Paradigm, No. 15 (December, 1994)

Hugh Price School Textbooks published in New Zealand to 1960 (Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press/Gondwanaland Press, 1992), 244 pp. ISBN 0864691459.

Chris Stray

Department of Classics and Ancient History,
University of Wales
Singleton Park,
Swansea SA2 8PP

This excellent and profusely illustrated book is the outcome of a long-term involvement in both educational publishing and textbook collecting. Hugh Price worked for Whitcombe and Tombs, the largest Australasian educational publishers, in their London office. Later, he became the founding manager of Sydney University Press, before setting up his own company, Price Milburn, which published both educational and general books in New Zealand. Now retired, he has donated his textbook collection to the Alexander Turnbull Library at the University of Wellington. It is this collection which forms the basis for the listings in his book.

About 2,000 titles are listed, arranged under subject headings from Agriculture to Typing. Each section, and many of the individual entries, carry informative comments, as well as illustrations from the books listed. The section on Maori language tells us simply that none are listed, since unlike English-language textbooks, they have already been listed elsewhere (the references are given). Here is just another example of the way in which external factors influence the differential treatment of books. In his introduction, the author discusses both the fascinations and difficulty of research into textbooks, and the nature of New Zealand publishing. Appendices deal with official school bulletins, which are listed, and with techniques for dating the undated output of the biggest firm, Whitcombe and Tombs. Many of the problems Price discusses will be familiar ones, but we still need to discuss them. For example, he points out that many textbooks have no real ‘title’ in the sense that a cataloguer would expect. As he asks, ‘What is the real title of Southern Cross series, Arithmetic, Standard VI, Answer book?’

This engaging, informative book is strongly recommended.


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