Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Mapping the networks of ownership and distribution of rare books in Special Collections at the University of Auckland General Library

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posted on 2021-11-14, 09:16 authored by Birks, Jo

The extent and research potential of provenance evidence in rare books in Special Collections at the University of Auckland General Library is largely uncharted territory. This project helps fill that gap by examining the provenance evidence, such as inscriptions, bookplates and stamps, in some of those rare books to identify any networks or patterns in their ownership history and distribution. A purposive sample of 291 pre-1851 volumes on New Zealand and Pacific-related travel and exploration was examined for provenance evidence within a qualitative framework and an historical case study design. Taking a subset of those books, which were bequeathed to the Library by Alfred Kidd (1851-1917), the project then examined other works from his bequest to further explore the scope of provenance evidence.  The project demonstrated the value of treating books as artefacts, exposing a wealth of provenance evidence and providing snapshots of the ownership and distribution histories of some volumes. Overall, 71 percent of the sample contained evidence for identifiable agents: 88 former owners, 14 booksellers, one auction house and nine book binders. The project also discussed lesser-known New Zealand book collectors who merit further study, including Alfred Kidd, Sir George Fowlds, Arthur Chappell and Allan North. Further provenance research into this collection and the provenance-related cataloguing practices in New Zealand libraries would generate additional useful insights.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Information Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Information Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970108 Expanding Knowledhe in the Information and Computing Sciences

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Masters Research Paper or Project



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Information Management