenty of occasions where she is brusque and to the point, as with her review of Jane Mander's Story of a New Zealand River:
Miss Jane Mander is immensely hampered in her writing by her adherence to the old unnecessary technical devices—they are no more—with which she imagines it necessary to support her story. If one has the patience to persevere with her novel, there is, under all the false wrappings, the root of something very fresh and sturdy. She lacks confidence and the courage of her opinions; like the wavering, fearful heroine, she leans too hard on England. There are moments when we catch a bewilderingly vivid glimpse of what she really felt and knew about the small settlement of people in the lumber-camp, but we suspect that these are moments when she is off her guard.
Although many of the novels Mansfield covers in these reviews are now lost to the collective memory, there are also many writers whose works have stood the test, including Joseph Conrad, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, Jack London, Gertrude Stein, and Edith Wharton.
Reading through the reviews, I can't help but have my attention caught again and again by some turn of phrase or description which is very tangible and sharply-defined in the way that few writers are able to produce even today.

These reviews are a joy to read, and we're pleased to be able to make these reviews available for everyone's edification / mortification. They can be found at:
, which also includes an index of the writers reviewed.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Typo: typographical wonder of the 19th century

A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review [1887-1897]

One significant project that we've recently made available online is Robert Coupland Harding's magazine Typo.

Typo was the product of one man, Coupland Harding, who did the editorial work, much of the writing, and the composition and printing.

Dr Sydney Shep goes into much more detail about Robert Coupland Harding and his magazine Typo in her introduction. As Sydney mentions, it is "a landmark in New Zealand printing and publishing, famous in its time, then forgotten, and now re-discovered."

There's some fantastic material in Typo, both pictorial and textual, and this is the first of a series of posts where I'll surface some of the interesting bits and peices we've noticed while working on this collection.

Below is a selection of some of my favourite pages from Typo, and these are only scratching the surface.

And you thought WingDings was cool...

Cover of vol I
Cover of vol III
OrnamentsOptical illusions
Cover advertisingCover of vol IV
Type ribbonsLyon & Blair souvenir
A typographic fantasyType specimensSecond-hand job fountsCover of vol VI
Type specimensEx-cathedraCover of volume sevenType specimens
Type specimensCover of vol VIII
Cover of vol XI
Type specimens

Friday, 13 November 2009

New texts from the NZETC (November 2009)

We're happy to announce a number of texts made recently available online at the NZETC website.

These texts are a bit of a varied bunch, but include the following notable works:
  • Te Kāhui Kura Māori
    The second issue of a born-digital journal of post-graudate Māori Writing.

  • A Book in the Hand: Essays on the History of the Book in New Zealand
    Originally published in 2000 by Auckland University Press who, along with the authors, have kindly permitted us to make this important book available online.

    There are some fascinating works in this collection, including Donald Kerr's essay on George Gray's book-collecting habits, Peter Lineham's look at the production of the 1887 second edition of the Maori bible, and Terry Sturm's survey of the publishing history of G. B. Lancaster, one of New Zealand's most successful authors who is little-remembered these days.

    For those with a more bibliographic bent, there is Jocelyn Cumming's article on the conservation of the 1827 East India Pilot, Peter Hughes' history of printer Bob Lowry and the Pelorus Press, and Margery Blackman's work on the art and craft of bookbinder Eleanor Joachim.

    For others more interested in literature itself, there is Patrick Sandbrook's essay on Robin Hyde, and Lawrence Jones observations on the shifts in generational attitudes that occured in the 1930s when writers such as Denis Glover, R.A.K Mason, and A. R. D. Fairburn were taking over from the older, established order of writers such as Alan Mulgan and Charles Marris.

  • The Manuscript Diary of James Brogden, August 1871 – December 1872
    James Brogden was approached in 1871 by Julius Vogel to construct the railway network that he envisioned for New Zealand, and Brogden's diary recounts many observations of his travels through New Zealand, negotiations with New Zealand public officials, and the resulting process of railway construction. Often candid, Brodgen's diary entries reveal the difficulties and frustrations he faced when dealing with both the physical and political geography of New Zealand.

    The original manuscript of this diary resides in the National Library of Wales, and we are pleased to be able to make the digital version (including fascimilie images of the manuscript diary pages) available online with the assistance and encouragement of David Budgett, a relative of James Brogden.

    James Brogden eventually went bankrupt, at least in part because of difficulties with the arrangements negotiated for the construction of New Zealand railways. As David phrases it in his introduction, "the diary then is written by an optimistic and vigorous man who has worked hard and successfully on the industrial development of his part of South Wales and hopes to do something similar in New Zealand. His story after that was less happy"

  • Jerzy Podstolski's 1972 translation of Sygurd Wiśniowski's 1877 Polish novel Tikera; or, Children of the Queen of Oceania
    The NZETC Nineteenth Century novel collection includes many literary curios, to which we now add this novel. Written by an adventuring Polish writer who had some acquaintance with the country, having lived here in 1864-5 though not visiting the novel's settings of the Waikato, the Bay of Plenty, or New Plymouth, Tikera was originally published in 1877, with this version being translated from the 1956 Warsaw edition of Dzieci królowej Oceanii by Jerzy Podstolski, a Senior Lecturer at the former Library School in Wellington. This edition originally appeared with a very enlightening commentary by Dennis McEldowney which however, because of copyright considerations, we have not been able to make available on the website.
There are also a number of works which add further to collections that we've been developing in the last few years:

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

What are NZETC visitors after?

