Early Herald searchable through library database

By Yvonne Tahana

To find pages of the New Zealand Herald from years gone by, all you have to do is go online. Photo / NZ Herald
To find pages of the New Zealand Herald from years gone by, all you have to do is go online. Photo / NZ Herald

Troop movements, booze, tobacco, sword belts and saddles for sale, shipping news and an editorial that set out the path for the New Zealand Herald inked the four pages of the paper's first edition nearly 149 years ago.

In a combined project, the Herald, Auckland Central City Library and the National Library today launch the first 21 years of newspapers on paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. Dating from Friday, November 13, 1863 to 1884 and comprising 50,000 pages, it is the first of a planned release of papers through to 1945.

Since the 1950s the library has used microfilm to record papers. They are still so popular with the public the institution runs a booking system.

The change means that keyword searches replace the time-consuming practice of students and researchers having to scan through editions to find what they're looking for.

The inaugural paper cost three pence and set out that no cost nor care would be spared in covering the "immediate anxiety" - the "native rebellion".

Governor George Grey invaded the Waikato in April of that year but a decisive battle hadn't been fought between the sides.

Frustration at that was clear and words weren't minced about the character of the enemy. The extended editorial headlined "Ourselves" said: "According to his lights the Maori may be a warrior; but the inherent excellence of his valour lies in rapine, murder, surprise and instant flight."

Conquering and confiscating land was imperative but past that point the paper's publishers W.C. Wilson and David Burn told their readers there would be bigger issues to focus on in the future. Better government, constitutional arrangements and prosperity were needed to forge New Zealand into the "Britain of the South".

In those early years recurring themes were the state of the streets, Auckland's maritime, agricultural and commercial position, water supply, and the speed of communications and connection.

Te reo was used nearly every day - a surprise to Peter Thomas, Auckland Central City Library's Maori service development team leader who has looked at how language was used.

Long letters were printed in both languages, stories used Maori words without translation in the expectation the audience would understand them because of higher levels of bilingualism, tupuna names were used and products such as Taniwha Soap were advertised.

Central City Library's David Verran, who worked on the project, said shipping news was hugely popular during the period.

"Today, people love reading through them because it's all about the starting off of new ventures."

- NZ Herald

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