Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Best New Zealand Poems 2009: A Scottish View of New Zealand Poetry

The 2009 edition of Best New Zealand Poems, released today by Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), comes with a skirl of pipes and a Scottish perspective.

Each year a new editor selects the best 25 poems published by New Zealand writers during the previous 12 months. This year’s editor, Robyn Marsack, is the director of the Scottish Poetry Library.

Marsack says she selected the 25 top poems thinking about an international audience.

“I was conscious that this site is for an audience outside New Zealand, a window on to its poetry.”

While the 2009 selection features many of the established names of New Zealand poetry—ex-poet laureate Michele Leggott, Ian Wedde, C.K. Stead, Bernadette Hall, Chris Price and Brian Turner for example— it also includes emerging writers such as Louise Wallace, Ashleigh Young, Tokyo-domiciled Brent Kininmont, and the acclaimed dancer Douglas Wright.

Marsack says while many of the poems are distinctly New Zealand in subject and style, others are less obviously from the Southern Hemisphere.

“Many of these poems are not anchored in New Zealand society or its landscapes; why should they be? The furthest extreme is John Gallas's marvellous 'The Mongolian women's orchestra', and Lynn Jenner's mysterious 'A Hassidic story might start . . .'.”

Professor Bill Manhire, Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters which publishes Best New Zealand Poems, says that he is delighted to have Robyn Marsack’s “outsider” perspective on New Zealand poetry.

“New Zealand and Scotland have deep and continuing connections, and the writers of both countries are genuinely international in their outlooks. This fits well with the chief aim of Best New Zealand Poems, which is to export our poetry to a global audience.”

A high proportion of visitors to Best New Zealand Poems come from overseas. To encourage further reading poems include notes about the poet, as well as links to related websites.

Robyn Marsack is a New Zealander, a graduate of Victoria and Oxford Universities, and was co-editor of the 2009 anthology Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets. The Scottish Poetry Library recently added a special feature on New Zealand poets to its website.

Best New Zealand Poems 2009 is published with the support of Creative New Zealand, and hosted by the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre at Victoria University.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Nelson Historical Society Journal now online

We're happy to announce that the journal of the Nelson Historical Society is now available online at the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.

Being a collaborative project between the Friends of the Nelson Library and the NZETC, the digitisation of this resource is a good example of the types of services that the NZETC is able to provide in making cultural texts available online.

The division of responsibilities between the partners fell as follows:
  • the Friends of the Nelson Library sourced the original texts and arranged for all permissions from authors for online republication of their work. The Friends also provided the funding for the actual process of digitisation.
  • NZETC provided the skills and resources to digitise the journal and host it on our webserver. NZETC undertakes to provide ongoing hosting of the journal and maintenance as part of the main collection of NZETC texts at no cost to the Friends, though the Friends will fund digitisation of new issues of the journal as they become available.

Collaborations such as this emphasize the strength of the NZETC's online publishing framework in providing a home for text-based New Zealand and Pacific cultural resources where the original guardians are unable to justify the cost of providing their own publishing and hosting infrastructure.

Approaching 200,000 pages of original content, the NZETC publishing framework has been designed to cope with large amounts of previously-published and born-digital content, and handles the content in a flexible and future-proofed fashion.

