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  • Migrations: Medieval Manuscripts in New Zealand
  • Herman A. Peterson
Migrations: Medieval Manuscripts in New Zealand. Edited by Stephanie Hollis and Alexandra Barratt. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007. xxxvi, 302 pp. $69.99. ISBN 978-1847-183217.

The ancestors of the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, migrated from eastern Polynesia in successive waves beginning in the ninth century and ending in the thirteenth. Eventually, Europeans began migrating and colonized the island in the eighteenth century. Later, anxious to reaffirm their ties to the historical origins of Western culture, New Zealand colonists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries bought medieval manuscripts from Europe. The migration of manuscripts in the context of colonial migrations is the subject of this book.

The editors are Stephanie Hollis, director of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern European Studies at the University of Auckland, and Alexandra Barratt, professor of English at the University of Waikato. Both have written on women in the Middle Ages: Hollis on women in the Anglo-Saxon period and Barratt in the Middle English. The contributors they have assembled are an impressive and diverse group of scholars that include those with specialties in languages and literatures, history, the arts, and librarianship. The kind of close collaboration between classroom faculty and librarians that is modeled in the formation of this book could serve as an example for many other similar enterprises.

This is the first book-length treatment of the medieval manuscripts of New Zealand, though a descriptive catalog was produced in the 1970s, and articles about individual manuscripts have been written.

The book's first section deals with the manuscript collections, their formation, and their impact on the colonial and postcolonial enterprises. Part 2 contains analyses of individual manuscripts with the intention of placing the study of New Zealand's manuscripts in the mainstream of the disciplines of medieval studies throughout the world. The collection of medieval manuscripts in New Zealand is rich but so far has generally been neglected by scholars.

Part 1 is probably of primary interest to students of the history of libraries and other collections of the cultural record. Half of the essays in this part were written by librarians. The first of these essays attempts to explain how medieval manuscripts came from Europe to New Zealand. Rather than a careful collection of representative pieces such as an art museum might assemble, the manuscript collection reflects the fads of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century bibliophiles and collectors whose choices were constrained by market availability. The second essay elaborates on the selection of manuscripts by studying the catalogs of dealers in medieval manuscripts [End Page 392] and the patterns of personal taste that ultimately determined which manuscripts migrated to New Zealand. One of these collectors was Sir George Grey, at one time the governor of the colony. The intent of his collection was public enjoyment and education, and the availability and display of his collection at the Auckland Public Library form the subject of the third essay. The other three essays in part 1 examine the role that the medieval manuscripts in New Zealand have played as part of the colonial agenda both in its original form and in its postcolonial deconstruction in the academy. Both the manuscripts themselves and their collectors are examined in this light.

While perhaps not of primary interest, the essays in part 2 on individual manuscripts flesh out the first set of essays by calling attention to the contributions these artifacts make to our understanding of the European cultural record. They examine the manuscripts from the disciplines of literature, art, music, and history, with the feminist perspective amply represented.

The book is well designed, featuring excellent reproductions of the illuminated miniatures in full color as well as several black-and-white photographs of the collections and of early collectors. The book includes an excellent subject index along with an index of the manuscripts. The introduction, while a bit lengthy, serves as an effective backdrop for the intellectual integration of the individual essays.

While this book treats the medieval manuscripts in New Zealand, it suggests implications for similar collections outside of Europe, including those in North America and...


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