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Te Kawenata Hou: The New Testament (1837)

The New Testament was prepared and issued by the Paihia Press in 1837. These first books in Te Reo Māori provided a vehicle for Māori to learn to read and write in te reo.

Publication details

Colenso, W. Ko Tetahi Wahanga o te Kawenata Hou o to Tatou Ariki te Kai Wakaora a Ihu Karaiti: He Mea WakaMāori i te Reo Kariki; New Testament. Paihia: He mea ta i te Perehi o nga Mihanere o te Hahi o Ingarani, Paihia Press, 1837.

About the book

Teaching Māori to write began in 1816 and within two generations over 80 percent of Māori were literate in their own language. So, too, were many governors, settlers and missionaries of those times literate in Māori. This was a period of profound social change for Māori; the oral culture began to take on a written form with introduction of print culture under the direction of the early missionaries

In 1834, the Church Missionary Society employed William Colenso to set up a printing press at the mission in the Bay of Islands. Colenso published Māori translations of biblical passages and in 1837, a translation of the entire New Testament was printed. An insatiable demand by Māori for reading material drew local Māori to Christianity and meant printing was eventually shifted to London. By the end of the 1840s, the colony found itself saturated with copies of Te Kawenata Hou (approximately 72,000).

Once Māori mastered the art of reading and writing as an introduced orthography, they became very prolific correspondents, not only to each other but also to the new governing powers to whom they often expressed anger and frustration at the policies instigated.

Further information 


This publication is part of the series Te Takarangi: Celebrating Māori publications - a sample list of 150 non-fiction books produced by a partnership between Royal Society Te Apārangi and Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga.