The First Educational Book from the Pacific

Uncategorized - Posted 26-04-2021

While working from home, the staff of the Collection Development Section have continued to add to the Library’s collection.  One of the most unusual books purchased recently is Aritemeti: oia te haapaoraaotetaio e te faa au raa o te numera.  Despite its long title, this is a small book of 16 pages, bound in marbled leather covers.



This is probably the first educational text published in the Pacific.  It was printed by the Windward Mission Press in Tahiti in 1822.  The author was John Davies of Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa, Montgomeryshire (1772-1855), who served as a missionary for 54 years under the London Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands.  His other works include a dictionary and grammar of the Tahitian language and translations of Pilgrim’s progress, substantial portions of the New Testament and Psalms, and the Westminster catechism.

The book is a basic mathematical text listing the numbers in Tahitian and teaching how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  At the end is a list of important events in Tahiti from 1606 to 1822.  The text is based on an earlier edition published on the island of Huahine in the Leeward Islands in 1819.  The Windward Mission Press moved to Wilk’s Harbour, Papeete, in April 1818, and this is onoe of the first books printed there.  The Library already owns a copy of Matthew’s Gospel in Tahitian printed by the press in 1820.

This little book is evidence of the influence of Welsh missionaries on the other side of the world.


Timothy Cutts

Rare Books Librarian

This post is also available in: Welsh

Comments are closed.




About this blog

A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

About the blog