Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa

About the Transactions and Proceedings

The Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand is one of New Zealand's most important research publications, particularly for science. Contributors to the Transactions include James Hector, William Colenso, Charles Fleming, Thomas Hocken, and Ernest Rutherford.

The Royal Society (known as the New Zealand Institute before 1933) was established in 1867 to co-ordinate and assist the activities of a number of regional research societies including the Auckland Institute, the Wellington Philosophical Society and the Otago Institute. These societies often did not have the means to publish the papers that were presented to them or maintain a written record of their activities. The NZ Institute was set up to remedy this through the publication of a single volume of transactions and proceedings on their behalf.

Publication history

The Transactions contain the papers read before the member societies and the Proceedings record the business of the Royal Society and its affiliates.

The first volume, published in 1869, included the papers presented in 1868. The Transactions and Proceedings followed this pattern, with some variations until 1961. These variations include the republication in 1875 of a revised edition of the first volume; the separate publication of the Proceedings for v41-v44; quarterly and annual publication of the Transactions from v58.

The Transactions were split in 1961 into separate series for zoology, botany, geology and general. The Proceedings, which had been published separately since 1958 with the same numbering as the Transactions, continued till 1996.

The Royal Society has since 1910 published, irregularly, a monographic series entitled the Bulletin for papers that were too large for the Transactions.


The Transactions initially covered a wide range of subjects. While science has always predominated a report in 1891 showed that about 20% of the papers published up to then were in the areas of ethnography, agriculture, history and literature. However by the 1920's the Transactions were exclusively scientific, with particular focus on botany, zoology and geology. This change was due, in part, to the emergence of other research publications such as the Journal of the Polynesian Society, NZ journal of agriculture and the NZ journal of science and technology to provide outlets for research. Dissatisfaction with the Transactions may have encouraged the establishment of other research journals. There was frequent criticism from some of the societies affiliated to the Royal Society about the slowness with which the Transactions were published.

The content of the Proceedings also varied over the years. The full proceedings of the member societies and the parent body weren't always included every year. In the 1950's they started to included articles and reports relating to other scientific organisations that the Society was involved with such as the International Council of Science Unions.

For more information about the Transactions and Proceedings see, Charles Fleming, Science, settlers and scholars : the centennial history of the Royal Society of New Zealand (1987).

Digitisation of the Transactions

This project has been carried out by the National Library in consultation with the Royal Society.

Link to Royal Society of New Zealand website

The original volumes are from the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

The Library worked with two local organisations on this project:

New Zealand Micrographics Services microfilmed and digitised the Transactions to international standards.

The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre managed the process of transcribing and encoding the full text of the Transactions. The scanned images were then transcribed using a process called double-keying in which two operators work on each page. This ensures a high level of accuracy. Transcribed text was then marked up using the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines.

Contribution to WorldWideScience.org

The Transactions are searchable through the global science gateway WorldWideScience.org.

Link to WorldWideScience.org