Now digitised: Illuminated manuscripts executed by A. H. Reed

A collection of 120 to 250 year old letters from literary figures including Mary Russell Mitford and Alfred, Lord Tennyson are now online at Wellington City Recollect.

Publisher, writer and collector Alfred Hamish Reed.

Many of us are familiar with name A. H. Reed, thanks to his efforts in the New Zealand publishing industry. Not so well known is that Alfred Reed was also an avid collector of rare books and unpublished manuscripts, which he purchased at auctions over many decades. In time he came to possess a sizeable collection of British ‘autograph letters’ written by 19th century writers and publishers. From the 1930s he began to allocate parts of his collection for donation to various institutions, including our own Wellington City Libraries.

The collection was presented to us as original letters mounted on poster card which he then embellished by hand in the style of an illuminated manuscript. Reed researched and wrote biographical and contextual notes to accompany the letters, while also adding colour and flourishes that make this selection incredibly unique.

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August is Family History Month – events at Johnsonville and Tawa

August is Family History Month, and what better place to start your search than at the library! We have some exciting events coming up at Johnsonville and Tawa libraries to help you connect with your family history — have a read below!

History Club

Johnsonville Road in 1978 with cars and buildings in the foreground. Photo by Charles Fearley, from Recollect

Friday 11 August, 2pm, Johnsonville Library

Come along to a very special session of History Club — we will be hosting special guest Wellington City Libraries’ Local and NZ History Specialist, Gábor Tóth, to talk about our Wellington Recollect website and digitising our heritage collections.

Event on Facebook : History Club – Friday 11 August, 2pm

Family History Talks

Learn about the resources and databases available to you at Wellington City Libraries that will aid you in discovering the history of your family. A great way to get started with all the tools for your family history research!

Create an Oral History Recording

Friday 25 August, 1.30-4.30pm, Johnsonville Library

Using the tools available in our HIVE recording studio, come along and record a special event in your life. Our team will help you create a taonga to pass down to future generations.

Bookings are essential for this workshop – book your spot below:

Book your spot – Create an Oral History Recording

Borderlands: New History books

Borders define us. While giving us a sense of identity, they also separate us and create large divides prone to warfare and strife, of misunderstanding and incompatibility. With this selection of new books, we dive into the imaginary and natural lines that define a place, a person. We look at the way a map weaves together a nation and how identities are formed along these lines, how landmarks natural and manmade direct our future. Inseparable from these tangible borders are the borders between peoples – the divide between communities and the clashes that arise from defining ourselves by who we aren’t, instead of by simply by who we are.

Lost realms : histories of Britain from the Romans to the Vikings / Williams, Thomas J. T.
Covering a period when the way Britain changed radically from the way it was run and organised to language, religious belief and practice and overseas contact, Williams looks to the warring kingdoms of the era. The world was local then, and many realms were forged but did not survive. Williams takes a single realm at a time to show how these kingdoms were formed and why they failed; how communities adapted in this era; and what the challenges were for the people and those searching to lead.” — Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)

The hot trod : a history of the Anglo-Scottish border / Sadler, John
“‘Here are two peoples almost identical in blood – the same language and religion; and yet a few years of quarrelsome isolation have so separated their thoughts and ways that not unions nor mutual dangers, not steamers nor railways, seem able to obliterate the broad distinction.’ Robert Louis Stephenson” (Catalogue)

Beyond the wall : East Germany, 1949-1990 / Hoyer, Katja
For over forty years the GDR presented a radically different German identity to anything that had come before, and anything that exists today. Beginning with the bitter experience of German Marxists exiled by Hitler, Katja Hoyer traces the arc of the state they would go on to create and argues that amid oppression and frequent hardship, East Germany was yet home to a rich political, social and cultural landscape, a place far more dynamic than the Cold War caricature often painted in the West. (Adapted from Catalogue)

