Pauls Book Arcade (Former)

211 Victoria Street, Hamilton

  • Pauls Book Arcade (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 7438 Date Entered 30th October 1998

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Hamilton City

Region

Waikato Region

Legal description

part of pt Sec 86, Town of Hamilton West

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Historical:

Paul's Book Arcade began in 1901 when William Paul set up business in Victoria Street in Hamilton. He had moved his shop to the 211 Victoria Street address by 1920. More interested in civic beautification, William Paul left the management of the shop to son, Blackwood Paul, who during after joining the business in 1933, transformed a very conventional shop into a books hop that later was considered by prominent British publisher Sir Stanley Unwin to be one of the 14 best bookshops in the world. Paul built up a quality stock, functioning also as the principal agent in New Zealand for the Socialist Left Book Club. In 1945 he and his wife, Janet, began publishing and 19 years later formed a separate publishing company, Blackwood and Janet Paul. The Paul's published many significant New Zealand writers and employed artists and typographers such as Colin McCahon and J.C. Beaglehole to boost their design and production qualities. In 1953 a separate education bookshop was opened in Hamilton, and in 1955 a second bookshop, this time in Auckland. Paul died in 1965 and the business, after experiencing financial difficulties, closed in 1972, Whitcoulls acquiring the shop and Longmans the publishing arm. In 1997 the building housed a cafe on the ground floor.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Cultural:

From the 1930s, when Blackwood Paul assumed the management of Paul's Book Arcade, the bookshop became a leader in its field. After the Second World War Blackwood and Janet Paul started publishing and would produce approximately 200 titles, several of which remain in print. Blackwood & Janet Paul authors included Antony Alpers, CK Stead, E.H. McCormick, John Mulgan, Keith Sinclair, Oliver Duff, Dan Davin, Bruce Mason and Ormond Wilson. The cultural significance of the Pauls' enterprises has been recognised by recent publications and an exhibition.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

Paul's Book Arcade played an important part in the 20th century development of two important New Zealand industries, bookselling and book publishing.

Recent scholarly assessment confirms the importance of Paul's Book Arcade. The Victoria University Press publication, Book & Print in New Zealand: a Guide' to Print Culture in Aotearoa (penny Griffith, Ross Harvey & Keith Maslen, 1997), states that:

Among individual booksellers of influence the names of Roy Parsons and Blackwood Paul predominate ... Paul's Book Arcade was opened in Hamilton in 1911 by William. His son, Blackwood, joined the business in 1933 to begin his bookselling career in a bookshop that later was considered by two prominent British publishers to be one of the 14 best bookshops in the world. As with Parsons, Paul built up a quality stock. In addition, he had before the war become the principal agent in New Zealand for the Socialist Left Book Club. In 1945 he and his wife began publishing, and after 19 years and an impressive list of titles a separate publishing company, Blackwood and Janet Paul, was formed. This was later taken over by the Longman Group. In 1953 a separate education bookshop was opened in Hamilton, and in 1955 a second bookshop, this time in Auckland. Paul himself died in 1965 and the business, after experiencing financial difficulties, closed in 1972. In his 30 years in the book trade he made a major contribution to the realisation of new standards in bookselling.

In 1995 Blackwood and Janet Paul Ltd was the subject of an exhibition at the National Library. In the catalogue, cultural historian John Mansfield Thompson stated that:

"In every publishing field they entered they excelled, showing initiative,

enterprise and flair, coupled with the highest standards of design and

production. They put Hamilton on the map as a publishing centre ... In a

variety of files they had encouraged the New Zealand writer, crucial then to the evolution of a New Zealand literature, and helped cultivate a more vigorous awareness of the past. In that still to be written history of New Zealand publishing Blackwood and Janet Paul will hold a special, greatly honoured place."

Reviewing that exhibition, writer Vincent Orange wrote in the New Zealand Listener of 2 December 1995 that Blackwood and Janet Paul:

"produced perhaps the single most imaginative and enduring enterprise in New Zealand publishing. Their energy and astuteness covered history, fiction, memoir, poetry and made available through reprints works that are now seen as central to our culture ... [along with Norris Davey, Frank Sargesson] these two men, ... were the ones who more than any other gave the town [Hamilton] a centrality in the country's intellectual life."

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

Events:

Not applicable.

Persons:

Blackwood Paul was born in Auckland in 1908. He graduated with an MA and a LL.B. In 1933 he took over management of Paul's Book Arcade. His revamp and expansion of the shop was incomplete by the outbreak of World War Two, but he nevertheless directed its growth in absentia while serving with the Army Education Welfare Services. He also acted as New Zealand agent for Victor Gollancz's Left Book Club, helped draft the Indecent Publications Amendments Act of 1954, the Indecent Publications Act of 1963, between 1952 and 1957 drafted the first complete lists of New Zealand books in print and was New Zealand president of CORSO.

Dame Janet Paul is still alive. She has continued to play a significant role in New Zealand cultural affairs.

Ernst Plischke knew Janet Paul well. In 1948 he redesigned the shop which Paul's Book Arcade had occupied since 1920. He produced a radically modern shop design, only fragments of which remain in the black and white tiling, the street-front display cabinet and the mezzanine floor and stairs.

Businesses.

Paul's Book Arcade from the 1930s was considered one of New Zealand's best and most influential bookshops, meriting international recognition and praise. The Hamilton bookshop was joined by a branch at Collingwood in 1953, followed in 1955 by a branch in Auckland. In 1972 the shop was taken over by Whitcoulls.

Blackwood and Janet Paul Ltd began informally in 1945, when the couple published Gordon Mirams's Speaking Candidly. In 1958 the publishing arm established an editorial office in Auckland and six years later it was established as a separate company, Blackwood & Janet Paul Ltd.

Significant publications from the 200-strong list included:

F.L,W. Wood -This New Zealand

John Mulgan - Man Alone

Helen Wilson - My First Eighty Years

Dan Davin - The Gorse Blooms Pale

M.K. Joseph - I'll Soldier No More

A.RD. Fairburn & Denis Glover - Poetry Harbinger

Oliver Duff - The Shepherd's Calendar

Ruth France - Ice Cold River

Barry Metcalf - Poetry of the Maori

Bill Pearson - Coal Flat

Hone Tuwhare - No Ordinary Sun

Ideas:

Blackwood Paul saw his role as a bookseller "to be one of educating the public" and instituted rigorous systems of staff training, offering unparalleled customer service. When visiting New Zealand in 1949, Sir Stanley Unwin, a major publisher and President of the British Publishers' Association, described the shop as amongst the 14 best in the world. The 1948 Plischke revamp of the ground floor exemplified the socially progressive and innovative ideas of Blackwood and Janet Paul.

Of even longer term significance was the publishing arm established by Blackwood and Janet Paul. Blackwood was drawn into publishing by his socialism. The Paul list grew out of their "wish to see New Zealanders grow in understanding the country that had nurtured US." Thus Stella Morice's Wiremu was the first attempt by a New Zealand writer to let children see what a Maori child's life was like. The list had a strong emphasis on biography, autobiography and history.

Linksopen/close

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1910 -

Completion Date

14th November 1997

Report Written By

Gavin McLean

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Northern region office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.