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Home > View & Discuss > Donald Kerr on collectors

Donald Kerr on collectors

  • Date recorded: 20 Jul 2015

  • Duration: 50:12

'The books people read say as much about their tastes, interests and preferences as a psychological profile.'

– Donald Kerr

About this video

What drives a book collector to amass a private library, and how does that collection reflect their personality? In the annual Foxcroft lecture, rare books librarian Donald Kerr shines a light on the libraries of three notable New Zealand book collectors, and their cultural legacy in the hands of public institutions.

Kerr's three remarkable collectors are Governor Sir George Grey (1812–98), whose collection focused on theology, medieval and Maori manuscripts; Dr TM Hocken (1836–1910), who collected works relating to New Zealand and the Pacific; and Frank Wild Reed (1874–1953), who amassed the largest collection of Dumas-related material outside of Paris.

Listen as Kerr discusses the lives of these three important collectors, highlighting their contributions to New Zealand's cultural and intellectual growth, and detailing the provisions they made for their collections to move from private to public ownership.

This annual Foxcroft lecture was presented at the Library on 20 July 2015 as part of Melbourne Rare Book Week.


Donald Kerr is Special Collections Librarian and co-Director of the University of Otago Centre for the Book. He is passionate about books and enjoys long-term projects in book history, especially the history of collecting and the formation of private libraries. He has written a history of duelling in New Zealand, The smell of powder, and is currently working on a book about 12 prominent New Zealand book collectors.