Turnbull Library Record masthead

1940-2017


Background

Region National
Available online 1940-2017

Unscrupulous scholars, courtship and marriage in colonial New Zealand, women photographers, pirates, Joan of Arc, a seventeenth-century Persian manuscript, Earp’s bee library, the library and the cosmos – the intriguing and wide-ranging scope of articles in the Turnbull Library Record reflects the richness of the Turnbull collections.

First published in January 1940, the Turnbull Library Record is New Zealand’s longest-running journal in the humanities. The Turnbull Library Record has always been funded by the Friends of the Turnbull Library, founded the previous year.

The idea to publish a journal came from Chief Librarian Clyde Taylor, who had in mind models such as the British Museum Quarterly. The aim of the Record was the same then as it is now: to publish information relating to the activities of the Library; to increase knowledge of its collections; to print articles of interest to researchers and to support scholarship by making information about the collections more widely known.

The first issue, a modest pamphlet, was printed by Whitcombe & Tombs. Its typographical style was influenced by historian J. C. Beaglehole, and features such as the use of Baskerville capitals and a centralised classical balance, for example, prompted poet and printer Denis Glover to disparagingly call it ‘tombstone typography’. Glover had the opportunity to revitalise the look of the Record when his Caxton Press printed the third issue in 1941. Glover’s typography was much more elegant and the use of antique laid paper gave the slim volume the impression of luxury, remarkable during wartime.

However, the difficulties of printing during a war left its mark on Number 5 of the Record, which was commercially set, and had to be printed by the Chief Librarian in his own time. Then the journal went into abeyance until 1946, and again from 1947 until its reappearance in 1951.

Since 2008 the Record has become a lavish publication, generously illustrated in full-colour throughout and enjoying a dramatic increase in heft – and the number of articles that can be accommodated. It is peer-reviewed, and contributions continue to be of high academic calibre and lively appeal. As Janet Paul, an artist, poet, and Turnbull staff member wrote: ‘The Record not only records and recovers, but becomes, itself, New Zealand literature’.

The information in this introduction is taken from Janet Paul's article in the Jubilee Issue of the Turnbull Library Record, August 1970.

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