05 February 2011

A Legal 'Second Boon'

In June of last year I attended the RBMS Preconference in Philadelphia, PA. The annual event kicks off with the ABAA Booksellers' Showcase, where members of the trade entice curators and librarians to put some dents in their acquisitions budgets (and to do a little trading amongst themselves as well).

Entering the Showcase on day one of the preconference, a friend working one of the booths greeted me warmly and then ushered me to the table of The Lawbook Exchange Ltd, a firm, as the name suggests, specialising in antiquarian law books. He was abuzz about one of the items for sale, a first edition of The Laws of England; Compiled and Translated into the Maori Language (Auckland, 1858). What intrigued him was the use of blue paper for the printing and, even more so, the paper wrappers complete with binders ticket of a J. F. Leighton, Auckland. The book was the only one printed in New Zealand at the Showcase, as far as I was (and am) aware, and it seems fitting that this book in particular - the connection to my new home found while visiting my old home - should be the first post to this blog outside of the obligatory welcome.

The book itself is a summary of English criminal and civil laws printed by W. C. Wilson, contract printer to the government. The text appears on facing pages: English on the left and Maori on the right.

From the Dunedin Public Library copy

The text was compiled by Francis Dart Fenton (1820/25?-1898), magistrate and public administrator, 'partly [as] a response to signs of Maori moves towards self-rule ... [and] as an opportunity for Maori to inspect the Pakeha legal system and decide whether or not to accept this "second boon" that followed Christianity' (Parkinson 476). OCLC Worldcat records fourteen copies, eight of which are held by New Zealand institutions. The edition was bound in marbled paper wrappers or brown cloth.

What of the binder, whose ticket drew much attention in Philadelphia? James Francis Leighton (b. 1830) was originally from London. His printing and bookbinding career began at the age of ten, when Leighton entered employment with the well established firm of Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode. After serving apprenticeships with other London firms, such as Messrs Samuel Bagster and Son, Leighton set sail for Australia in 1853. He was employed by the Church Press Office but, despite inducements to stay, departed Australia for a cooler climate in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1855. There he was first employed by the proprietors of the 'Southern Cross' before establishing his own business, and was later engaged as bookbinder for the government while Auckland was the capital of New Zealand. The firm of J. F. Leighton and Son became the leading bookbindery in the Province of Auckland.

The above was compiled using information from The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Auckland Province District. Follow this link for information on other Auckland binders and printers.

Leighton ticket in Ko te Kawenata Tawhito; no nga Whakatauki tae noa ki a Maraki ...  (London, 1858)
The Old Testament books of Proverbs to Malachi (Reed Bible Collection)

No comments:

Post a Comment