Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 51, 1919
This text is also available in PDF
(992 KB) Opens in new window


Picture icon

Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull

Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull, 1868–1918.

Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull was born in Wellington on the 14th September, 1868, and was educated at Dulwich College, England.

His father was Mr. Walter Turnbull, one of the founders of the firm W. and G. Turnbull and Co. (now Wright, Stephenson, and Co.); and on his entering on a mercantile career Mr. Turnbull joined his father's London office, returning to Wellington in 1890. For many years he was associated with the late Mr. Nicholas Reid in the management of the business of W. and G. Turnbull and Co., but owing to failing health he was compelled some eighteen months before his death to relinquish most of his business activities, retiring altogether in October. 1917. The whole of his activities and the considerable means resulting from his business were then devoted to the augmenting of his collection of books of history, travel, and literature. He became one of the best-known book-collectors of New Zealand, and his library was known far beyond the limits of New Zealand. He devoted himself largely to the gathering of a representative collection of accounts of voyages to the islands of the Pacific, and the histories of those islands, including Australia and New Zealand; and the collection gathered by him is reputed to be one of the best in the world. It includes not only works in English, but many in Dutch, French, Spanish, German, and other languages, the Dutch being especially valuable. This portion forms, however, only about one-fourth of the library, the rest being devoted to histories of early colonization in various countries, and to poetry and general literature. Besides having copies of every obtainable edition of the better-known poets, the library is rich in works of the minor poets. His collection of autographs, letters, poems, logs, and journals is most representative; and he secured many rare editions both of well-known and out-of-the-way writers, so that the library contains wealth for the historian and for the lover of pure literature as well as for the bibliophile. He also specialized in New Zealand and Australian pamphlets, original drawings, and sketches of early New Zealand and Australia, maps, charts, photographs, &c.

The library contains over 32,000 bound volumes, thousands being almost jewel-like in their artistic binding, the work of such well-known firms as Zaehnsdorf and Riviere, of London; thousands of unbound pamphlets, leaflets, maps, etchings, drawings, and prints, all of inestimable value from an historical point of view.

Whilst Mr. Turnbull was a member of the Wellington Philosophical Society from 1897 to the day of his death, he was not an active member so far as the reading of papers was concerned. He was, however, indefatigable in the gathering together of this splendid collection, which he commenced whilst still in London, and the number and extent of manuscript notes in the various volumes show that he was a wide and unremitting reader who loved his books and knew them thoroughly. Apparently his sole object in making the collection, apart from present pleasure, was the

– viii –

eventual presentation of it to the Dominion. Not only did he at all times place the library at the disposal of students and researchers, but by his knowledge of the contents of the books he was able to render them valuable assistance, and never refused to do so. Whilst, therefore, he did no original creative work, he did what was even more important—gathered a wealth of material that will give inspiration for original work for many years to come. This wealth he bequeathed to His Majesty the King in trust as a reference library to be housed in Wellington. The bequest is the most valuable by which the city of Wellington has ever benefited, and one of the most valuable ever made in the Dominion.

Mr. Turnbull possessed an extensive collection of Maori carvings, weapons, implements, articles of clothing, and other objects of ethnological value, and this collection he presented to the Dominion Museum in January, 1913. His desire for anonymity was respected, but it is due to his memory that this should now be known.

He was also a prominent member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, and had gathered a valuable collection of pictures by New Zealand and other artists. Many of these pictures, which deal with matters of historic interest to New Zealand and Australia, passed with his bequest and are now housed in the library which is known after the donor as the Turnbull Library.

Mr. Turnbull died in Wellington on the 28th June, 1918. He was a Fellow of the Linnean Society and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society; and, whilst his name does not appear among the illustrious in the world of science, the original work that will result from his labours and pleasures of collecting will certainly enrich the world of science no less than its sister world of literature.

Johannes C. Andersen


– ix –

Henry Suter, 1841–1918.

