Volume 67 1958 > Volume 67, No. 3 > A printing press for the Maori people, by W. J. Cameron, p 204-210
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- 204

EVEN IN THE 1830's, when William Colenso was operating a Stanhope hand-press at the Paihia Mission Station, individual Maoris must have been impressed by the many advantages conferred by ownership of a printing press. In the fifties, with the development of various forms of nationalism and idealism culminating in the King Movement, a press owned by the Maori people and used exclusively for their own purposes must have seemed a very attractive notion indeed. But it was not until 1856 or 1857 that the notion led to practical results. The practical suggestion came from a Pakeha, Charles Oliver Bond Davis, who wrote to Waata Kukutai suggesting that a piece of land in Auckland should be purchased for the purpose of erecting stores and a printing office. 1 The stores were to be owned by the Thames and Poverty Bay Maoris (and Maoris in general) and used for the disposal of their produce. The printing press was to be used to print a newspaper where Maoris might air their opinions. Davis told Kukutai that £1,000 would be required for the project, but that £500 would be sufficient for a good printing establishment. Kukutai replied with enthusiasm, enclosing a cheque for £2 10s 0d and promising to collect funds in his own district.

Davis, who had arrived in New Zealand as a youth about 1830, was born in Sydney of Irish extraction. He entered the Government service as clerk and interpreter in 1842, after having demonstrated his thorough knowledge of the Maori language at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and elsewhere. In the 1860's he was thought to be a Maori scholar inferior only to the Rev. William Puckey, Dr. Maunsell, and Bishop Williams. In 1857, he severed his connection with the Government service and busied himself in a private capacity with Maori affairs. Seemingly a truculent individualist, Davis was admired and trusted by many of the tribes in the Waikato and on the East Coast.

Kukutai, chief of the Ngatitipa, lived at Tihorewaru; he had moved his whole tribe to Kohanga, near the mouth of the Waikato, on becoming chief. He it was who mustered the “Queen natives” at the meeting in May, 1857, at Rangiriri, when it was proposed to elect a Maori king. Kukutai was a native assessor in the Kohanga district and later (1861) at Taupiri. A friend of Governor Grey's and a close friend of Davis's, Kukutai was, from the Government's point of view, a praiseworthy model for the peaceful settlement of the Maori under British law and order.

Acting in concert with Waata Kukutai, Paora to Putu of Coromandel and the Thames people generally, the Ngatiporou, and the Maoris of Whangaruru as well as others, Davis began collecting money - 205 for the press. He attended a runanga at Ihumatao, on the Manukau, in June, 1857, to collect a sum of £67, thus incidentally drawing suspicion upon himself of helping to instigate the King Movement. Later, in evidence before the Waikato Committee, Davis stated that he and his Maori friends were hoping that the press would be the means of putting down the King Movement if it went beyond its original object as a land league. On 8th October, 1860, the first day that Davis was called upon to give evidence before the committee, he said that the type and material of the projected establishment were still in his hands at Auckland. He was being quite truthful at his second appearance on the 10th October when he claimed that “I have been fearful of publishing anything lest the Government should be embarrassed, the Native mind being in so excited a state”, for he was fully alive to the responsibility imposed by ownership of a press. When his Maori friends asked him to send them the press so that they might manage it themselves and publish their own opinions, he held them to their original agreement that all publications should emanate from Auckland. Nothing, therefore, had so far been published.

The morning after Davis finished giving evidence before the committee, the good ship Caduceus, 1,106 tons, Captain John Cass, was signalled at the entrance to Auckland Harbour. Among the 153 passengers were two Maoris who had achieved for the King Maoris what Davis had done for the Queen Maoris. These two men of the Waikato tribe, Wiremu Toetoe Tumohe and Hemara te Rerehau Paraone, had been presented with a printing press and type by the Emperor of Austria.

When the Austrian frigate Novara came to Auckland at the end of 1858, bringing Dr. Ferdinand von Hochstetter to our shores, four Maoris and a half-caste determined to ship aboard her as part of the crew. Wiremu and Hemara were the only two who adhered to their decision, however, so on 8th January, 1859, after the Government had obtained guarantees for their proper treatment and return home, they set sail for Tahiti on the second half of the Novara's circumnavigation of the globe.

Wiremu Toetoe was born about 1826. 2 At the age of 15 he was baptised by the missionaries who taught him to read and write. At 20 he married the daughter of an Englishman and his Maori wife, and at 26 entered the service of the Colonial Government as post messenger. For two years before his departure aboard the Novara he had been postmaster of his district. He was himself chief of the Ngatipakura and Ngatiwakohike, and had used his influence on the side of the Government in the controversial matter of building roads. His determination to go to Europe (thus leaving his wife and son) was, according to Dr. Karl Scherzer of the Novara expedition, a long-cherished desire to see foreign lands and races.

