Close message
Skip to content
Colourful book covers from the Alexander Turnbull collections.

Alexander Turnbull Library Collections

Kei Te Wharepukapuka o Alexander Turnbull ngā tūemi kohikohinga taonga ā-pepamana kua tāngia kāore anō rānei. Find out about the history of the collections.

Gift of Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull

The Alexander Turnbull Library began with the gift from Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull, who on his death in 1918 bequeathed his magnificent library to the nation. He had built a comprehensive collection relating to New Zealand and the Pacific, summed up in his own words: 'anything whatever relating to this Colony, on its history, flora, fauna, geology and inhabitants, will be fish for my net, from as early a date as possible until now'.


Alexander Turnbull Library

The Library opened its doors to the people of New Zealand on 28 June 1920. It is now a division of the National Library of New Zealand, and its collections and services are housed within the National Library building in Wellington. The Alexander Turnbull Library holds New Zealand’s national documentary heritage collections.


Research collections

The Turnbull Library collections are based on Alexander Turnbull's private collection of:

  • books
  • manuscripts
  • photographs
  • paintings and sketches.

Collections have grown

Over time, through donation, bequest, legal deposit, and targeted purchasing, this has grown to contain millions of items in a wide range of formats. These formats now include:

  • books, magazines, newspapers
  • manuscripts
  • sound recordings, oral histories
  • photographs, paintings, cartoons
  • electronic publications, and
  • websites.

Increasingly born-digital materials are being added to the collections. Taken together, they support advanced research into the land and peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific.

Strengths of the collections

Strengths include a comprehensive collection of works in:

  • Te Reo
  • Māori life and history
  • the exploration, discovery, settlement and ongoing development of New Zealand
  • the Pacific Islands and Antarctica
  • pictorial representations of New Zealand and New Zealanders in a wide variety of media
  • the records of New Zealand women’s organisations, as well as organisations active in politics, commerce, industrial relations, and the arts, oral histories, and New Zealand music.

World’s major resources on the works of John Milton

A particular strength is our collection of illuminated manuscripts, early printed books and fine printing. These build on the collecting of Alexander Turnbull, and feature one of the world’s major resources on the works of John Milton (1608-1674).