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Last updated: 26 August 2013

MCNAB, Robert, 1864-1917

Collection | Ref # ZARCH 148 | Held by Heritage Collections, Dunedin Public Library

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MCNAB, Robert, 1864-1917


McNab, Robert, 1864-1917

Level of description:



1 folder

Reference number:



Robert McNab, was born near Invercargill, and educated at Invercargill Grammar School and the University of Otago. He was a lawyer, farmer, writer, historian, and entered politics in 1893. About 1898 McNab began his research into the early history of New Zealand, corresponding with and visiting overseas libraries and transcribing relevant documents. His first publications were twelve articles in the Gore Southern Standard relating to the history of Southland. Between 1904 and 1907, McNab travelled to Hobart, Sydney, the United States and Britain in search of manuscripts, archives and newspaper accounts relating to New Zealand, which he transcribed. Soon after, the government asked him to edit the material collected, for publication. The first two volumes of The Historical records of New Zealand, were published in 1908 and 1914, and modelled on the 1892 Historical records of New South Wales. The old whaling days was published in 1913, and McNab submitted his earlier work, Murihiku, published 1909, and The old whaling days as a thesis for which he was awarded the degree of LittD by the University of New Zealand in 1914. Robert McNab's historical method was that of the compilation historian, unearthing information and documents from searching the primary sources and presenting them in a chronological narrative. In 1913 McNab donated his collection of 4,200 books on history and geography to the Dunedin Public Library, with the condition the collection continued to be added to (see also ZARCH274 & 275)

Scope & Content:
Photocopies of transcripts relating to early sea voyages to and in the region of New Zealand. The main source is The Sydney Gazette, giving brief reports of shipping, in particular whalers, in and out of Sydney; and the procurement of goods including whale oil, seal skins, flax and timber. More detailed transcripts give reports of voyages, tell of encounters with New Zealand “natives”, the quality of timber or flax found, the arrival of passengers including Maoris on the ships, and incidents which have taken place on the voyage. Other sources include the Journal of a Voyage on the Misssionary Ship “Duff’, New York 1813; Historical Records of New South Wales, and the Dictionary of National Biography, (Britain) 1896. The sources of the transcripts date from ca 1793-1813. Included is a letter from Robert McNab to the Government Printer, Wellington, 15 August 1913 (pages 27-31). The letter contains a transcript of material from the “Journal of the Chatham” which McNab wants added to Vol II of The Historical records of New Zealand.

Dates covered:

Circa 1904 - 1913

Access conditions:

No restrictions.

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Associated with:


Gore · Invercargill · Southland · New South Wales, Australia · Sydney, Australia

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