The press release about the launch follows:
More than half a century of Nelson publishing history is now available online with the digitisation of the journals of the Nelson Historical Society, thanks to a collaborative project between Friends of the Nelson Library  and the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. 
The digitisation of the society's journals provides access to valuable local history research on a wide range of topics including people, places, businesses and events.
Tony Hunter, the president of the Nelson Historical Society, says "The society, is excited by the opportunity to present its journals to the public via the internet. These valuable and interesting documents chart the Nelson and Marlborough regions development from the 1840's and will prove helpful to any body researching this time."
A separate Friends of the Nelson Library Microfilm Sub-committee, led by Nola Leov, has been the driving force behind the project, with years of fundraising taking place to allow the project to succeed. The project required that the authors of each article give their consent for the digitisation and two years was spent tracking them down. To date all but six authors have been successfully located.
The project has been supported by the Nelson Historical Society, the Marlborough Historical Society, Nelson Public Libraries: nga whare matauranga o whakatu, the Nelson Branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists, the Nelson Institute and the Nelson Provincial Museum: Pupuri Taonga o Te Tai Ao.
Additionally the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre and National Library of New Zealand: Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa have collaborated to provide links from index entries in Index New Zealand to the full text of the journals on the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.
The textual content of this project is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand license, which allows for re-use of the work for non commercial use.
Future plans of the sub-committee include the digitisation of the Nelson Photo News - a snapshot of Nelson life from the 1960s and 70s, which it is hoped will be digitised if further funds can be raised. The sub committee was previously responsible for the microfilming of the Nelson Mail.
The Nelson Historical Society was formed in 1954 with the objective of collecting archival material relating to the history of the northern part of the South Island and encouraging research.  Public meetings at which talks were given on aspects of Nelson history were held and it was decided in 1955 to publish these talks.
The first issue of the Journal of the Nelson Historical Society Incorporated was published in November 1955.  In 1981 the Marlborough Historical Society joined the enterprise and the title changed to Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Societies.
When the Marlborough Historical Society withdrew in 1996 the title became the Nelson Historical Society Journal, with publication continuing as copy becomes available.
Accessible on the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre website (, the Nelson Historical Society Journal Digitisation Project  was formally launched on March 17, 2010 at a function at Nelson Public Library and was officially declared launched by Major Kerry Marshall.
Images of journal covers available on request
For enquiries or further information contact: Karen Price - Project Manager Friends of the Library Microfilm sub-committee
(027) 238 1819 / (03) 546 6394

Friday, 12 March 2010

Read an eBook week: eBook readers

As this week is Read an eBook Week, I thought it might be apt for me to provide some information about how to read the eBooks that we here at the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre are making available online.

We make all of our 1000+ titles available as eBooks using the ePub format, and occasionally as PDFs of the page images (for example, the NZETC version of Ursula Bethell's poems, From a Garden in the Antipodes, is available both as facsimile PDF and ePub).

From our point of view, the advantage to the reader of reading our texts as eBooks include:
  • the ability to read the book offline
  • the ability to read the book on their dedicated eBook reader, thus allowing for a better reading experience than that offered by a PC screen.
  • the ability to share NZETC eBooks with friends and family, as most of our eBooks are licensed under a license allowing for almost unrestricted re-use (the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike)
Dedicated eBook readers
Many of the newer eBook reading devices use a technology called eInk, which offers the benefit of being easy to use for long periods of time, and allowing for devices which can go weeks between charges.

In terms of the New Zealand market, there are still relatively few eInk readers available, though they are starting to appear. If trends overseas are anything to go by, we will be soon be spoilt for choice regarding dedicated eInk readers (for example, the MobileRead site lists the specifications for more than 40 eInk readers.

If you are intending to buy an eInk device, there are a number of online resources offering reviews and commentary about different models, such as the UK-based site,

As well as eInk devices, there are also a number of other dedicated eBook reading devices out there that use LCD displays, and the trend is towards a different type of LCD display that promises to offer better readability than a PC screen (i.e. less fatigue after long periods of reading) and better battery life.

Reading eBooks on your iPhone / iPod Touch
If you don't have access to a dedicated eBook reader, then the Apple iPhone or iPod Touch is likely to be your next best bet at the moment in New Zealand.

There are a number of software eBook readers that are available for this platform and many are beginning to support reading both on and off the iPhone / iPod Touch, including the following notable apps:
  • Ibis Reader
    Ibis Reader is a new kid on the block, and allows you to access your eBook online via a web browser, but also use the iPhone / iPod Touch app to have offline access to the eBook. The Ibis Reader is one of the first of a new breed of reader which will allow you to have your eBooks available in the Internet cloud, but also downloadable, and will keep your reading location and bookmarks synchronised.
  • Stanza
    Stanza is best known for its iPhone app, though it also provides a desktop reader, so you have the option of reading on your PC / Mac or on your iPhone. The desktop version also features options to convert eBooks to other formats, include the Amazon Kindle format.
Reading eBooks in your web browser
If the idea of reading NZETC eBooks in your web-browser sounds a bit redundant (after all, why not simply visit the NZETC web page for the text in question), then consider that it provides the ability to download the eBook while online, and then read them later, when not connected to the Internet.