Putin’s war on Ukraine : Russia’s campaign for global counter-revolution / Ramani, Samuel
“Samuel Ramani argues that Putin’s policy of global counter-revolution is driven not by systemic factors, such as preventing NATO expansion, but domestic ones: the desire to unite Russians around common principles and consolidate his personal brand of authoritarianism. This objective has inspired military interventions in Crimea, Donbas and Syria, and now all-out war against Kyiv. Ramani explores why Putin opted for regime change in Ukraine and considers the impact on his own regime’s legitimacy. How has Russia’s long-term political and foreign policy trajectory shifted? And how will the international response reshape the world order?”–Publisher’s description.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A stranger in your own city : travels in the Middle East’s long war / Abdul-Ahad, Ghaith
“From the American invasion to the Arab Spring, ISIS and beyond, this book offers a remarkable de-centring of the West in the history and contemporary situation of the region. What comes to the fore is the effect on the ground: the human cost, the shifting allegiances, the generational change”–Publisher’s description.” (Catalogue)

Life on the Mississippi : an epic American adventure / Buck, Rinker
Building a wooden flatboat from the bygone era of the early 1800s, Rinker Buck casts off down the Mississippi river accompanied by an eccentric crew of daring shipmates. Like the Nile, the Thames, or the Seine before them, the western rivers in America fueled national growth. Buck resurrects the era’s adventurous spirit, but also challenges familiar myths about American expansion, confronting the bloody truth behind settlers’ push for land and wealth. Weaving together a tapestry of first-person histories, Buck portrays this watershed era of American expansion as it was really lived.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Palestine 1936 : the great revolt and the roots of the Middle East conflict / Kessler, Oren
“The Great Arab Revolt of 1936 in the Holy Land lasted three years, cost thousands of lives-Jewish, British, and Arab-and cast the trajectory for the Middle East conflict ever since. It radicalized the Jewish and Arab communities and made the separation permanent. This book reveals world-changing events through extraordinary people on all sides”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)

Touring Edwardian New Zealand / Moon, Paul
“A fascinating insight into life in NZ at the turn of the 20th century and the evolving face of Aotearoa over time. The Edwardian era (1901-1910) marked a pivotal time in New Zealand’s history. In the main centres, the country had emerged as a modern, urbane and self-assured nation. In the hinterland, however, the ‘real’ NZ – wild, exotic and ‘Māori’- was still there, waiting to be discovered by the intrepid traveler. The book traces the routes taken by Edwardian visitors and provides a panorama of NZ in the first age of mass travel in the colony.”–Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)

Koresh : the true story of David Koresh and the tragedy at Waco / Talty, Stephan
Drawing on first-time, exclusive interviews with Koresh’s family and survivors of the siege, Stephan Talty paints a psychological portrait of this infamous icon of the 1990s. Talty reveals how Koresh’s fixation on holy war, which would deliver the Davidians to their reward and confirm himself as Christ, collided with his paranoid obsession with firearms to destructive effect. Their deadly, 51-day standoff with the embattled FBI and ATF embodied an anti-government ethic that continues to resonate today. – Publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

History of war in maps / Parker, Philip
“From the moment the first towns and cities arose, the competition for land, resources and power has often turned to violence. Almost from the start, maps have been an essential part of planning and waging war. Spanning more than 3,000 years, from ancient and medieval warfare to modern-day global conflicts, these maps tell the fascinating story of war”–Back cover.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Phenomenal Women – Celebrating International Women’s Day 2023

It’s International Women’s Day and while we like to celebrate the achievements and lives of women every day, it’s good to stop and highlight the outstanding women of the world on this special day every year.  We’ve put together this list of recent titles showcasing books by and about phenomenal women.