Hemara te Rerehau, “young, intelligent, soft, and very communicative” as Gorst 3 was to describe him, had also attended a Mission - 206 school, where he learned to write Maori and a little English, as well as arithmetic, geography, history and the agricultural accomplishments usual in such schools.

The two Maoris were at first depressed by shipboard life, but soon became reconciled to it and fast became favourites with the crew. They visited Tahiti and Valparaiso before setting out on the long voyage round the Horn (where the severe cold and rough seas caused them much misery). They spent the first week of August in Gibraltar, finally reaching Trieste on 26th August, 1859. Hochstetter was still in New Zealand all this time, but sailed from Nelson on 2nd October and arrived at Trieste on 9th January, 1860.

The Maoris travelled to Vienna with one of the members of the Novara expedition, and in the words of Dr. Scherzer 4:

through the kindness of Privy Councillor von Auer, they entered into the Imperial-Royal Printing House, and were also instructed in the most important and interesting particulars of European civilization. Mr. Zimmerl, a member of that Institution, who had made the Maori idiom a special study, taught them English and German, as well as the manipulation of types and lithography, besides copper-plate engraving and drawing from nature. So intelligent and anxious for improvement did they prove themselves to be, that the Imperial Government were requested by the Directors of the State Printing Office to present the two Maories on their return to their native country with the necessary implements to enable them to avail themselves at home of the knowledge they acquired under such creditable circumstances. During their nine months' stay in Vienna, they were made acquainted with all the ‘lions’ of the metropolis, and all the manners and customs of European civilised life. Of all the numerous sights that must have astonished their unaccustomed senses, there was none that seemed to have made a more powerful impression than the Railway, ‘the most splendid evidence of the powers of the foreigners, compared with which all others are unimportant, and which they earnestly trust will soon be introduced into New Zealand.’ The culmination of their visit to Vienna consisted in a visit they paid to their Majesties in the Imperial Palace, by whom they were received with the most gracious consideration, and orders issued that they should receive a handsome present, and have their return to their native country defrayed at the Government cost. On 26th May, 1860, the two New Zealanders quitted Vienna, and travelled through Germany to London . . .

Scherzer is inaccurate in other parts of his account where his information is second-hand, but he is no doubt to be trusted here. Hochstetter rejoined Wiremu Toetoe and Hemara te Rerehau on 16th May and ten days later apparently accompanied them to London and saw them safely aboard the Caduceus. The ship left Gravesend on 23rd June for Auckland without an intermediate port of call. When they reached Auckland after having been blown well to westward in the South Atlantic and having passed south of the Cape of Good Hope and - 207 Van Diemen's Land (i.e. Tasmania), Wiremu and Hemara had themselves circumnavigated the globe.

It was later said (by Toetoe's anonymous obituarist in the New Zealand Herald, 28th February, 1881) that, as the Taranaki war was then at a crisis, the Government looked upon Toetoe as a means of persuading his countrymen in the Waikato to remain peaceable. It has also been said 5 that Toetoe was given a grant of land at the confluence of the Mangatawhiri and the Waikato by the Government, but the source of the information has yet to be discovered. It seems fairly certain that Toetoe and Rerehau did not bring their printing press with them on the Caduceus, for the list of goods imported aboard her 6 contains nothing that could be identified as the Emperor's gift. As far as can be determined, neither man ever put his knowledge of printing into use. Toetoe went back to his old job of post messenger and spent his spare time in making gunpowder. His interest in firearms is shown by an unsavoury report in the Southern Cross of 19th November, 1861, no doubt somewhat distorted, of his attempt to take guns from various Pakeha settlers in the Waikato. Rerehau, on the other hand, became the commander of Reihana's well-disciplined force of 80 drilled men at Whataroa on the Waipa. Gorst in May, 1862, reported with approval the stories of Reihana's forthright administration of justice in the area. 7 The activities of the two Maoris during 1860 and early 1861 and the precise date of the arrival of the Emperor's gift of press and type are still unknown. It seems fairly certain, however, that Davis was operating his printing establishmen before Toetoe's press actually arrived in New Zealand.


The earliest publication known to have been printed on Davis's plant is a journal entitled Ko Aotearoa, or the Maori Recorder, January, 1861 (Williams No. 336). 8 The imprint reads Akarana: He mea ta i te Perehi o nga Iwi Maori. 1861. Other pieces followed—the letter and song listed by Williams (No. 341) is probably an example—but it seems unlikely that the Maori owners made much use of the press in 1861.

