A clean slate

Three exercise books belonging to Professor John Cowie Reid

Professor John Cowie Reid’s exercise books from his student days.1

Even in this computer-oriented world, the beginning of a new academic year for most students will involve buying new stationery and the joy of clean, unsullied exercise books.

The three exercise books shown here are part of a set of eight on display outside Special Collections on the General Library ground floor until 3 March.  Handy for jotting down notes, ideas for poems or complex mathematical calculations, the durable exercise book is a common item in archival collections. These well-thumbed examples are from the papers of Professor John Cowie Reid, who taught English at the University of Auckland from 1948 until his death in 1972.1

Seven of the books date from the 1930s when Reid was a student at the University. They contain his handwritten lecture notes and most have some course details on the cover.  The contents include notes on Hamlet, Shelley’s Adonais and Restoration comedy. The eighth book, labelled ‘books and references’, is undated but the New Zealand Standards Mark on the cover suggests it dates from the mid-1940s or later.Exercise book cover

The now familiar Standards Mark was first registered in 1942 and first used in July 1944 by the Farmers Trading Company Ltd for its range of school stationery. New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world to have a defined standard for exercise books – currently New Zealand Standard NZS8132. The Standard includes a three-part code which defines the product type, the page format, e.g., ruled, quad and unruled, and the size of the book. Using this system a 1B5 is a soft covered, 7mm ruled, 225mm by 205mm-sized exercise book.2  With such precise coding there is really no excuse for buying the wrong exercise book.

Katherine Pawley, Special Collections


1 John Cowie Reid papers, 1932-1972. MSS & Archives 89/14, item 135.
Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.

2 Standards Association of New Zealand. (1982). Standards serving New Zealand, 1932-1982: the first fifty years. Wellington: Standards Association of New Zealand.