Hilma af Klint : a biography / Voss, Julia
“The Swedish painter Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) was 44 years old when she broke with the academic tradition in which she had been trained. While her naturalistic landscapes and botanicals were shown during her lifetime, her body of radical, abstract works never received the same attention. Today, it is widely accepted that af Klint produced the earliest abstract paintings by a trained European artist. But this is only part of her story.  Inspired by her first encounter with the artist’s work in 2008, Julia Voss set out to learn Swedish and research af Klint’s life-not only who the artist was but what drove and inspired her. .” (Adapted from Catalogue)

README.txt : a memoir / Manning, Chelsea
“While working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq for the United States Army in 2010, Chelsea Manning disclosed more than seven hundred thousand classified military and diplomatic records that she had smuggled out of the country on the memory card of her digital camera. In 2011 she was charged with twenty-two counts related to the unauthorized possession and distribution of classified military records, and in 2013 she was sentenced to thirty-five years in military prison. This powerful, observant memoir will stand as one of the definitive testaments of our digital, information-driven age.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The light we carry : overcoming in uncertain times / Obama, Michelle
“Mrs. Obama offers readers a series of fresh stories and insightful reflections on change, challenge, and power, including her belief that when we light up for others, we can illuminate the richness and potential of the world around us, discovering deeper truths and new pathways for progress. With trademark humor, candor, and compassion, she also explores issues connected to race, gender, and visibility, encouraging readers to work through fear, find strength in community, and live with boldness.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Elizabeth Taylor : the grit & glamour of an icon / Brower, Kate Andersen
“No celebrity rivals Elizabeth Taylor’s glamour and guts or her level of fame. She was the last major star to come out of the old Hollywood studio system and she is a legend known for her beauty and her magnetic screen presence in a career that spanned most of the twentieth century and nearly sixty films. Here is a fascinating and complete portrait worthy of the legendary star and her legacy.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Nuku : stories of 100 indigenous women / Matata-Sipu, Qiane
“The power of storytelling is evident in our earliest pūrākau. Stories can change the world. It is how our tūpuna passed on their knowledge, the blueprint for living well, for generations. Through telling their stories, the women in this book seek to influence the world around them. The youngest is 14 and the eldest is in her mid-70s. They are wāhine Māori, Moriori, Pasifika, Melanesian, Wijadjuri, Himalayan and Mexican.” (Catalogue)

Listen, world! : how the intrepid Elsie Robinson became America’s most-read woman / Scheeres, Julia
“At a time when it was thought that a woman’s highest calling was to become a wife and mother, Elsie hungered for a different kind of life. She dreamed of becoming a professional writer and sacrificed everything in pursuit of a career in letters, going so far as to work a California gold mine to pay the bills. Through it all, she wrote-everything from features to essays to fiction. Told with drama and cinematic detail by bestselling author Julia Scheeres and award-winning journalist Allison Gilbert, Listen, World! is the first biography of this indefatigable woman, capturing what it means to take a gamble on happiness, stumble a few times, and ultimately land on your feet.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Running up that hill : 50 visions of Kate Bush / Doyle, Tom
“Comprising fifty chapters or ‘visions’, Running Up That Hill is a multi-faceted biography of Kate Bush, viewing her life and work from fresh and illuminating angles. Featuring details from the author’s one-to-one conversations with Kate, as well as vignettes of her key songs, albums, videos and concerts, this portrait introduces the reader to the refreshingly real Kate Bush. Along the way, the narrative also includes vivid reconstructions of transformative moments in her career and insights from the friends and collaborators closest to Kate, including her photographer brother John Carder Bush and fellow artists David Gilmour, John Lydon and Youth.” (Catalogue)

Angela Davis : an autobiography / Davis, Angela Y
“Edited by Toni Morrison and first published in 1974, An Autobiography is a classic of the Black Power era which resonates just as powerfully today. Long hard to find, it is reissued now with a new introduction by Davis, for a new audience inspired and galvanised by her ongoing activism and her extraordinary example. In the book, she describes her journey from a childhood on Dynamite Hill in Birmingham, Alabama, to one of the most significant political trials of the century- from her political activity in a New York high school to her work with the U.S. Communist Party, the Black Panther Party, and the Soledad Brothers; and from the faculty of the Philosophy Department at UCLA to the FBI’s list of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. Told with warmth, brilliance, humour, and conviction, it is an unforgettable account of a life committed to radical change.” (Catalogue)

