Sir George Grey Special Collections

Rare books held in Special Collections. Rare books

Information about the rare books collection held in Special Collections.

Auckland Libraries holds a number of important collections of rare books, ranging from former governor Sir George Grey's collection, described by Donald Kerr in Amassing treasures for all times : Sir George Grey, colonial bookman and collector (2006), to contemporary private press publications.


Where can I find the collections?

Our rare books are looked after by the Special Collections team on the second floor of the Central City Library. These heritage items are for reference only and can be viewed in the Special Collections reading room. See also the current exhibition.


How do I find out what items are in the collections?

Most of the books in the printed collections have been listed on our catalogue, but more information is available from the Special Collections team. The early printed Māori collections are not in the catalogue - access is through an index available in Special Collections.


What collections does the library hold?


New Zealand Collections 

Grey Printed Māori Collection
Sir George Grey (1812-1898) collected books printed in the Māori language. His collection contains some very rare publications, including the first book printed in New Zealand - Ko te katekihama III, or The third catechism. This was printed at the Mission press in Kerikeri by Rev. William Yate in 1830.

Printed Māori Collection
This is a collection of books in Māori which were not donated by Grey. It contains a number of duplicates of books in Grey's collection, but also additional works from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Grey New Zealand Collection
Sir George Grey collected books written about New Zealand in his lifetime and these are kept together as a separate collection. They include rare books such as Walter Buller's A history of the birds of New Zealand (1873), George French Angas' The New Zealanders illustrated (1847) and F. R. Stack's Views in the Province of Auckland (1863).

New Zealand Collection
This collection consists of New Zealand books printed before 1920 and a selection of definitive works on New Zealand history and culture published after that date.


International Collections

Pre-1800 International Collection
This is a representative collection of books from the invention of printing in the mid 15th century to 1800, just before printing began to be mechanised. Books from the collections of Sir George Grey and Henry Shaw are included. There are early printed books from the 15th century (incunabula), Latin and English Bibles, early English printing, works of literature, travel books and examples of fine binding, typography and illustrations. Highlights include all four folios of William Shakespeare and William Blake's America and Europe. Digitised versions of our copies of America and Europe can be viewed as images and text.

Post-1800 International Collection
These are rare books from the 19th and 20th century, including those donated by Sir George Grey and Henry Shaw. The collection also contains editions of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam donated by John Kenderdine and the Hilda Wiseman Bookplate Collection. It is particularly strong in literary first editions, art and design, voyages and travel, natural history and Bibles in various languages.

Private Press Collection
The Private Press collection contains books printed in the tradition of the Private Press movement - books printed by hand, in limited editions, with as much emphasis on making an object of beauty as on reproducing a text. Our collection contains examples of the great presses of the late 19th and early 20th century, work by New Zealand presses and printers, and books produced by modern American, British and Australian private presses and book artists.

Illustrated Book Collection
A collection of books from the 19th century onwards that features different illustrative techniques (such as wood engraving, aquatint, etching, lithography) as well as works by well-known illustrators such as Gustave Doré, Arthur Rackham, and Edmund Dulac.

Colson Collection
The Colson collection aims to be a representation of what children have read over the years, containing items dating back to the beginnings of children's literature. This collection contains both international and New Zealand texts, and supports research into the development of children's literature, including different styles of printing and illustration.

Reed Dumas Collection
Books and manuscripts by and about Alexandre Dumas père (1802-1870), writer of The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo and many other works. Formed by Frank Wild Reed, the older brother of the publisher A. H. Reed, this is the largest collection of works by and about Alexandre Dumas père outside France.

Stacpoole Irish Collection
This collection contains works about Ireland’s literature, landscape, art and people, donated by John Stacpoole in 2005.

Stacpoole Powell Collection
Material by or about English novelist Anthony Powell (1905-2000), best known for his twelve volume sequence of novels called A Dance to the Music of Time. Donated by John Stacpoole in 2000, the year of Powell's death, the collection contains many first editions of his novels, as well as Powell's work as an editor and reviewer.

Quaker Collection
This collection contains material concerned with the lives of outstanding Quaker personalities, and the history, principles and precepts of the Society of Friends (whose members are commonly known as Quakers).

back to top

© Auckland Council