We asked Sir George Grey Special Collections curator and manager, Georgia Prince, for her top five treasures from the collection.
1. An early form of recycling: the earliest medieval manuscript fragments in the Southern hemisphere. These were found bound into the inner margins of a Bible printed in 1480 by Professor Alexandra Barratt in 2012. The fragments are from the early 9th century, around 800, and were also part of a Bible.
2. The first item printed in New Zealand: Ko te Katekihama III, the third catechism printed in te reo Māori by William Yate at the Church Mission Press in Kerikeri in 1830.
3. Shakespeare’s first folio: the first collected edition of all of Shakespeare’s plays, printed in 1623 after Shakespeare’s death by his actor colleagues to preserve the text from corruption and false authorship claims. 18 of the 36 plays contained had never been printed before. This is the only copy in New Zealand and only one of 3 in the Southern hemisphere.
4. The manuscript of the words and music for God Defend New Zealand (1876). When Sir George Grey, as premier of the country, visited Lawrence, north of Dunedin, a large gathering of school children sang the song to him. He was deeply moved and asked the choirmaster, John Joseph Woods, who had composed the music for the original score. Grey later wrote to Thomas Bracken who had written the lyrics for the manuscript.
5. A letter handwritten by Hone Heke in te reo Māori to the trader Gilbert Mair in Whangarei, dated 16 Oct 1844. It was translated by Captain Gilbert Mair. “Cease therefore to invite the European indiscriminately to come to that Place…leave me a portion, a half of my kainga- do not appropriate the whole…”