Among the thousands of books which lined the trestle tables at the William Colenso College book sale in Napier earlier this month were a few literary treasures.

Some were spotted and sold while some stayed behind like what could probably be termed as "hidden treasures".

The once-annual book sale was the last to be staged and raised an impressive $18,000, although as is usually the case many books were left unsold.

One of them caught the eye of the college crew as it clearly had age on its side - as well as local historical links.


It is an 1899 first edition of Tangweera, a book by Charles Napier Bell linking to some of the most riveting New Zealand history.

As literature lover and a member of the college crew Neill Gordon said, the book was likely to be valued at $200 or more, and bore some fine inscriptions.

Inside the cover it bears the words "Emelia von Tempsky from her brother C Napier Bell, July 4 1900".

Bell's sister Emelia was the wife of legendary Prussian adventurer, gold miner, linguist, writer and artist Gustavus von Tempsky, of the Taranaki Wars and Forest Rangers.

Gustavus von Tempsky had met the Bells in Central America and is mentioned on several pages of the book.

"Some men love danger and court its presence, and he was such a man," wrote Bell of von Tempsky venturing alone in the Central American jungle.

Gustavus von Tempsky was killed on September 7, 1868 in an attack on Titokowaru's main Pa, Te Ngutu o Te Manu or The Bird's Beak in Taranaki.

It has been written that the defenders were ready and waiting when the militia arrived and they came under heavy and accurate fire.


Wisely, the militia head decided to withdraw, as he was well aware of the futility of trying to attack a defended Māori Pa — but that was too tame for von Tempsky, who protested and then began to advance on the Pa.

Within "a few moments" he was dead, killed by a bullet through his forehead, one of the 50 or so killed and wounded in the engagement.

Gordon said the book also bears the inscription "Kettle, 1900".

"Presumably Emelia's daughter Lena Kettle, who, I believe, married Nathaniel Kettle, co-founder of Hawke's Bay stock and station firm Williams and Kettle."

Emelia had moved to Hawke's Bay after her husband's death and is buried at Eskdale cemetery.

While the book was not hugely valuable it did possess what Gordon described as "fascinating links to New Zealand and Hawke's Bay history."

As it failed to sell at the sale the parents association who organised the event were now trying to sell it online at

Money raised by the sales go back into the school, and past takings have gone towards scholarships, school vans, furniture and science equipment.