Story: Collecting

Alexander Turnbull's bookplates

Alexander Turnbull's bookplates

Alexander Turnbull's predominant collecting interest lay in books and other printed materials, though he also collected Māori and Pacific artefacts. He amassed books relating to New Zealand and European culture and history. His New Zealand collection was particularly widespread – nothing related to the country was out of bounds. On Turnbull's death in 1918 his collection went to the government to form the basis of a national reference library. The government purchased his house in Bowen Street and the Alexander Turnbull Library opened in June 1920.

This is a selection of Turnbull's specially commissioned bookplates, which are still to be found in the volumes he owned that are held in the library. Bookplates are small labels pasted onto the inside front cover of a book to signify ownership. 'Ex libris' is Latin for 'from the books of'.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: Clockwise: BOOKPLATES-ATL-01; BOOKPLATES-Graham-NZ-Turnbull-1910-01; BOOKPLATES-Graham-NZ-Turnbull-1891-01; BOOKPLATES-Graham-NZ-Turnbull-1909-02.

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Richard Wolfe, 'Collecting - Notable collectors', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 27 January 2022)

Story by Richard Wolfe, published 5 Sep 2013