Mrs Grimke’s scripture cards

Update on Books in Māori/Ngā Tānga Reo Māori digitisation

Last year the Library began looking into the possibilities of digitising all the publications listed in the Books in Māori bibliography.

After the helpful feedback we got from the people who attended last year’s hui and some further research into the collection, we’ve decided to begin this project with two strands of work. Firstly we will digitise Te Kāhiti o Niu Tireni up to 1900, which is one of the serials listed in 'Books in Māori' (BIM). Te Kāhiti was the te reo version of the New Zealand Gazette, which primarily focused on applications and decisions made by the Native Land Court (later known as the Māori Land Court).

Secondly, we’ll start on the ‘Books, pamphlets and single sheet items’ by digitising all the items listed in BIM that are unique to the Alexander Turnbull Library. There are around 260 of these, and they vary from single page notices, circular letters, government acts, and religious material such as bibles, hymns, and sermons. There are also pamphlets with advice on agricultural matters, petitions, electioneering pamphlets and dictionaries, grammars and language primers. We are continuing our consultation about which of these to include.

BIM 995

One of the more decorative BIM items that the Library holds are these seven cards (below). They are known as BIM 995, and you can find the BIM entry for them on pp. 471–472 of the bibliography. The cards have quotes from the New Testament in Māori and are illustrated with drawings of English country birds, plants and sheep. It is thought they were printed around 1881.

Seven cards with scripture verses on to them.Books in Māori 995: Seven illustrated cards with texts from the New Testament. Catalogue record

They were printed in Britain and were part of a series of scripture cards that Emma Grimké (1827-1905) developed. Emma was born in Surrey as Emma Evans. She married Dr Theodore Drayton Grimké (1817–1888) in 1848. American Theodore came from a well-off South Carolina family, who owned a plantation in Charleston County. Interestingly, two of his aunts on his father’s side, Sarah and Angelina Emily Grimké, became well-known speakers against slavery and for women’s suffrage.

Ko nga utu hoki te hara he mate, ko ta te Atua ia i homai ai he oranga tonutanga, i roto i a Karaiti Ihu i to tatou Ariki. Nga Roma 6,23.Romans 6, 23. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”

After living in the United States for a time, Emma and Theodore moved to England, where Theodore initially worked for his father-in-law. They then settled in Manchester and began their religious and philanthropic work amongst the poor. Theodore established the Salford Medical Mission (later known as the Greengate Dispensary) in 1876, which Emma continued to run after his death. They also established a home for “Fallen and Destitute Women” in Great Cheetham Street. The Grimkés were part of the evangelical Anglican movement that had earlier led to the formation of the Church Missionary Society, which played a significant role in the early colonisation of Aotearoa.

Ka mea a Ihu, ko ahau te hepara pai... e tuku ana ano hoki ahau i a au ki te mate mo nga hipi. Hoani 10, 14:15.John 10, 14.15 “I am the good shepherd… and I lay down my life for the sheep”

Emma’s text card mission

According to an 1883 article published in the Churchman and taken originally from an unnamed English parish magazine, the religious cards began as a result of Emma’s work amongst the poor in Manchester. During her visits to people’s houses, she noticed 'the dreary bareness of the cottage walls' and came up with the idea of colourful cards with clearly printed text that would both spread the Christian message and provide something bright for people’s walls.

She then developed the idea of a world-wide mission. The first cards printed in a non-English language were in French, then German, and then other European languages — Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian (see example below), Dutch, and Swedish.

Norwegian Scripture CardNorvegiana, Sjømannsmisjonen, ca 1900 to 1910. Original in Einar Øklands private collection, digital reproduction by Bergen Public Library. Flickr. CC BY 2.0

She then spread out to provide cards in the languages of India, in Arabic and Chinese, and then in the languages of other colonised people, such as the indigenous communities of the Pacific Northwest, Fiji, and South America. You can see another example from the Newberry Library, Chicago that was produced in the Tsimshian language in this interesting blog about Native American playing cards.

Emma ended up with scripture cards in over 50 languages, as the advertisement in the Christian Traveller's Continental Handbook of 1889 shows (below), including te reo Māori. The cards were aimed at missionaries and other travellers to take overseas. Consequently, you can find occasional mentions of them in books such as Irene Petrie, missionary to Kashmir and Susie Carson Rijnhart’s account With the Tibetans in Tent and Temple.

Advertisement for Mrs Grimkes text cardsAdvertisement for Mrs Grimké’s cards. Internet Archive.

These cards were part of a worldwide evangelical movement, rather than an item developed specifically for or by Māori. Visually the illustrations are not related to the language used but tend to be of English views, animals and plants.

It’s not known where Emma sourced her text from, but by the time she was producing them, several editions of the New Testament in te reo Māori had been published, and it’s assumed she used one of these. The differences in the text for Nga Roma 6.23 (Romans 6.23) between her card and the early editions of Ko te Kawenata Hou (The New Testament) suggest that she was using one of the editions from 1852 onwards.

This set was gifted to the Alexander Turnbull Library by Archdeacon Herbert W. Williams, author of 'A bibliography of printed Maori to 1900', as one of the 400 volumes of te reo Māori material. I haven’t yet found records for similar cards elsewhere in New Zealand, although I’d be fascinated to know if there are any.

By Melanie Lovell-Smith

Melanie is a Digtisation Advisor at the Library working on the selection and digitisation side for the Papers Past website.

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