My dream time / Barty, Ash
“It’s a tennis story. It’s a family story. It’s a teamwork story. It’s the story of how I got to where and who I am today. We all have a professional and a personal self. How do you conquer nerves and anxiety? How do you deal with defeat, or pain? What drives you to succeed – and what happens when you do? The answers tell me so much, about bitter disappointments and also dreams realised – from injuries and obscurity and self-doubt to winning Wimbledon and ranking number 1 in the world.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

They called me a lioness : a Palestinian girl’s fight for freedom / Tamimi, Ahed
“What would you do if you grew up repeatedly seeing your home raided? Your parents arrested? Your mother shot? Your uncle killed? Try, if just for a moment, to imagine this was your life. How would you want the world to react?” It brings readers into the daily life of the young woman seen as a freedom-fighting hero by some and a naïve agitator by others. Beyond recounting her well-publicized interactions with Israeli soldiers, there is her unwavering commitment to family and her fearless command of her own voice, despite threats, intimidation, and even incarceration.” (Adapted Catalogue)

Ten steps to Nanette : a memoir situation / Gadsby, Hannah
“Hannah Gadsby’s unique standup special Nanette was a viral success–and to some, her worldwide fame may have seemed like an overnight sensation. But like everything else about Gadsby, there’s more to her success than meets the eye. In her first book, the queer Australian comedian, writer, and actress takes us through the key moments in her life that ultimately led to the creation of Nanette and her startling declaration that she was quitting comedy. She traces her growth as a gay woman from Tasmania–where homosexuality was illegal until 1997–to her ever-evolving relationship with comedy, to her struggle with late-in-life diagnoses of autism and ADHD, and finally to the backbone of Nanette–the renouncement of self-deprecation, the rejection of misogyny, and the moral power of telling the truth.” (Catalogue)

Lost stories: Recent history related books

We have an impressive amount of new history related books being added to the catalogue this month! The below list includes a history of The Black Death, the true story of Tutankhamun, the almost completely lost language of the /Xam people and the often erased lives of women in the middle ages.

Femina : a new history of the middle ages through the women written out of it / Ramirez, Janina
“The middle ages are seen as a bloodthirsty time of Vikings, saints and kings: a patriarchal society which oppressed and excluded women. But when we dig a little deeper into the truth, we can see that the ‘dark’ ages were anything but. Oxford and BBC historian Janina Ramirez has uncovered countless influential women’s names struck out of historical records, with the word FEMINA annotated beside them. As gatekeepers of the past ordered books to be burnt, artworks to be destroyed, and new versions of myths, legends and historical documents to be produced, our view of history has been manipulated. “– Provided by publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dreaming the Karoo : a people called the /Xam / Blackburn, Julia
“In spring 2020, Julia Blackburn travelled to the Karoo region of South Africa to see for herself the ancestral lands that had once belonged to an indigenous group called the /Xam. Throughout the nineteenth century the /Xam were persecuted and denied the right to live in their own territories. In the 1870s, facing cultural extinction, several /Xam individuals agreed to teach their intricate language to a German philologist and his indomitable English sister-in-law. The result was the Bleek-Lloyd Archive: 60,000 notebook pages in which their dreams, memories and beliefs, alongside the traumas of their more recent history, were meticulously recorded word for word. It is an extraordinary document which gives voice to a way of living in the world which we have all but lost. ‘All things were once people’, the /Xam said”– Publisher’s description.” (Catalogue)

