I have just finished reading “An Indescribable Beauty. Letters home to Germany from Wellington, New Zealand. 1859- 1862. Friedrich August Krull”, published by Awa Press, Wellington, New Zealand.
I heard an interview late last year with Mary Varnham (of Awa Press) who has family connections with the Krull family. Mary described a book that was written by a young German man who immigrated to Wellington, New Zealand in 1859. She mentioned how much he had loved the native bush, the abundance of beautiful birds, the beauty of the settlers’gardens already thriving and how he had traveled within the North Island describing what he saw and experienced.
I have spent all but 6.5 years of my life in the Wellington area. I love the bush and our birds and wildlife. I have always enjoyed history and I am an avid genealogist. I needed to read the book.
I was not disappointed. Here within the young Friedrich’s wonderful letters were mention of the gale winds that prevented his ship entering our harbour, earthquakes that regularly shook the ground, steep hillsides and difficult terrain to travel across, place names that are so familiar to me and also many surprises.
I did not know that there was once a hot water area near Wellington city at a place named Kaiwharawhara, nor did I realise just how many native parrots had lived in our bush – Kaka and Kakariki I am guessing from his descriptions.
His meetings with Maori (indigenous peoples of New Zealand) were warm and fascinating as he and his companions attempted to understand vastly different cultural ways.
The book has been published with extensive and very informative footnotes and contains many illustrations from the era in which he wrote his letters back to Germany.
The illustrations are described as fully as possible in notes and all are taken from The Alexander Turnbull Library collections.
I learnt so much from this delightful book and I have copied this piece from the Awa Press website blog as it gives you even more background information:
15/ 8 / 12; 4:57:01 PM
I call it my folly. It’s one of the loveliest books we’ve produced and it probably won’t make a cent. With any luck it will just cover costs, although, given the luxurious paper and quarterbound cover, even this is in doubt. I’m talking about An Indescribable Beauty, which Awa Press proudly published this week. Unfortunately, the author, Friedrich Krull, won’t be able to attend a launch party – he has been dead for 98 years. The book contains the letters he wrote home to his mother in Germany from Wellington in 1859 and 1862. Friedrich was 22 years old.
Sometime after the invention of the typewriter, the letters were translated into English by a person unknown. Last year the crumpled, yellowing sheets were handed to me by one of Friedrich’s descendants. When I read them I quickly realised these letters were a taonga – vivid, perceptive, and astonishing. I believed many other people would enjoy as much as I had this young man’s account of his life and travels in the colony on the verge of the New Zealand Wars. An Indescribable Beauty was born. Not many people realise that Germans were the second largest group of colonial settlers in 19th century New Zealand. There were German settlements from one end of the country to the other, and many New Zealanders have German ancestry. It is my hope that reading Friedrich Krull’s letters will inspire them to research and learn more about their own family histories.