Topic: Paul’s Book Arcade and the Hamilton Centenary 1964

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Contributed by Jeff Downs

Paul’s Book Arcade – shop and publisher

In 1901 William Henry Paul opened a shop selling stationery, school books and fancy goods in the Argus Building at 159 Victoria St. The shop moved north to 211, the present day site of the Metropolis Caffe, in 1925. After graduating MA from Auckland University College in 1933, Blackwood Paul took over the business from his father. During World War II he worked at the Army Education Service in Wellington. He married Janet Wilkinson, who was working in the Historical Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs, in 1945. Later that year they returned to Hamilton and began the publishing side of Paul’s Book Arcade by taking over material from the defunct Progressive Publishing Society. The main shop was redesigned by Ernst Plischke in 1949. The Austrian modernist architect subsequently designed a new branch in High St Auckland to replace the first Auckland shop which opened in 1955. The bookshops had a national reputation for a carefully selected extensive range of stock and reliable service from well-trained staff. The shops flourished, but went into liquidation suddenly in 1972 and were taken over by University Book Shop Ltd of Dunedin. The Hamilton shop operated as Paul’s University Bookshop until 1983.

Paul's Book Arcade

An editorial office of Paul’s Book Arcade was established in Auckland under the educationalist Phoebe Meikle from 1958-1965 - partly in order to increase the focus on school texts. The publishing imprint was changed to Blackwood & Janet Paul in 1964 to better reflect the partnership - Janet was responsible for the artistic and design side of the business. Blackwood died in 1965 and the publishing business was bought by Longmans in 1968. They traded as Longman Paul in New Zealand until 1972. It is now part of the Pearson Group which in New Zealand was formed from the merger of Addison Wesley Longman New Zealand and Prentice Hall New Zealand in 1998. 

The Pauls had a strong sense of public responsibility to New Zealand writers and readers. Between 1945 and 1968 they published over 200 titles including biographical memoirs (Helen Wilson, Frances Hayman) and histories (F L W Wood, Keith Sinclair), significant works on Maori culture and history (Antony Alpers, Maharaia Winiata), and classic children’s books (Elsie Locke, Maurice Duggan). Their poetry (Hone Tuwhare, M K Joseph) complemented Caxton Press’ and the fiction lists ranged from the lighter (Mary Scott) to the more serious (Bill Pearson). Blackwood developed an innovative joint publication programme with overseas publishers (Gollancz, John Murray, Harrap) and a useful series of reprints (Samuel Butler, John Mulgan). Janet commissioned New Zealand artists to illustrate junior and adult books (Pat Hanly, Russell Clark, Dora Ridall, Juliet Peter) and to design covers (Colin McCahon, Geoff Fairburn). Toss Woollaston and Eric Lee-Johnson were the subjects of full books. As Noel Waite said, “Blackwood and Janet Paul achieved a successful combination of the commercial and the quixotic.” (Oxford companion to New Zealand literature). Indeed they left a remarkable legacy.

“Sixty-three years of good books”

Sixty-three years of good books

In the Waikato Times Hamilton centenary issue of 24 August 1964 (p23) Paul’s Book Arcade placed an advertisement entitled “Sixty-three years of good books”. It included a brief history of the shop and publishing enterprise, a list of “Our Centennial Publications” and a list of “Other Important Publications”.

“Our Centennial Publications”

The Paul’s list comprises:

Armed Settlers : the story of the founding of Hamilton, New Zealand, 1864-1874 by H C M Norris (1956, 2d ed 1963)

Settlers in Depression : the history of Hamilton, New Zealand, 1875-1894 by H C M Norris (1963)

On Record : being the reminiscences of Isaac Coates1840-1932 edited by Mary Cox and H C M Norris (1962)

Early Days in the Waikato by Alison Drummond (1964)

The Invasion of Waikato by Harold Miller (1964)

On record

All of the books in the Paul’s centennial publications list were assisted by grants from the Hamilton City Council. The first to appear, On Record, was published in 1962. Isaac Coates was a railway contractor, brickmaker, flaxmiller, storekeeper, farmer and Mayor of Hamilton. His farm subsequently became the Ruakura Agricultural Research Station and one of his flaxmills was on the site of the current Memorial Park.

Armed settlers : the story of the founding of Hamilton, New Zealand, 1864-1874            Settlers in Depression

Car Norris was a well-known Hamilton lawyer, Anglican layman and historian. He was active in the formation and operation of the Waikato Historical Society and the Waikato regional committee of the National Historic Places Trust.  Armed Settlers was originally published in 1956; the second edition was printed in 1963. Settlers in Depression was published in 1964. Both books drew heavily on the Waikato Times, but also used archival sources and remain the standard authorities on the period. Further information on the author can be found in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB).

