Publishing comprises organising and preparing texts, reproducing them in multiple copies and selling and distributing them. It usually also includes financing this process. In the early years of European settlement publishing was often indistinguishable from printing, bookselling or sometimes authorship itself.
The first publications in New Zealand were in the Māori language, which had only recently been given written form. These were produced by missionaries in order to spread Christian texts. After some disappointing attempts at printing by William Yate, William Colenso, a trained printer commissioned by the Anglican Church Missionary Society, arrived in Paihia, the Bay of Islands, in 1834 with a Stanhope press. He managed to print parts of the Bible in translation, and by 1837 completed his great work, the Māori New Testament, in 5,000 copies. Subsequent editions were produced in London. The Wesleyan (Methodist) and Roman Catholic missions also printed religious texts and tracts in Māori.
William Colenso was delighted to see his Stanhope printing press when it landed on 3 January 1835, but he then lamented what was missing: ‘no wooden furniture … nor quoins … no galleys, no cases. No leads of any size, no brass rule, no composing-sticks … no inking table, no potash, no lye-brushes, no mallet and shooter, no roller-irons and stock … no imposing-stone nor page-cord; and, worst of all, actually no printing paper!!’1
These publications were greeted enthusiastically by Māori. As well as spreading Christianity, they were also important in standardising the Māori language and preserving its character. Māori themselves were not involved in producing these books and only took printing and publishing into their own hands with the emergence of Māori newspapers from the 1860s. Speech and memory remained their dominant means of transmission.
Colenso also printed smaller secular items in both English and Māori. He was engaged by William Hobson to print official documents surrounding the establishment of the colony. These included the proclamation of Hobson as lieutenant governor, the invitation to Māori chiefs to Waitangi in February 1840 and, subsequently, 200 copies of the Māori text of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document.
Colenso did not last long as a government printer. There were abortive attempts to set up a government press in Auckland using local newspaper printers, but the Government Printing Office was only firmly established after the capital moved to Wellington in 1865. Official publications of a modern state – reports, gazettes, laws, regulations and material produced by government departments – made the government the second important publisher in the early years of settlement.