Thursday, November 20, 2008

University of Otago Press celebrates milestone
Happy 50th Birthday Otago University Press!

In 1993, when the publishers HarperCollins took over the book distribution of the University of Otago Press, a sales representative was heard to say: ‘Real books – not mass trash!’ The University of Otago Press has been publishing books for scholars and the wider community for fifty years, with the Press established in 1958 and the imprint first used in 1959. Over the years, the Press has come a long way: from a part-time unpaid task performed by the University Librarian, with limited technologies and modest monographs, to that of a full-time Managing Editor, with staff, spacious quarters, e-contacts, website, and an expanding and diverse list of publications. There has also been a subtle name change.
Crucial in the Press’s development have been the University Librarians such as Peter Harvard-Williams and W. J. McEldowney, and later editors Dr Bill Sewell, Dr Iain Lonie, Dr Helen Watson White, and Wendy Harrex. There have also been various acting editors: Professors Jocelyn Harris and Alan Horsman. The Dunedin firm of John McIndoe Ltd, under the leadership of John McIndoe, was another vital component in the Press’s development. Up to 1993, they printed and marketed the books to the trade. Since 1959, the Press has published some 310 books, barring those numerous issues of journals and periodicals such as Landfall (acquired in 1994), and Childrennz Issues (established 1997).

An exhibition entitled ‘A Record of Achievement: The 50th Birthday of the Otago University Press’ will begin in the de Beer Gallery, Special Collections, University of Otago Library on 19th December 2008 and run through to 27 March 2009. It celebrates the Press’s 50th birthday and offers an overview of the wide variety of publications produced, those involved in the making of the books, including the authors, the editors, and the book designers (production-editors), and those events that have shaped its development. Although selective, it represents a proud achievement.

Notable publications on display will include ‘first of the press’ items such as T. B. L. Webster’s Greek Art and Literature 700-530 BC (1959) and G. J. Fraenkel’s The Example of Joseph Lister (1959); the more substantial John A. Lee (1977) by Erik Olssen and Harry Morton’s The Whale’s Wake (1982); first English translations of Dr Louis Thiercelin’s Travels in Oceania. Memoirs of a Whaling Ship’s Doctor, 1866 (1995) and Dom Felice Vaggioli’s History of New Zealand and Its Inhabitants (2000); Jim McAloon’s No Idle Rich. The Wealthy in Canterbury and Otago 1840-1914 (2002), a book finalist and part of the Otago History series; reprints such as Robin Hyde’s Wednesday’s Children (1993) and Geoffrey Cox’s classic Defence of Madrid (2006); and Professor Helen Leach’s The Pavlova Story (2008). With Natural History featuring strongly, there will be The Natural History of Southern New Zealand (2003), Keith Probert’s Southern Seas. Discovering Marine Life at 46º South (2005), David Young’s highly regarded Our Islands, Our Selves: A History of Conservation in New Zealand (2004) and Neville Peat’s and Brian Patrick’s Wild Dunedin (2002).

The Bookman calls that an impressive list !

Exhibition hours: 8.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Monday to Friday

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Donald Kerr, Special Collections Librarian, University of Otago. Phone (03) 479-8330; email:

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