Like many other websites, we use Google Analytics to monitor our web traffic, and it allows us to easily see trends and patterns in who is using our site and the content they are accessing.

For example, in the latest month-on-month comparision (October traffic compared against September traffic), amongst other interesting developments, we notice
  • Absolute unique visitors are up by 9% (to 157,174)
  • The number of visits are up by 7% (to 185,877), as are pageviews by 4% (to 402,357)
  • However, the average time visitors are spending on the site is down slightly by 7% (to 2:01 minutes). This, we think, is because our server is performing much faster than previously, and therefore visitors are waiting less time for pages to load, so consequently we are not too worried about this figure
  • Almost 80% of our traffic originates from search-engines (i.e. Google), though the figure being referred from other websites is gradually increasing, and is currently 16.5%
Looking at the type of material that visitors are accessing on our site, we see the usual culprits appearing in the top ten most used resources:
Interestingly, apart from the large series (WH2 histories and Cyclopedias), it is the Maori and Polynesian language materials that consistently make it into the list of most-used resources from one month to the next. We think that this shows that, unlike English-language resources, there is a relative lack of good Maori and Polynesian language resources freely available on the web, and therefore people looking for these tend to end up at our site.

Other interesting trends that show up include general use of Internet technology:
  • Newer browsers are being adopted relatively quickly. Safari (+14%), Chrome (+26%) and Firefox (+10%) are all significantly up on their figures from last month
  • There is continued evidence of a move away from dial-up and towards broadband, espcially faster broadband, with cable (12%) and T1 (10%) significantly up on last month
So, using Google Analytics to compare out traffic from one month to the next provides interesting indicators into how we should be focusing our energy in times ahead. For example, the increased use of broadband shows that, over time, we can maybe become a little more relaxed about putting up webpages that contain lots of images (e.g. page images of the book from which the web page was generated). Also, it seems as if we should continue to put effort into digitising Maori and Polynesian language materials, as the demand is obviously there.

Also, although relying on search engines such as Google to drive traffic to the NZETC site has and is working well, maybe we need to think about about making it easier for external sites to link to our texts, as this figure of direct referrals (16%) is realtively low compared to search engine traffic (around 80%).

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Online texts for current courses at Victoria

The following are the online texts prescribed for courses currently offered at Victoria University of Wellington:

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

How to transfer ePubs to your device

We've recently made most of the texts in our collection downloadable as ePub eBooks, available to be read on a range of devices such as the Sony Reader, and Apple iPhone and iPod Touch.

The next question naturally is how to get these ePub texts from the NZETC site onto your device. This of course differs depending on your device and your choice of software, but here's some pointers:
  • Typically you'll need to download the ePub file to your computer as a first step. On the main page of a text, you'll find an ePub icon for a given NZETC text in the sidebar under the "Other Formats" heading. For example, Jean Batten's autobiography has an ePub icon in the sidebar; if you click on this ePub icon, your browser should prompt you to save the file.
  • For those with Apple iPhone and iPod Touch devices, LexCycle's Stanza is currently a popular freely-available reader. They have instructions on their site about transferring books from your computer to your device.
  • Dedicated eBook readers such as the Sony Reader typically come with their own software for transferring books between your computer and your device, however there are other options that you might find useful.
  • Calibre is an open source solution for maintaining and reading a library of eBooks on your computer, and transferring them to your device.
  • Adobe Digital Editions is another freely-available (though not open source) solution which allows you to manage your library of eBooks on your computer and transfer them to your device.
  • Should you want to read an ePub text online, it is always possible to use an online-based reader such as BookWorm.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Plates from Buller's Birds

Plates from Buller's Birds

A History of the Birds of New Zealand

To celebrate New Zealand Book Month, today's book is Walter Buller's A History of the Birds of New Zealand, and as this text is online at the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, we thought we'd show people some of the fantastic colour plates that are present in the work.

Below is a selection of some of the 48 plates that feature in this work, though they are all wonderful in their level of detail.

The plates are the work of John Gerrard Keulemans, an illustrator of many important ornithological texts.

Laughing PetrelWandering AlbatrossSpotted ShagPied Shag
Rifleman and Rock WrenBlue Heron and White HeronSouth Island WekaKingfisher
Swamp RailTakaheKokakoKakariki
HuiaSaddlebackBlack FantailFern Bird
Silver-eyeTuiStich BirdLong-tailed Cuckoo