India : a history in objects / Blurton, T. Richard
“An authoritative visual history of one of the world’s oldest and most vibrant cultures, drawing on South Asian art and artefacts from prehistory to the present. Arranged chronologically, and abundantly illustrated with expertly selected objects, this superb new overview connects today’s India with its past. Early chapters uncover prehistoric objects from 1.5 million years ago, examine artefacts from the Indus Civilization, and follow the emergence and transmission of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Sikhism, as well as the incoming religions of Zoroastrianism, Islam and Christianity.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The passengers / Ashon, Will
“Between October 2018 and March 2021, Will Ashon collected voices – people talking about their lives, needs, dreams, loves, hopes and fears – all of them with some connection to the British Isles. He used a range of methods including letters sent to random addresses, hitchhiking, referrals from strangers and so on. He conducted the interviews in person, on the phone, over the internet or asked people to record themselves.”–Publisher’s description.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Tutankhamun : pharaoh, icon, enigma : lost for three thousand years, misunderstood for a century / Tyldesley, Joyce A
“A hundred years ago, a team of archaeologists in the Valley of the Kings made a remarkable discovery: a near-complete royal burial, an ancient mummy, and golden riches beyond imagination. The lost tomb of Tutankhamun ignited a media frenzy, propelled into overdrive by rumours of a deadly ancient curse. But amid the hysteria, many stories — including that of Tutankhamun himself — were distorted or forgotten.”–Publisher’s description.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

You don’t know what war is : the diary of a young girl from Ukraine / Skalietska, Yeva
“An important, harrowing and ultimately hopeful memoir about the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war as told through the diary entries of a young Ukrainian girl.” (Catalogue)



The world the plague made : the Black Death and the rise of Europe / Belich, James
“In 1346, a catastrophic plague beset Europe and its neighbours. The Black Death was a human tragedy that abruptly halved entire populations and caused untold suffering, but it also brought about a cultural and economic renewal on a scale never before witnessed. The World the Plague Made is a panoramic history of how the bubonic plague revolutionized labour, trade, and technology and set the stage for Europe’s global expansion.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Come to this court and cry : how the Holocaust ends / Kinstler, Linda
“A few years ago Linda Kinstler discovered that a man fifty years dead – a former Nazi who belonged to the same killing unit as her grandfather – was the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation in Latvia. The proceedings threatened to pardon his crimes. They put on the line hard-won facts about the Holocaust at the precise moment that the last living survivors – the last legal witnesses – were dying. Across the world, Second World War-era cases are winding their way through the courts. Survivors have been telling their stories for the better part of a century, and still judges ask for proof. Where do these stories end? “–Publisher’s description.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The life of Kathleen Hall

Kathleen Hall (1896-1970) was born in Napier and moved to Auckland where she trained as a nurse after completing secondary school. In 1922 she was accepted by the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to undertake missionary work in China. She arrived there in 1923 and spent the next two years in Peking studying China’s language, culture and history. She was given a teaching position in Peking Union Medical College (Xiehe), a highly advanced institution with modern facilities which was funded by the American Rockefeller Foundation and operated by British & American Protestant missions.

Hall began working in missionary hospitals in Hejian in Hebei, Datong and Anguo in Shanxi where she became the ‘sister-in-charge’ of its base hospital. By 1933 she recognised the need for medical services in rural areas and applied to the bishop for permission to establish a ‘cottage hospital’ in Songjiazhuang in western Hebei.  She returned briefly to New Zealand to study midwifery but by 1934 was back in Songjiazhuang. She developed a reputation for providing medical care to rural peasants regardless of their ability to pay and worked long hours to assist them. She became known as “Dr Hall” among locals who remarked how “she was a good person who did numerous good things here”. In addition to her provision of medical care, she trained over 60 local nurses, taught literacy, donated food to the poor and provided funds to help build a new hospital.

“In this world of deep division, Kathleen Hall is a shining example of devotion, loyalty, and tenacity.”

– Miao Fan, NZ China Friendship Society


Kathleen Hall, 1896-1970. Hall, Mary :Photographs of Kathleen Hall. Ref: 1/2-181983-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23114625


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