Psst! – hidden treasures #5

So far, while exploring, I’ve mainly talked about old stuff in our Aotearoa New Zealand Collection. This time around I want to let you in on a little secret:  whenever our library selectors buy New Zealand titles for the libraries, they buy a special copy for the Aotearoa New Zealand Collection. Just like its brothers and sisters out circulating in the community libraries, it gets processed and organised and added to the records, but after that it (most often) makes its way here to Tuam Street, where it is freely available to read, as long as you don’t leave the room!  Seriously, don’t make me chase you …

Remember that these books are reference only, and not to borrow, so unfortunately if you are number 72 on the list for a popular recent release, you can’t jump the queue; but if you truly are DESPERATE to get a head start on the latest must-read, Central Library Tuam and the ANZC are a great place to visit. Poking round the shelves this morning turned up these treasures:

  • Julie Le Clerc’s Favourite Cakes (for when you need something yummy)
  • Dennis Greville’s Easy on the Pocket Vegetable Growing (in case you spent all your money buying those cake ingredients)
  • Witi Ihimaera’s The Parihaka Woman, and Paula Morris’ Rangatira, both recent novels by two of our most well-known writers
  • Joanne Drayton’s The Search for Anne Perry (for those who saw, or didn’t see, Joanne at The Press Christchurch Writers’ Festival)
  • and a series of large and hauntingly beautiful books featuring the photographic work of Doc Ross. I was particularly moved by the 2012 title Quietus: Observations of an Altered City, a large white-covered book recording the changing face of Christchurch, with a mixture of black and white, and colour photos, and script by Andrew Paul Wood. This is one of only 50 copies printed, and it is a real privilege to have a copy here on the shelf at Tuam Street to be read and admired by all.

Hidden treasures # 4: Creative Canterbury 1965

One of the things I am loving about our ANZC resources is the sheer breadth of what is collected there.  From the 1850’s almanack that I talked about last time, to the most recently published books from contemporary NZ writers, there’s something for everyone.

I’ve just spent the last 20 minutes flicking through a book that’s only a year older than me.  It’s been vastly entertaining, although possibly not in the way the publishers intended.  Page 9, for example, contains one of the most amusingly badly written articles about our region that I’ve ever read.  There are an overabundance of exclamation marks!, several sprinklings of unlikely “speech marks, and a series of rather mysterious utterances:

From the Hurunui River in the north to the Waitaki, where it marches with North Otago in the south, [Canterbury] is expendable and expandable.

Whatever that means, this wee magazine was surely meant to inspire and inform.  A joint publication between Breckell & Nicholls Ltd, and the Canterbury Manufacturers’ Association, Creative Canterbury 1965 features a series of mini-articles showcasing everything from the Extremely Bouyant (sp.!) Building Industry to Skellerup’s brand new rotocure machine, opening a new field for rubber flooring.

Those who are drawn to old machinery will love the black-and-white illustrations (see p. 98-99 for Mace Engineering and more toolroom slotters, universal grinders and horizontal borers than you can shake a stick at), while history buffs and all of us who have watched our city disappearing in front of us will feel quite surprisingly moved at the articles about brand new buildings like the BNZ on Colombo Street, and features on the Christchurch Railway Station and the Lyttelton Tunnel.

I’ll leave you with a summary of what Canterbury can offer that’s surely better than anything I could have come up with myself:

There is a habit of saying, “There’s room to move in Canterbury”. Perhaps that is the true secret of its appeal. There is room for initiative and enterprise, there is room for recreation and relaxation, there is room to build a home, not alone from bricks and mortar but from those ingredients which in fact make life.

Be you newcomer or tourist, there’s room for you in Canterbury – and a welcome on the mat!  Come on in!

Hidden treasures # 3: The Canterbury Almanack 1853

Apparently I should have sown my Oats and Barley last month.  The good news is, though, that there’s still plenty of time to get my Mangold Wurzel into the ground.  I am also to bear in mind that

… each successive day throughout the month [of October] suggests additional duties peculiar to itself, the performance of which cannot be advantageously deferred.

All this and much more helpful information can be found in this week’s ANZC treasure find – The Canterbury  Almanack for the Year of our Lord 1853, Calculated for the Meridian of Lyttelton (first year of publication).

With a charming disclaimer on the first page:

In presenting to the public the first Almanack published in the Canterbury Settlement, we are but too sensible of its shortcomings in many respects.  Such as it is, however, we present it, with its imperfections, to our fellow-colonists, in the hope that they will not too minutely scrutinize its deficiencies.

the almanack provides information ranging from phases of the moon, to planting guides for mangold wurzel, to a remarkably detailed description of the Canterbury landscape:

at the S.W. angle formed by the peninsula with the main land, a shallow lagoon, called Lake Ellesmere, about 18 miles long and 8 broad, is only divided from the sea by a narrow shingle bar, through which, at its S.W. extremity, the natives every year cut a channel for the purpose of catching eels on the borders of the lake thus laid dry.