Early days in the Waikato 

Alison Drummond, another local historian, wrote Early Days in the Waikato as an introduction to Maori settlement and Waikato towns. The book is well-illustrated from old photos and paintings, supplemented by drawings by Leo Drummond. The watercolour of Hamilton by Sir William Fox was used on the front cover of both hard and paperback editions. W E Gudgeon. Alison’s maternal grandfather, who fought in the New Zealand Wars and later became a Native Land Court judge, sparked her interest in nineteenth century colonial history. The author continued her speciality with At Home in New Zealand (1967) and editing three volumes of the journals of the Archdeacon Vicesimus Lush. The former was published by Blackwood & Janet Paul, but the journals were offered to Auckland University Press before the Pauls merger with Longmans. (They were eventually published by Pegasus). Esther Irving summarised Alison Drummond’s life and work in a DNZB article:

Invasion of the Waikato

The Invasion of the Waikato was originally delivered as a public lecture “to celebrate the centenary of the Waikato War.” In his foreword Harold Miller wrote:  “I am most grateful to His Worship the Mayor of the City of Hamilton, Dr Denis Rogers, for taking the Chair and to the large audience that gave the lecture such a friendly reception and plied me with so many questions.” The topic was dealt with more fully in Race Conflict in New Zealand 1814-1865 (Blackwood & Janet Paul, 1966). Harold Miller was Librarian at the Victoria University of Wellington from 1928-1966. Like Norris, he was also an active member of the Anglican Church. Vic Elliot wrote in the DNZB: “He was by upbringing and inclination a scholar librarian and the collection he built was in the nature of a scholar's library. He sought to create a collection that would meet not only immediate needs but also those of future generations across a wide range of disciplines. He achieved this through the judicious purchase of individual titles, greatly assisted initially by a succession of Carnegie Corporation grants, and by the acquisition of existing libraries.”

Hamilton and the Waikato

Later in 1964 Paul's published Hamilton and the Waikato with assistance from the Hamilton City Council. The photos and text are by Bruce Brander, an international journalist and author of several books on travel and social philosophy. He has been a staff writer and photographer for newspapers (including the Waikato Times) in New Zealand and the United States, was a writer and editor for National Geographic, and for twelve years served as a travelling journalist and editor for World Vision, a global relief and development agency. Bruce Brander now lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Bruce Brander revisited New Zealand in 2002 and compared the old (1960s) and later New Zealand in an article in the Waikato Times of 4 May 2002 (p16). He had first come here because he “felt deeply troubled about moral disintegration in the US”, taught at Gisborne Boys’ High School and then moved into journalism. He liked the greenness, peace and quiet, low-rise cities and light traffic, but eventually realised that “all the countries of the Western world are moving in the same basic direction”, so he headed off overseas. On returning with a wife and family, he still viewed the country favourably: “We would not be buying 30 years anymore. New Zealand today isn’t that far behind the US in social movement. I estimate we’d gain more like 20 years of grace from global trends.”

“Other Important Publications”

This list highlights 12 additional books which were published by Pauls between 1946 and 1964 and which were still in print in 1964. They cover children’s books, histories, biographies, novels, wildlife and Maori legends, for example: The book of Wiremu by Stella Morice (1946); My first eighty years by Helen Wilson (1950); Coal Flat by Bill Pearson (1963); Maori myths and legends retold by Antony Alpers (1964). An important history-related omission was The Maori King by John Eldon Gorst, edited by Keith Sinclair (1959).

A total of 84 books published by Pauls were available for purchase as at August 1964. Their catalogue breaks them down into 40 general non-fiction titles, 24 novels, 2 books of poetry, 3 children’s books and 15 education texts.

1st Prize Hamilton Centennial Window Dressing competition

In light of their pride in contributing to the celebrations it is appropriate that Paul’s Book Arcade won first prize in Class A in the Hamilton Centennial 1864-1964 window dressing competition. [HCL MSC005] 

Further information

Gresson, Susan. “Partners in publishing : Blackwood and Janet Paul 1945-1965.”  MA thesis, University of Auckland , 2004.

Hughes, Peter H. “Paul, David Blackwood”, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,
updated 7-Jan-2014 URL:

Paul, Janet and Thomson, John Mansfield. Landmarks in New Zealand publishing : Blackwood & Janet Paul 1945-1968. Wellington : National Library Gallery, 1995.

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Paul’s Book Arcade and the Hamilton Centenary 1964

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