Scoop Review of Books

Archive for September, 2015


Leonardo da Vinci: The Graphic Work
by Frank Zöllner & Johannes Nathan (Published by Taschen and distributed in NZ by New Holland. $39:99)
Reviewed by Nikki Slade Robinson

Leonardo_sidewaysIt is enough to merely say his first name, Leonardo, for most people to know who you are talking about. One of the greats in the art world is celebrated in this release from Taschen. Academics Johannes Nathan and Frank Zöllner have gathered together an impressive array of Leonardo da Vinci’s works in this publication. In fact, there are over 600 full colour reproductions here.

The breadth of da Vinci’s work is incredible: from animals to weaponry, architecture to fabric, maps to botany. The works have been divided into themes such as Proportion Drawings, Anatomical Drawings and Drawings of Maps and Plans. Each section begins with a short essay. These essays give background, context and insight into each group of work. The writing is fairly academic but accessible enough for non-art historians like me … however I must admit, I do not want to see the word ‘oeuvre’ again for a long time! Following the essays are a plentiful number of images, and the accompanying captions give title, media used, size and details as to the collection the work belongs to.

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Man of Science

James Hector: Explorer, Scientist, Leader
by Simon Nathan (Geoscience Society of New Zealand, $45)
Reviewed by Michael Szabo

HectorCover-001s-1Publication of this comprehensive 274-page account of the life and work of James Hector by the Geoscience Society of New Zealand marks the 150th anniversary of James Hector’s appointment as New Zealand’s first government scientist. It spans his early years in Edinburgh from 1834, follows his career in Canada and New Zealand until his retirement in the Hutt Valley in 1903, including everything from his scientific and administrative achievements and failures to domestic arrangements in the family home.

The chronological narrative starts with Hector’s birth in Edinburgh in 1834 and subsequent graduation from the University of Edinburgh in 1856 as a doctor with interests in geology, botany and tramping. After making his own journeys to remote parts of the British Isles he was selected in 1857 to join a one-off three year survey of north-west Canada as a geologist and medic. The survey was deemed a success and he returned to England in 1861 as a recognised field explorer and scientist. But the survey was not all plain sailing. He was kicked by a horse while searching for a pass

Cartoonist Bob Brockie's visualisation of an incident in Canada's northwest when James Hector was kicked by a horse, and thought to be dead.

Cartoonist Bob Brockie’s visualisation of an incident in Canada’s northwest when James Hector was kicked by a horse, and thought to be dead.

through the Rocky Mountains and knocked unconscious for so long that the survey team dug a grave thinking him dead until unexpectedly he came around a few hours later. The episode is recorded in the names Kicking Horse River and Kicking Horse Pass.

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Words That Travel

by Vaughan Rapatahan (ASM/Flying Island Pocket Series)
Reviewed by Maris O’Rourke

AtonementcoverThe fourth poetry collection from the multi-talented, prolific and loquacious Vaughan Rapatahana doesn’t disappoint. Small in size it is big and dense within – with over 50 poems that take us on some wide-ranging internal and external journeys. They are short pithy, poems, usually one or two pages, with staccato rhythms, often one word lines, and varied, often unusual, use of repetition, alliteration, metaphor, similes and other technical tools.

Like the poems, Rapatahana doesn’t stay within the normal boundaries – he uses all the space on the pages and uses words, fonts, space, shapes, photos and songs to produce meaning in more than one way, for example ‘he patai’ is a question in the shape of a question mark while ‘Ruby’s Place’, a musical score. Rapatahana has a strong command of language and an extensive vocabulary.

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Worlds Collide

First Contact: Abel Tasman’s Arrival in Taitapu, 1642
by Anne Salmond (BWB Texts, e-book $4.99)
Reviewed by Judith Nathan

BWB TasmanThis work was my introduction to BWB short texts, described by BWB as “short books on big subjects by great New Zealand writers.” This work certainly fits that description though as BWB describes its texts as “commissioned digital-first works” I had assumed it would be Dame Anne’s latest thoughts on Abel Tasman’s voyage. It is in fact the Preface, Introduction and Chapter 3 of her prize winning book, Two Worlds: First Meetings between Maori and Europeans 1642–1772, first published nearly 25 years ago by Penguin Books.

Nevertheless, this well-written scholarly work deserves another airing, this time as an e-book instead of a large, comprehensive paperback; it will deservedly bring it to the attention of a wider audience. It benefits from Dame Anne’s deep understanding of Māori culture, a perspective that was not considered necessary by an earlier generation of historians. The preface to Two Worlds, reprinted in this work, explains her belief in the importance of approaching the encounters from both sides.

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