With the issue of the twenty-second volume of the Transactions a new star rose on the conchological world. For here, under a name hitherto unknown, appeared a series of excellent descriptions of small land-shells, illustrated with unusually clear and detailed drawings by the same hand. In continuation an account followed of the jaws and radula of various minute snails. This very difficult work was beautifully done.

These contributions, signed “H. Suter,” were warmly welcomed by a little band of zoological research workers in Australasia. In answer to inquiries as to who our new comrade was, Captain Hutton replied that he was a Swiss, lately arrived in New Zealand with introductions from well-known European zoologists.

Henry Suter was born on the 9th March, 1841, and was the son of a prosperous silk-manufacturer of Zurich. He was educated at the local school and university, being trained as an analytical chemist. He joined the business of his father, and for some years engaged in various commercial pursuits.

From his boyhood he was deeply interested in natural history. He enjoyed the friendship and help of such men as Dr. August Forel, Professor Paul Godet, the brothers de Saussure, Escher von der Linth, and especially the well-known conchologist Dr. Albert Mousson.

Partly to improve his financial prospects and partly lured by the attraction of the fauna of a new country, Suter resolved to emigrate to New Zealand. It was the last day of the year 1886 when with his wife and a family of young children he landed in New Zealand.

He began his colonial career by taking up a remote selection in the Forty-mile Bush, in the Wairarapa district. It is only in a story that a middle-aged townsman can ever turn backwoodsman with success, and so after about a year Suter relinquished the hard and hopeless struggle.

At this critical time Captain Hutton, always a firm friend to zoologists, succeeded in obtaining for his protégé a post as assistant manager at the Mount Cook Hermitage. Subsequently work was available at the Canterbury Museum. After that, at one or another of the scientific institutions of New Zealand Suter spent the remainder of his life at congenial employment.

Henry Suter was an expert collector. He excelled in taking the minutest land-shells, to find which requires knowledge, patience, and the sharpest eyes. Specialists in other groups were often supplied by Suter with valuable material In Switzerland he had formed a fine collection of European land and fresh-water shells. This was afterwards acquired by the Australian Museum.

For several years Suter restricted his studies to the terrestrial and fluviatile Mollusca of his adopted country. When his work on these approached completion he proposed to extend his investigations to land Mollusca abroad. Hence his scattered papers on land Mollusca from Brazil, South Africa, and Tasmania. His friends, however, persuaded him that science would be better served if he relinquished the foreign shells and transferred his attention to the marine Mollusca of New Zealand. Not only did he take this course, but he finally embraced the Tertiary Mollusca also in his sphere of operations.

– x –

Glancing over his papers, it is apparent that his writings were largely modelled on those of his distinguished predecessor, Captain Hutton. It was indeed fortunate that the work of the one should have succeeded that of the other without the intervention of what the geologists describe as an unconformity. Perhaps at no time did Suter quite realize the undiscovered residue of the fauna on which he worked. In his various reviews and revisions and supplements he wrote as if he had in hand if not all at least almost all the species of the area under examination.

Patience, perseverance, and concentration, rather than any great breadth of view, were his characteristics. His magnum opus, the Manual of the New Zealand Mollusca,* was approached by a whole quarter-century of study and labour.

It was the late Mr. Augustus Hamilton who planned the Manual, and obtained from the Government the means for its production.

A competent critic wrote of this magnificent volume that it made an extraordinary advance in Antipodean conchology. The nomenclature of the subject was raised to a modern standard, so that by its guidance any one can now correctly name the shells of New Zealand. Suter needs no other eulogy than his Manual.

After the Manual was completed he was engaged by the Geological Survey to describe collections of Tertiary Mollusca gathered by the Department. On this he was busy for the remainder of his life, and the results are embodied in three Palaeontological Bulletins of the Geological Survey.

After a brief illness Henry Suter passed away at his home in Christchurch on the 30th July, 1918.

Charles Hedley


[Footnote] * Published in 1913–15.

[Footnote] † Journ. of Conch., vol. 14, p. 287, 1915.

Picture icon

Henry Suter.

