Literary Nelson – books and newspapers


One of the first bookshops in the country was opened in Nelson - by Charles Elliott, in August 1842. Since then bookshops have been an important feature of Nelson business and Nelson life; and one reflected across New Zealand, with the first British immigrants being working class and keen to educate themselves.1

Mr. Robert Lucas: The Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection, 32964/6Mr. Robert Lucas: The Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection, 39769/3Click image to enlarge

In the early days, bookselling was combined with general retailing; for example Charles Elliott "diversified into soap, candles, coffee, postage stamps, family medicine and even butchery".2  It was also associated with printing - Charles Elliott started the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, as well as selling books.

Books were also sold by auctioneers. In Trafalgar Street, Oswald Curtis Bros. was auctioning books in the early 1850's3 and, later in the same decade, Alexander Aitken was listed as an auctioneer, bookseller and owner of a circulating library.

The number of bookshops in Nelson has decreased in recent times, with closures and mergers.

  • August 1842 - Charles Elliott (1811-1876) established the first newspaper within a few weeks of the New Zealand Company settlers arriving in Nelson: Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle - and opened the first bookshop
  • 1857 - the Colonist newspaper founded by a group of Nelson residents (to oppose the dominance of the large landowners of the district).
  • Early 1860's - Henry Jackson, William Darby (closed 1905) and James Tingle (closed early 1870's) opened book stores
  • 1865 - Jesse Hounsell took over Jackson's shop
  • 1865 - Robert Lucas & Son established, as a printers, bookbinders and stationers.
  • 1866 - Lucas establishes the Nelson Evening Mail in Whakatu Lane (a replica of the bulding is exhibited at Founders Park)
  • 1870's- W.M.Stanton opens a booksellers 
  • 1871 - Henry Jackson opens Jackson & Co. , Trafalgar St., Bookseller & Stationer
  • 1874 - Nelson Examiner ceases publication
  • 1875 - Hounsell moves his shop to Trafalgar Street (he dies 1907 - the shop remained until 1989 under different owners: Ernest Hounsell, David Ollsen, Arnold Angelo and Jim Trathen)
  • 1892 - Lucas family drop bookselling and focus on publishing - Nelson Evening Mail, a Nelson Almanac, and some literary supplements. 
  • 1910 - Alf Robinson sets up a bookshop in Hardy St.
  • 1921 - the newspapers, the Colonist and the Nelson Evening Mail merge
  • 1943 - Gertrude Mellett and niece Noeli opened a bookshop beside Hotel Nelson
  • 1949 - Cecil Page buys Alf Robinson's Hardy St shop, which becomes C. Page & Son Ltd
  • 1957 (Nov) - Noeli Mellet's bookshop moves to 196 Trafalgar St (following Gertrude's retirement)
  • 1964 - Bob and Jill Anderson open ABC Bookshop
  • 1964 Dec - Mellett's bookshop  is sold to Whitcombes (which later becomes Whitcoulls)
    Nelson Evening Mail Office: The Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio CollectioNelson Evening Mail Office: The Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection, 32964/3
    Click image to enlarge
  • 1965 - Noeli Mellet sets up shop in Maxwell Road, Blenheim
  • 1967 - Norman and Jacqueline Sparrow take over C. Page & Son Ltd and it becomes Pages Bookshop (249 Trafalgar St)
  • 1970's - Noeli moves back to Nelson and opens Noeli's Book Nook in Hardy St
  • 1973 - ABC bookshop transferred to John Acheson - in partnership with Jill Anderson
  • 1980 - John Acheson starts The Bookmark (Buxton Square) and  Jill (Blechynden-)Anderson runs the ABC bookshop alone.  It becomes a "Nelson institution"4  with its neighbour Chez Eelco
  • 1989 - Hounsell's bookselling shop closed (after Hounsell's death it had been run by son Ernest, then David Ollsen, Arnold Angelo and Jim Trathen)
  • 1991 - Tim and Susie Blackmore take over ABC bookshop
  • 1992 - ABC Bookshop becomes Blackmores (284 Trafalgar Street)
  • 1993 - Nelson Mail sold to Fairfax media
  • 1995 - Bookmark closes (having moved to Bridge St in 1994)
  • 1998 - Pages and Blackmores merge to become Page and Blackmore - 254 Trafalgar Street


Edited December 2020

Widow's Fund Life OfficeWidow's Fund Life Office and Jackson's Bookshop, The Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Collection, T_180381Click image to enlarge

Sources used in this story

  1. Rogers, A. & M. (1993)  Turning the pages. Auckland, N.Z. : Reed for Booksellers New Zealand p. 2
  2. Rogers, p.8
  3. Rogers, p.9
  4. Rogers, p.161


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  • I found a book in a local bookshop in Auckland that a very distant relative of mine - her name was Edith Newth - and she bought a book from the J. Hounsell Booksellers and Stationers bookstore in Nelson in November 1880. What I found interesting is that inside with some kind of Gothic style print is stamped her name
    Edith Newth, Spring Grove, November 1880. The capitals are in red ink and lower case letters are in blue. Was the store known for stamping names inside books?

    Posted by Haleigh Newth, 26/03/2020 3:13pm (4 years ago)

  • A timeline correction...the Nelson Mail was sold to INL, Independent Newspapers Ltd, not Fairfax. I can't confirm the date given (1993) but it was 2003 when INL sold its newspaper group to Fairfax

    Posted by Ian Earle, 21/04/2015 7:16pm (9 years ago)

  • You might also have mentioned that, when Bob Anderson left the ABC Bookshop in 1973, he went on to start Tapui Books ("books on the alternatives by mail order") with Patricia Anderson in North Otago. Tapui Books later operated from Todd's Valley in Nelson (from memory, for about 1977-80) with a small retail outlet in Bridge Street (about 1979-80) before being sold by Bob back to Patricia. The business continued on in Dunedin, in one shape or other, until quite recently. I worked briefly at Jill Anderson's ABC Bookshop, and with Bob at Tapui Books while it operated in Todd's Valley and Nelson. Bob Anderson spent his later years in the Motueka Valley and died there two or three years ago; his important role in the story of Nelson bookselling needs to be acknowledged. (Paul Star, Dunedin, January 2015)

    Posted by Paul Star, 12/01/2015 10:48am (10 years ago)

  • thank you for putting this info on about aunty noeli

    Posted by belinda mellett, ()

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Further sources - Literary Nelson – books and newspapers



  • Diary of a christian voyager (1991, March 5) Nelson Evening Mail sup.p.4 [Robert Lucas]
  • Kwasitsu, L.(1986) Early libraries in Nelson. New Zealand Libraries 45(1), p.1-6
  • Kwasitsu, L. (1987)  News reporting in the 'Nelson examiner', 1842-1874 Turnbull Library Record 20(1) p.31-43 [Charles Elliott]
  • Kwasitsu, L. (1986) The production of the 'Nelson Examiner' in the context of the early New Zealand press Turnbull Library Record, 19(2), p.123-139
  • Palmer, Rt. Hon Sir G. (2019) The contribution of the Nelson Examiner to New Zealand's constitutional history. Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies  8(5), pp. 49-54
  • White T. (2014, November 15) Paper founder had penchant for spritiualism. Manawatu Standard, p.17 [re.William Charles Nation of the Colonist]

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