Visit to first Printing Press of New Zealand

Arun K Gupta

I got an opportunity as a printer along with my wife to visit first Printing Press of New Zealand at Paihia early this year. Paihia, in the Bay of Islands, lies at a short distance across the water from Russell. It was here, in 1826, that William Williams commenced the Paihia Mission, which soon became a centre of enthusiasm. To-day, there stands on the old mission site the beautiful Williams Memorial Church, erected in memory of the brothers by their descendants. Near this site can be seen the remains of the building which contained the first successful Printing Press, which came to New Zealand. This Press was landed at Paihia, Bay of Islands, on December 30th, 1834, and did service for many years. With it came an operator, William Colenso, afterwards famous as a Botanist and an authority on the Maori. The press was used chiefly in connection with Mission work, and on it was printed the first book published in New Zealand, a Missionary compilation consisting of the Epistles to the Ephesians and Philippians, in a slender octavo volume of sixteen pages. Guide told us that an advance edition of twenty-five copies was produced for the Mission folk and bound by the ladies in pink blotting paper, while 2,000 more copies were printed off for the Natives. It was this press, too, that printed the first copies of the Treaty of Waitangi. We were told that an earlier printing machine was imported to Kerikeri in 1830 by the Rev. W. Yate, who brought a lad named James Smith from Sydney to assist him with it. Paihia is ever connected with the name of Williams. Here in 1823, came Henry Williams, naval officer, turned missionary, to infuse new energy and courage into a somewhat despondent and inert mission. He was still in his thirties when he arrived at Paihia. It was the influence of Henry Williams to a large extent that induced the Northern Natives to sign the “Treaty of Waitangi.” History tells us that Williams got into trouble with officials then at the Bay of Islands, and was even called “traitor.” He was dismissed by the Church Mission Society in 1850, even Selwyn opposed him. He was subsequently reinstated, and now it is only with honour and admiration that we remember the name of Henry Williams. He lies buried in the churchyard at Paihia, and over him stands a stone which tells of the affection of the Maori Church for “A father of the Tribes.”
(The author is Vice President North AIFMP)