Picture icon

Thomas William Adams.

– xi –

Thomas William Adams, 1841–1919.

Thomas William Adams was born in 1841 at Gravely, Cambridgeshire, England. He was educated first at a private school in Cambridge, and later at the British and Foreign Normal School, London. In 1862 he arrived at Lyttelton, and soon after took up land at Greendale, on the Canterbury Plain, where he successfully followed farming for many years.

The necessity for providing shelter for his stock against the frequent high winds showed Mr. Adams, as it did many of the pioneers, that the planting of shelter-belts was essential. A little later tree-planting was encouraged by the Government of the day by means of land grants in proportion to the area planted. As time went on he was not content to plant only the usual trees, but, stimulated by the true spirit of research, he sought to find out what other trees were suited to the conditions supplied by his neighbourhood—an area typical of much of the Canterbury Plain. So it came about that before many years had passed by he had growing upon his property pretty well all the exotic trees which at that time had been introduced into New Zealand. This made it necessary for him to go farther afield for his material, and he got into touch with some of the most celebrated arboriculturists of the day, and also botanical collectors in little-known regions, so that seeds of many species of trees and shrubs came yearly into his hands.

As the years passed by, thanks to his love for the self-imposed task and to his superabundant energy, his Greendale estate not only possessed fine mixed plantations, but easily the largest collection of living specimens of exotic trees and shrubs in New Zealand, representing not unworthily the hardy tree and shrub flora of the world. In conjunction with this practical work Mr. Adams became a close student of the literature relating to that class of plants which interested him so greatly, so that no one in the Dominion possessed such a wide knowledge of the subject. Nor did he neglect the broader aspects of his pursuit. Here his researches with regard to the Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) as a timber-tree can without hesitation be declared the most important advance which forestry has made in New Zealand up to the present time, and one which will eventually add great wealth to the country. That a tree universally despised as economically worthless (unless for inferior firewood) should, through Mr. Adams's experiments and unceasing advocacy of its value, come to be recognized by all New Zealand foresters as a most important timber-tree speaks volumes as to his acumen and careful investigations. Indeed, Mr. Adams through his teaching regarding the value of the Monterey pine materially modified the forestry policy of the Dominion. Here was a tree, hardly used in the early forestry operations, whose rapidity of growth combined with the many uses of its timber made its planting on the largest scale a highly payable proposition easy of demonstration.

In 1897 Mr. Adams joined the Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Institute. Though living too far from Christchurch to take an active part in the management of the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, he attended the meetings whenever possible, read papers at times, delivered addresses, and showed interesting exhibits from his arboretum. Several of his papers appear in our Transactions, one in the Report of the Australasian Association for 1904, and a number in the Journal of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association. These papers form a

– xii –

record of most important work, and give valuable details regarding the growth and behaviour of many species of economic trees. Apart from their economic value they have also a considerable phytogeographical bearing.

On account of his valuable work in arboriculture Mr. Adams some years ago was elected an honorary member of the Royal British Arboricultural Society, and last year he was made a life member of the New Zealand Forestry League.

As a public man Mr. Adams took great interest in education. He was for twenty-six years a member of the North Canterbury Education Board, and for twenty years a member of the Board of Governors of Canterbury College. To this institution he left by will 100 acres of land at Greendale on which are many of his plantations, and his entire general collection of trees and shrubs. To this bequest was added the sum of ∑2,000, the money and the land with its collections to form the nucleus of a forestry school in connection with Canterbury College. In 1913 he was one of the members of the Royal Commission on Forestry, and was of the greatest service to the Commission both from his knowledge and clear judgment.

Mr. Adams, who had been far from well for some time, passed away on the 1st June, 1919. His end was not altogether unexpected by his friends, notwithstanding he had attended the Science Congress in February, and gone to Dyer's Pass on one of the excursions. His lamented death has left a gap in New Zealand science which will not readily be filled. No man was more respected; few of our members have rendered more disinterested service to their country.

L. Cockayne