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Messages from the Past

Ashleigh McLarin, Exhibitions Curator


Traditions have a warming sense about them, and this is much needed as we come into our cooler months. An enjoyable winter activity is curling up with a good book. Let’s merge these two ideas and explore some books in the collection. A strong book gifting tradition requires the writing of a message on the inner cover, whether marking a Christmas, birthday, career development, or just encouraging a special interest. These short remarks are big-hearted and insightful. We have many books in our collection, and some of them have these inner messages. The two books photographed here - The Man of Business (1966/28/6) and Men Worth Imitating (1966/28/7) - were gifted to James Trewin by some of his siblings. We know this because of their handwritten messages.


James Trewin was born in Morwenstow, Cornwall, 1857 and died in Marahemo in 1935. He emigrated from England and married Laura Smales in 1885. They had seven children together. These books were donated by a member of the Trewin family, T. Trewin from Taipuha, and other relations still reside in the district. These two books were most likely gifted to James before he emigrated to New Zealand.


Men Worth Imitating to was gifted to James Trewin by his sister Elizabeth. Her note is only just discernible, as the ink has faded into the deep red card. It reads: “James Trewin // Presented to him by his loving sister// April 27th 1878.” I find it a touching gesture Elizabeth prompted her brother to be his best and to aspire to greatness. There was obviously a strong bond, and this is further demonstrated as James named his 2nd daughter Elizabeth.


On one of the early blank pages, of The Man of Business, is a decorative label placed to encourage written messages. It reads: “Presented to James Trewin by his affectionate brother Arthur Nov. 6th 1879.” On another page is a beautifully handwritten poem:


Mind time in time

While time last

For all time is no time

When time is past.


There are many passages underlined with pencil in this book. I like to think that James Trewin, studied this book wholeheartedly to improve himself. One highlighted passage reads: “He that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.” The book has a strong emphasis on morality and righteousness. We cannot be certain that James was the one who underlined these words; however, it is an endearing vision. James was beloved by his younger brother, and it was mutual as James named his first-born son, Arthur, after his father and brother.  

These two gifts show that James’ siblings loved him very much and had high hopes for him. They were supportive and encouraging of his endeavours, which included his emigration to New Zealand. I hope these siblings were able to maintain their relationship despite the distance.



(1966/28/7)  (1966/28/6)

These items are not on display