There are always hidden gems waiting to be discovered in parish collections.  One such gem is among the recently arrived records from St. Giles Parish, Papanui.  A large leather bound edition of The Whole Works of Falvius Josephus, translated from the original Greek, by Charles Clarke, DD who was Professor of Languages and Teacher of Greek, Latin and Hebrew, published in 1785.

It is important but also a lot of fun to establish the provenance of such publications as it is unusual for a parish collection to retain such an old publication. With the brown paper cover removed an inscription ‘Bernard Gapper’ with a note in a different hand ‘Brought to Nelson probably in 1841’, set us searching on the internet. (cheers for the internet) And yes we were able to trace Bernard Gapper through Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 2, Issue 5, 1993 “Bernard Gapper: The Life & Times of an Early Settler.”

The story begins with an enquiry by a descendant from the USA making enquiries of the Nelson Provincial Museum.   “The Gapper family was amongst the passengers on board the Clifford on its arrival in Nelson on 11 May 1842. Its members were Bernard Gapper aged 35, a farm labourer, his wife Mary, 39, and their children Francis, 13, Edward, 11, Mary, 7, Anna Eunice, 1 and baby Amelia who was 6 weeks old. The family was from Stoke under Ham, near Yeovil inSomerset. Although Gapper’s occupation was given as farm labourer, he had been running a grocery and drapery store, and a poster advertising his sale of stock before departure is held at the Nelson Provincial Museum.”

The article goes on to describe his activities until his death in 1869.  The one clue which assisted us in the next step of discovery was the mention of his youngest daughter Amelia marriage to Thomas Rodgers and that the farm property then passed down through the Rogers family.

Two further names noted on the inside cover were E.H. Rogers, 1890 and R.M. Rogers 1943.  We presumed that ‘E.H’ was a descendant of Thomas and Amelia Rogers and once again the internet came to the rescue and the family tree of Bernard Gapper revealed that Edward Henry Rogers was the grandson of Bernard Gapper.

The final, well almost final step, related to the second initial R.M. Rogers which we were able to identify through our records as the Rev. Rowlatt Matheson Rogers, known amongst his friends as ‘Ro’. For our journey to be completed is to discover why this large volume was left with the St. Giles people and this avenue is still to be explored; hopefully there will be some older parishioner who will recall the circumstances.

I knew Ro to be an enthusiast for things historical and considerably interested in New Zealand history.  One can now understand why with his family roots linked back into one of New  Zealand’s earliest settlements.

The 731 pages of Josephus’ Works is in surprisingly good condition with detailed copper-plate engravings throughout by John Walker.  Each of these plates is dated,  the majority being 1786 with one dated 1787 which hints that the volume may have been published in parts.  A list of subscribers and a footnote at the end of the volume also confirms this possibility.

‘We have purposely delayed the last number of this publication for near two months, with a view to procure an accurate list of our subscribers names; notwithstanding which, and other means that we have used, we have not succeeded …’.

The final page has instructions to the binder for the inclusions of 60 plates.  It  also contains marginal references, historical critical and explanatory notes written by the Rev. Yorke ofOxford.

The Whole Works of Josephus will be retained in our Rare Books Section of the Archives Library

By Yvonne

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