If you use the Firefox web browser, you can use the ePub Reader add-on which will display the ePub in a browser window.

Reading eBooks online
If you really want to read the ePub eBook online, Threepress have created a great web-based application called Bookworm, which will allow you to upload your eBook to their server, and then always have the ability to read it when online.

Other interesting eBook readers
  • FBReader
    An open-source desktop and mobile reader that supports many formats, including ePub, fb2, plucker, Mobipocket, oeb, OpenReader, ztxt, rtf, pdf, djvu, odt, iSilo, and many others.
    Unfortunately, although supporting platforms such as Google Android, FBReader isn't available for the Apple iPhone.
  • GoodReader
    A great application for reading large PDFs on the Apple iPhone, though it currently doesn't support ePub eBooks.
  • Mobipocket
    An good desktop-based eBook reader  (PC only).

Friday, 5 March 2010

The $100,000+ book

There aren't too many books associated with New Zealand that fetch many thousands of dollars, but one notable one is Bank's Florilegium, the story of which is covered in Early New Zealand Botanical Art, a book by F Bruce Sampson originally published in 1985 and which we've recently made available online.

This text provides a great review of the course of New Zealand botanical illustration, covering the significant artists and their creations from Cook's first voyage in 1768 to the 1914 publication of Thomas Cheeseman's Illustrations of the New Zealand Flora.

Sydney Parkinson was the first European artist to have New Zealand flora to work from, and he was prodigiously productive. Parkinson had been employed by Joseph Banks as the natural history artist on Cook's first voyage, while another man, Alexander Buchan, was the artist responsible for illustrations of landscapes and native peoples. However, with the untimely death of Buchan four days after arriving in Tahiti, the duties of all illustration fell to Parkinson, and as well as numerous landscapes and portraits, Parkinson produced almost 1000 plant illustrations before he, too, died, one of 31 of Cook's men that perished between the Endeavour arriving at Bativia (Jakarta) on the homeward leg, and her next stop at the Cape of Good Hope.
Because of the pressure of time, Parkinson would often sketch or paint only the essential parts of a particular plant and of his 925 plant illustrations, 676 were unfinished, many being later completed by artists that Banks commissioned after arriving back in England.

Parkinson's botanical illustrations

Parkinson kept a journal of his travels, which was completed and published posthumously by his brother and became a best-seller of the day. As well as containing some of the first landscapes and portraiture of New Zealand by a European, it provides a fascinating account of the adventure associated with Cook's first voyage, and contains many observations on aspects of culture and language, including a vocabulary of Maori.

Some of Parkinson's portraits

As well as Parkinson, history can regard itself lucky that Banks also employed the services of Daniel Carl Solander in Cook's first voyage. As Sampson relates, Solander was a student of Linnaeus, the founder of modern taxonomy and the instigator of the binomial nomenclature that we use to describe flora and fauna.

It seems peculiar given the amount of work that Banks, Parkinson, Solander and others had put into collecting, describing and illustrating the flora of the voyage, but much of this work has not been published until recent times, and Sampson's book covers the twists and turns of this history.

Although some of the illustrations were published between 1900-1905, and again in 1973, the first complete edition of Bank's Florilegium, a work in 34 parts, was only published between 1980 and 1990 through a collaboration between Alecto Historical Editions and the British Museum. Unfortunately, due to the high standards of production and limited edition, this publication typically sells for more than NZ $100,000, thus being outside of the domain of most mere mortals, though there is a complete copy in the Alexander Turnbull Library.

As well as the artists associated with Banks and Cook (including Johan and George Forster), Sampson's book covers a number of other significant botanical artists, along with some beautiful examples of their work, of which I include a few examples of here below.

Following the links below will take you to the illustration presented in context in the text; keep clicking on that illustration to see the high-resolution image.

Martha King

Sarah Featon

Emily Harris

Georgina Hetley

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

New term, new courses, new set texts.

With the start of term at Victoria and the start of new courses we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the texts we've got digitised for various courses.