Robert Maunsell. A grammar of the New Zealand language. Auckland: John Moore, 1842. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

Robert Maunsell. A grammar of the New Zealand language. Auckland: John Moore, 1842. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

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Robert Maunsell. A grammar of the New Zealand language. Auckland: John Moore, 1842. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

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A grammar of the New Zealand language

Author: Robert Maunsell
Ref No: GNZM 82 (copy 3)
Date Added: c1845
Date Created: 1842

In general, Sir George Grey was not a prolific annotator of the books in his collection. He pencilled his signature on the title-page (or thereabouts) as a mark of ownership. Occasionally, on the first blank page, he added a brief note about the item and how he had come by it. Otherwise he left the pages free of marginalia.

There is, however, a remarkable exception now in the Library’s safekeeping. Grey owned several copies of the most substantial book on the Māori language available in the mid-nineteenth century, A grammar of the New Zealand language by Reverend Robert Maunsell. He had one copy rebound so that blank pages alternated with the printed text and he could append his own extensive commentary. This includes transcriptions of striking phrases, proverbs and waiata that he gathered as he travelled round the country during his first term as Governor of New Zealand (1845-53). In 1853, through the Government printer Robert Stokes, he published a collection of these poems and songs, Ko nga moteatea, me nga hakirara o nga Māori, after first circulating specimen sheets among his Māori friends for their comments and corrections.

Maunsell was regarded by the European community as the foremost Māori scholar of his day. A grammar of the New Zealand language supplanted the pioneering work carried out by Thomas Kendall in the 1810s. His most ambitious project, completed in 1857 after more than twenty years’ labour, was a translation of the Old Testament into Māori from the original languages. Maunsell and Grey enjoyed a long friendship, exchanging letters, books and thoughts on philology from the mid-1840s.

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