Special Collections Twenty at 20: A quirky scrapbook

To mark this year’s 20th anniversary of Special Collections, the curators have selected some intriguing items for the Twenty at 20 series. Here is number seven.

The William Steadman Aldis papers: A daughter’s gift

Although Special Collections is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, many of the archival collections in its care have been part of Te Tumu Herenga | Libraries and Learning Services for much longer. Among these is the William Steadman Aldis papers, gifted to the Library in 1940 by his youngest daughter Amy Letitia Aldis.1 The papers comprise a single scrapbook created by Amy as a record of her father’s academic career, including the period between 1884 and 1893 when he was Professor of Mathematics at Auckland University College (AUC).


An envelope and letter to William Aldis from a French academic.1

Housed in the Glass Case

When received by the Library, the scrapbook was processed as a published item, assigned a call number, and housed in the Glass Case with the rare books. This was normal practice until 1969 when the Library moved into its current building, and a staff member was appointed to care for the archives.2

Space was allocated for their storage in a fireproof strongroom, which Special Collections still uses today. The accumulated archival collections were rearranged by subject into five series of material, each with an alphabetical prefix: (A) General, (B) Literary manuscripts, (C) Māori and Pacific languages, (D) Industrial relations, and (E) University of Auckland-related material.3 The collections were then ordered alphabetically within these series. The Aldis scrapbook was placed in the ‘General’ series and assigned the collection number A-1 — which it still retains today, and as such, proudly occupies a prime position in the archival storage space.

Auckland University College roll book

The scrapbook itself is a small roll book used by Aldis while at AUC to record class attendance and marks in 1892 and 1893. Closer inspection reveals Amy was part of the second-year mathematics class in the first term of 1892 but didn’t complete the course. She pasted ephemera relating to her father, such as photographs, letters (including one from Sir George Grey), and a copy of her ‘brief’ biography of him into the remaining pages of the book. The result is a wonderful (if slightly quirky) record of Aldis’ life and the early history of Waipapa Taumata Rau | the University of Auckland curated by a devoted daughter and former AUC student.

Katherine Pawley, Special Collections

Discover more


1. William Steadman Aldis papers. 1858-1928. MSS & Archives A-1. Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
2. Coleman. M.D., & Chapman, R. (1971). Manuscripts and archives in Auckland University Library: a bibliography. University of Auckland.
3. ibid
Featured image: First opening: Amy Aldis’ scrapbook on William Steadman Aldis.
Image 2: Envelope and letter to William Aldis from a French academic.