The Colenso Project

The Colenso Project is a collaboration between The Colenso Society, Victoria University of Wellington and Hawke’s Bay Museum & Art Gallery

The intent of the project is to ignite public and academic interest in William Colenso’s words - published, unpublished, private letters and journals – both in Māori and English, by sharing  them with the world in digital form.

Ref: AWNS-19250402-49-1, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Described on the Colenso Project website as "[c]ontroversial, opinionated, insightful and passionate, William Colenso had a keen appreciation of what it was to be an inhabitant of New Zealand in its earliest incarnation as a world of Māori and Pakeha". William Colenso (1811-1899) with all his various interests and pursuits such as exploration, Māori culture, botany and religion, was also a highly prolific printer. By 1840 he produced over 74,000 copies of various books and pamphlets, which were mainly religious publications. His most memorable work of this sort was the printing of the Māori text of the Treaty of Waitangi on 17 February 1840.

Ref: AWNS-19121114-11-1, View from Colenso Hill in Napier, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Auckland Libraries' staff member, Emma Chapman, is a research assistant with the Colenso Project and is part of the team that is compiling a comprehensive bibliography of all William Colenso holdings. The bibliography includes Colenso's published and unpublished writings, and anyone who can contribute and share information on Colenso holdings is welcome to email the project team. The bibliography is not yet available on the Colenso Project website, but the project team are continuing to work on Colenso material, including letters in Māori.

Ref: Colenso Bibliography poster
Auckland Libraries has a large number of materials written about Colenso it its heritage collections, which are well worth perusing. The Sir  George Grey Collection also contains a number of digitised letters from William Colenso to Sir George Grey.  These are accessible on the Manuscripts Online database - just use the search term Colenso to search for these resources.

Author: Karen Samsom, Central Auckland Research Centre