I love almanacks, and I especially love that this one is both SO OLD, and SO LOCAL.  So much of the information here remains current or useful for research, despite its over-150-year-old publication date – planting guides, local geography, shipping list and other historical details.  The advertisements at the back not so much, however, which is a shame.  I would love to have visited Thomas Gee, Pastry-Cook, Confectioner, Fancy Biscuit Baker, and Ginger Beer Manufacturer in Canterbury Street, Lyttelton (for Bride-Cakes, Jellies, Blanch-Manges, Patties and Ornamented Savoy Cakes made to order), on moderate terms.

Tune in again in a few days, when we’ll be looking at manufacturing in 1965 Canterbury; read some previous Hidden Treasures posts; or just drop by the ANZC collection here at Central Tuam Library and find your very own gems!

Twelve years in Canterbury: Hidden treasure #2

My second visit to ANZC, and I have unearthed this wee gem, with possibly the longest title in the world:  Twelve years in Canterbury, New Zealand, with visits to the other provinces, and reminiscences of the route home through Australia, etc. (from a lady’s journal), by Mrs. Charles Thomson.

I have fallen deeply in love with this book, and have a strong desire to take it home and sleep with it under my pillow, but alas, it too is part of our heritage and reference collection and can only be read here at Tuam Street.  So I will continue to sit and read in the ANZC area, and use words like alas! a lot.

In early December, 1852, Mrs Thomson tells us that she boarded “the good ship Hampshire at Gravesend, bound direct for the Canterbury settlement.”  Her journal goes on to describe the sea voyage (noting that although there are many fine people aboard, with good hearts and minds, there are also – !!! – many opportunities for sin!)

There are charming anecdotes – she tells the story of a family who brought out an English carriage:  “It was of course utterly useless, and served only for a laughing-stock, so ridiculously out of place did it appear”.  In attempting to land the carriage safely on shore, it instead ended up sunk in the harbour, and after the unfortunate vehicle had been fished up, it was promptly sent off to Sydney instead.

And some references to the early pilgrims’ reaction to what we see as our beautiful landscape:

It is not easy for the early Canterbury pilgrims to forget the desolate appearance presented to their gaze by the plains, when … they stood on top of the hill and looked down and beyond in the distance upon the site of their intended city. Few spots in nature could look more dreary or ugly; they could only comfort themselves by the assurance that it was healthy, and the hope that they might in time become accustomed to its ugliness; and then they looked upon the ever-grand and majestic mountains that bounded the view, and felt that in them, there was a magnificence that could never fail, and that in beholding them, the eye could never tire.

This book is a true treasure, and I can only urge you to go find it yourselves, and perhaps at the same time find your own Canterbury treasures to explore.  I will leave you with Mrs Thompson’s own words

[The author] trusts that the information she has been able to collect may prove useful to those who contemplate a visit to the Antipodes, interesting to those who stay at home, and may, perhaps, tend to open the eyes of all to the many advantages and blessings to be reaped by those who, with strong hearts and willing minds, seek distant shores, to create for themselves, under God’s favour, new homes, new fortunes and new health.

Christchurch sketchbook: Hidden treasure #1

One man’s trash, another man’s treasure  – words that keep echoing in my head every time I go into the Aotearoa New Zealand area here at Central Library Tuam. I talked a couple of weeks ago about the ‘old stuff’ that we have here and how mesmerising and distracting it can be. I thought I’d illustrate this some more as we focus in October on the theme of Rediscovering Christchurch.  So in this spirit of rediscovery I am venturing back into the shelves in search of more treasure.
Christchurch sketchbook by Unk White, text by Monte Holcroft

Today’s find: a little green volume called Christchurch Sketchbook, published in 1968.  A collection of pen and ink drawings by Unk White, with accompanying text by MH Holcroft, this is a wee gem that made me laugh, describing the Antigua boatsheds as a place where:

Icecream and soft drinks are sold briskly to customers in short pants.

and cry (remembering the heartbreak of watching the Provincial Chambers fall)

And then there could be seen in Durham Street a remarkable sight – a Gothic structure with arches, buttresses, windows and a magnificent entrance … viewed across a landscape of tussock, flax bushes, and a few lonely willows.

and feel proud to be a librarian

 … in all this time the [old Public] library continued quietly to grow … and under good librarians has made a fine contribution to a city whose people have always been fond of books.

Watch this space for more hidden treasures to be discovered!