A korao no New Zealand was the first book printed in te reo Māori. It was written by Thomas Kendall, who learned te reo from Tuai of Ngāre Raumati when both were in Sydney. Kendall was sent to Samuel Marsden, Anglican Chaplain at Parramatta, to be the school teacher at the first Church Missionary Society mission in New Zealand.
In 1814 Samuel Marsden turned his regard to northern Māori, in preference to the convict population or indigenous peoples in Sydney. He purchased the vessel Active and sent Thomas Kendall to Rangihoua to discuss the establishment of a CMS mission with Ruatara, one of the first Nga Puhi leaders to become closely associated with Europeans.
Ruatara, Hongi Hika and Korokoro sailed to Sydney with Kendall, where Governor Macquarie's 1814 proclamation appointed Kendall as a resident magistrate and endowed authority in Ruatara, Hongi and Korokoro. Marsden, known in Australia as the Flogging Parson, was to later dismiss Kendall for adultery and selling muskets to Māori.
First print run in te reo Māori
A Korao was written at Rangihoua by Kendall as an aid to educate and convert Māori children. It included phrases, word lists and religious instruction. The children recited the alphabet and syllables, in hopes of learning reading and writing. Kendall sent the manuscript for publication to Marsden. It was printed in Sydney in 1815 by George Howe, government printer. Howe had been sentenced to death in 1799 for shoplifting, but was instead transported to Australia.
Auckland Museum provenance
The copy of A Korao now held by Auckland Museum was offered for sale to the Institute Council by Mrs C. M. Becke in November 1893. She thought that either the book itself or its cover had been made using New Zealand bark. Mrs Becke suggested a sum of £5, however Museum Director Thomas Cheeseman settled on an agreed price of £1-15-0. A Korao officially became part of the Museum's collections in February 1894. It is believed to be the only remaining copy.
UNESCO heritage status
A Korao is inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand 2014 register, which works to 'ensure that our history and our stories are not forgotten'.
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Cite this article
A korao no New Zealand. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 20 May 2015. Updated: 11 November 2019.