History of the Grey Collection

The Grey Collection website is dedicated to the Grey Collection, some 14,000 items given to the Auckland Free Public Library in 1887 by Sir George Grey, Governor of New Zealand, politician, linguist, collector, soldier and explorer. This remarkable gift and subsequent additions to it have made Auckland City Libraries the location of one of New Zealand’s three major heritage collections.


The Grey Collection forms part of the Sir George Grey Special Collections: Ta Hori Kerei - Nga kohinga taonga whakahirahira at Auckland City Libraries.

The Grey Collection consists of rare books, letters, photographs, ephemera, manuscripts, medieval manuscripts, sketches, drawings and maps. Subjects range from 19th century New Zealand history to languages, religion, performing arts and science.

Among the items in the collection are the four Shakespeare folios, 34 medieval manuscripts (the earliest over 800 years old), some of the earliest and most important printed material in Māori and Grey’s personal papers and correspondence including letters from prominent Māori and international figures such as Charles Darwin and Florence Nightingale.

The Grey Collection is housed in secure, environmentally controlled conditions. Websites such as this one, and an ongoing programme of cataloguing and digitisation, make the Collection available and accessible beyond the walls of the library.

View the Grey collection online

A programme of online exhibitions, such as Shades of GreyReal Gold and Shakespeare, regularly features items from the Grey Collections.

To see more online exhibitions, visit Auckland City Libraries’ Digital Library.

Visit the Grey Collection

Sir George Grey Special Collections
Level 2, Central City Library
44 – 46 Lorne Street
Auckland City
Hours: Mon – Fri 9-5, Sat 10-4, Sundays: Exhibition Room only 10-4; Reading Room closed.

Did you know?

That when Abraham Ortelius' 'Epitome theatri ortellani' was published in 1595, it was the first time that a group of maps published in book form was referred to as an atlas.

The copy held in Sir George Grey Special Collections  is a later "pocket" edition.