Jul 15, 2008

Index: 1903 Canterbury Cyclopedia

Described as "that great repository of fiction," and published in six volumes between 1897 and 1908, the Cyclopedia of New Zealand was a vanity publication of biographical information and photographs of local identities, supplied by the individuals who cared to part with £5 in order to be included.

It is, however, an interesting social document, which reflects the values of the first and second generations who set the tone for our cultural development.

The 1903 Canterbury edition was published by the Cyclopedia Company at Horace Weeks's extant 1898 five story Printery on Manchester Street. Using the new half-tone process for the reproduction of photographic images, it captured the flavour of a Canterbury, which had recently survived yet another depression and was looking forward to the new century with optimism.

This 4,465 entry index of the 1,146 page volume has been extended from the 48,732 entry Canterbury Heritage Biographical Index of early settlers.

Available in library reference rooms, the Cyclopedia can also be purchased from second hand book shops or online via the TradeMe web site for about $150 to $350 per volume. They are also available on CD in PDF format for $25 each from Dunedin's Colonial Books.

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