Sunday, March 20, 2011

Massey West Auckland: A Palimpsest

In Titirangi's wonderful "Gone West" bookshop today, I found an unexpected treasure: Gillian Ruffle's Massey West Auckland: A "Palimpsest". There's the new word her book has introduced to my lexicon (if I remember it):
I called this a "Palimpsest", but this is really abusing the term! Literally a palimpsest is an old manuscript that has been re-used for writing new messages after erasing earlier ones. Scholars have learnt how to decipher old messages that have been "written over" in this way, and I thought that I would like to view Massey in a similar fashion.
And then there is the way she has organised the book -- anchoring her research on her own property in Massey, she has gone back in time, to 1850, 1900, 1950 and 2000 to determine who would have owned the land, what it may have looked like, how to get there at each period, etc. Along the way, the book is festooned with maps, diagrams, tables of Crown Grantees and other relevant names and details.

I think I was very lucky to get my hands on this today. The only copy in the entirity of the 55 library system of Auckland Council is a reference only copy at Henderson Library. I couldn't find it at the National Library catalogue, and nothing at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Library. I certainly haven't seen this before.

So, if this has had limited publication, it's a real shame -- Massey West Auckland fills a gap in our knowledge of that part of Auckland, and is a real resource when it comes to research into the land ownership patterns and history of the area. Gillian Ruffles says this is a "work in progress". I hope someone comes along with funding, if she's still interested at this point, to continue such great work.

If you see the book, and can buy or borrow it, do so. Definitely worth a look.

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