NOTT, Henry; HOWE, William; JOSEPH, Thomas (translators)
[BIBLE. TAHITIAN] Te Bibilia moa ra, oia te oia te Faufaa Tahito e te Faufaa Api ra : iritihia ei parau Tahiti. E ua faa au maite hia i na parau tumu ra, e ua hope hoi i te faa titiaifaro hia.
Lonedona : Neia e William Watts, na te Taieti Bibilia i Beritani e te mau penua ‘toa i faa tupu hia i Lonedona ra i te Matahiti 1804, 1847. [London : William Watts, for The British and Foreign Bible Society, 1847]. Thick octavo (217 x 135 mm), contemporary panelled calf by Watkins (rebacked preserving original spine titled in gilt TAHITIAN BIBLE, corners repaired, hinges cracking), front free-endpaper with wet stamp of London Missionary Society and later ex libris of Andrew David, Lieutenant Commander, RN; a presentation copy to John MacGillivray, before his departure to the South Seas as naturalist on board HMS Herald, inscribed on the verso of the front endpaper by Rev. E. Prout, Home Secretary of the London Missionary Society, 8 June 1852; pp (iv), 983; New Testament has separate title page: Te Faufaa Api a to tatou fatu e te ora a Iesu Mesia ra; occasional and very light marginal spotting, rear blank leaf with repaired tear, small marginal hole in 2C5 and small marginal chip and tear to 2Z4 (both affecting a few letters). Darlow & Moule, 9083.
An early Tahitian Bible with a significant Australian association.
The first complete translation of the Bible in Tahitian was undertaken by Henry Nott. Published in 1838, it was the first edition of the Bible in any of the languages of Polynesia. This 1847 edition is a revision of Nott’s translation by William Howe and Thomas Joseph. It is essentially the first edition of the second Tahitian Bible.
The copy offered here was presented to naturalist John MacGillivray (1821-1867), prior to his joining HMS Herald on its surveying expedition to the South Pacific – the last of three important Royal Navy expeditions to New Guinea, Australia and the South Pacific on which MacGillivray served as naturalist.
MacGillivray’s first voyage was on the expedition of HMS Fly (1842-1846), under Captain Owen Stanley, which spent over three years around the Australian and New Guinea coasts, and carried out extensive surveys of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. His appointment was paid for by the Earl of Derby and his specimens were sent to Knowsley Hall.
MacGillivray next joined HMS Rattlesnake (1846-1850), under Captain Owen Stanley, as one of three naturalists, one of whom was none other than Thomas Huxley. The Rattlesnake, like the Fly, surveyed the Queensland coast and the Great Barrier Reef, the southern coast of New Guinea and the Louisiade Archipelago, and also visited Bass Strait and Port Essington. Early in 1852 MacGillivray published his Narrative of the Voyage of H. M. S. Rattlesnake.
On his first two voyages, MacGillivray had demonstrated a keen interest in native peoples and had collected glossaries of various languages. It was probably this interest that led to his being presented with the current work by the London Missionary Society on 8 June 1852, just before his departure on HMS Herald (1852-1856), which would carry out surveys in South America and the South Pacific under Captain H. M. Denham. However, MacGillivray suffered from periods of alcoholism, and he was dismissed from the expedition at Sydney in early 1855. He remained in Australia, making a meagre living as a naturalist and writer. For a time he was employed in cataloguing the shell collection of conchologist Dr. James C. Cox; he also appears to have been secretary of the Horticultural Improvement Society in Sydney. He made trips to the New Hebrides and to Cape York, and from 1864 settled in Grafton, where he became a collector of natural history specimens in partnership with J. F. Wilcox. He died at the age of 46 in Sydney in 1867.