William Colenso


William Colenso

William Colenso (1811-1899) arrived at the Bay of Islands as the Church Mission printer in December 1834. Among his notable printing achievements were the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand (printed in 1836), a complete New Testament in Māori (1838) and Hobson’s proclamations and the Treaty of Waitangi in Māori (all in 1840).

He was present at the 6 February signing and many years later published his eyewitness account of the event as The authentic and genuine history of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi (1890), the best account of the event, drawn from his notes made at the time. He also acted as a part-time translator for the officials and printed not only the proclamations of sovereignty in May 1840 but also the first Government Gazette.

He had long wanted to be ordained and was ordained as a deacon in 1844, before being sent to Ahuriri (Napier). But his career was ruined when his extramarital affair with a Māori female servant in 1852 resulted in the birth of a child. A notable traveller and botanist, he also went into politics as the Member for Napier and outlived most of his contemporaries. At the end of his life, in 1894, he was readmitted to the Anglican clergy.

Adapted from the DNZB biography by David Mackay

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