On the other hand, the Emperor of Austria's press was soon producing much Kingite material. The earliest identifiable piece (Williams No. 340) is a letter by Tamati Ngapora dated 2nd September, 1861, which bears the imprint Mangere. I taia tenei ki te Hokioi o Nui Tireni. The name Hokioi was appropriate. This mythical bird (James Cowan thought it might be identified as the frigate bird 9) uttered a cry heard only at night, a cry that was an omen of war.

The Hokioi, therefore, was established at Mangere in the latter part of 1861. Cowan was told that one of C. O. Davis's nephews taught - 208 the art of composing type to Honana Maioha and some of the other young Maoris at Mangere. Davis's nephew had learned the trade in the New-Zealander newspaper office at Auckland. Honana Maioha was the brother of Patara te Tuhi, who was in charge of the printing establishment when it was transferred to Ngaruawahia. The date of the transfer is unknown, but it was certainly before June, 1862. Two pieces of 1861, dated 21st September (Williams No. 340a) and 18th November (Williams No. 340b), were probably printed at Mangere, but a Ngaruawahia proclamation dated 1st April, 1862 (Williams No. 357a) might well have been printed at Ngaruawahia. A ‘Gazette’ appointing a man named Hapemana Resident of the West signed Na Kingi Matutaera Potatau was seen by Gorst on 23rd May, 1862, 10 and if a copy of this is ever found, it may help to solve the problem.

Once established at Ngaruawahia, the press began to be a potent force in the furtherance of the King Movement. By the 5th June, Gorst reported that a threepenny newspaper was being advertised, and Tumuhuia, not one of Gorst's most reliable sources of information, said some numbers had already been printed.10 The earliest now known to us is dated June 15th, 1862, and other numbers appeared on 25th August, 9th October, 10th November, 8th December, 1862, 15th January, 15th February, 24th March, 26th April and 21st May, 1863 (Williams No. 337). The 1863 numbers form a sequence, for the April and May copies are lettered Nama 4 and Nama 5. The March, April, and May numbers are remarkably uniform and all those of 1863 have a higher standard of printing than the 1862 ones. Apparently the compositor of the November issue had some difficulty with his forme when he came to add a letter from Otaki to the foot of the page. In the second issue (containing this letter) a number of dislocations of type were accidentally made to the text common to both issues. The newspaper was at first called Te Hokioi o Nui Tireni e rere atu na, but o Nui Tireni was dropped from the October, 1862, number and from subsequent ones.

Davis in the meantime continued to publish sporadically. Another issue of Ko Aotearoa appeared in January, 1862. The imprint reads I taia ki Akarana, ki te Perehi Maori. Most other pieces that came from the press probably have no imprint at all. A full bibliography of both the “press of the Maori people” and of the Hokioi press will require detailed study of the types used in many an undated and unacknowledged publication. Hokioi produced more than the celebrated newspaper that bears its name. Williams (No. 361) lists one of these other publications printed about 22nd August, 1862, and the Te Awamutu Museum has a copy of a seemingly unrecorded Kingite proclamation of January, 1863, (unless it be Williams No. 370a).

The Hokioi newspaper alarmed the Government to such an extent that in December, 1862, a printing-press hastily procured from Sydney was sent down to Te Awamutu to John Gorst so that the Kingite propaganda could be answered. As a result, a short-lived newspaper called - 209 Te Pihoihoi Mokemoke i Runga i te Tuanui (Williams No. 368) was published by Gorst for the Government. The story of the rival papers, the forcible removal of Pihoihoi by a Ngati-maniapoto war-party in March, 1863, and the eviction of Gorst from Te Awamutu is outside the scope of this article. The Pihoihoi press now rests in the Turnbull Library after ninety or more years of Government work.


What was the fate of the first two presses owned by the Maori people? Nothing seems to have been issued from the Hokioi press after May, 1863; and at 4 o'clock on 8th December, Cameron's invading army occupied Ngaruawahia, deserted by the King and his chiefs two or three days before. It seems unlikely, however, that the press was moved before the fall of Rangiriri on 21st November. Lack of paper or ink may have silenced the press. Tradition has it that the Hokioi is the press recovered by members of the Te Awamutu Historical Society on 13th March, 1935, from near the east bank of the Waipa River opposite the site of the Te. Kopua Mission Station. 11 If this tradition is correct, the press was a Hopkinson and Cope Albion hand-press, double demy in size, manufactured in London. Scattered far and wide round the press was a quantity of type. Minute comparison of this type with that used to print the Hokioi newspaper proved to be disappointingly inconclusive. The only letters that could safely be used in the comparison are very similar except for the letter “a”. This is quite certainly different. If the press is indeed the Hokioi, then Cowan's belief 12 that it was taken to Kopua for safe keeping after Rangiriri is undoubtedly correct. He mentions that for some years the press was used for pressing cakes of torori, or home-grown tobacco.

As for Davis's press, one must assume that from the first it occupied the premises at the corner of Chapel and West Queen Streets, Auckland, where it was reported to be in 1865. About January, 1865, Davis unwisely engaged a shiftless printer named Robert Francis Allwood to rent the premises and the printing plant from him. Allwood and his partner W. French continued to work the equipment until about June, but on 13th Allwood deserted his partner. (Within a month or two, he was in the debtors' prison.) Later, the Government tried to prosecute Davis for sedition on account of a leaflet (Williams 407a) which they believed he had written. Allwood purloined the MS. from the office file in July and in the same month the case was heard before the Magistrate's Court. In September, before the Supreme Court, Davis was acquitted. For our present purposes it is sufficient to note that the leaflet was written by two Maoris of the Ngaiterangi tribe from Tauranga, Maihi Pohepohe and Tomika te Mutu. Another of the same tribe, Nga Tupara, accompanied them to Davis's printing shop where French (who did not understand Maori) told them to see Davis. Davis wrote out a fair copy and instructed Allwood and French to print 50 - 210 copies. These men were “Queen natives” exercising their rights to have their opinions printed. After the case was dismissed, we hear no more of Davis's press. Perhaps Allwood's vehement denial that he had alienated some of the type to a Mr. Johnson in High Street (who occasionally printed from formes set up on Davis's premises) indicates that the equipment was gradually frittered away until Davis was forced to sell. How he paid the Maoris for their share of the capital must have been a great problem.

By 1865, then, the first two presses acquired by the Maori people were silent. Not until King Tawhiao's followers began publishing Te Paki o Matariki in 1891 was there another press that can be said to have been owned and operated by and for the Maori people. But that is another story.

  • The Southern Cross, 12 October, 1860, and The New-Zealander, 13 October, 1860 (The Caduceus).
  • Ko Aotearoa, January, 1861 and January, 1862.
  • The Southern Cross, 19 November, 1862 (Toetoe's activities in the Waikato).
  • Te Hokioi, 1862 and 1863.
  • The Southern Cross, 14-16 and 18 September, 1865 (trial of C. O. Davis for sedition).
  • New Zealand Herald, 15 April, 1881 (Toetoe's obituary notice).
  • COWAN, James, 1922. Article on the Hokioi press. Auckland Star, 15 April.
  • GORST, J. E., 1862. Reports. Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, E-No. 9, 19 pp.
  • — — 1864. The Maori King. London, Macmillan.
  • HOCHSTETTER, Dr. F. von, 1867. New Zealand. Stuttgart, Cotta.
  • SCHERZER, Dr. K., 1863. Narrative of the Circumnavigation of the Globe by the Austrian Frigate Novara, 1857-59, Vol. III. London, Saunders Otley.
  • SCHOLEFIELD, G. H., 1940. A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Vol. 2. Wellington, Department of Internal Affairs.
  • TOETOE, WIREMU, 1948. “A Vienna Journal.” Te Ao Hou, 6, No. 4:40-43.
  • WAIKATO COMMITTEE, 1860. Reports. Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, F-No. 3, 18 pp.
  • WILLIAMS, H. W., 1924. A Bibliography of Printed Maori to 1900. Wellington, Dominion Museum, Monograph No. 7.
1   Details of Davis's activities are extracted from Waikato Committee 1860.
2   Biographical details from Scherzer 1863:173-176.
3   Extracts from Gorst's journal and reports are taken from Gorst 1862.
4   Scherzer 1863:175-176 (footnote). Toetoe's journal has been published in Te Ao Hou, Toetoe 1958. Hemara's diary is promised for the next issue.
5   Scholefield 1940:389.
6   The Southern Cross, 12 October, 1860.
7   Gorst 1862.
8   All references to Williams are to the number of the item described in Williams 1924.
9   The least inaccurate account of the Hokioi press is Cowan 1922. Accounts in Cowan's later books are mere summaries.
10   Gorst 1862.
11   Information supplied by H. A. Swarbrick, President of the Te Awamutu Historical Society.
12   Cowan 1922.