As a publisher, Bridget Williams Books has received many awards including the 2010 New Zealand Post Book of the Year for Judith Binney’s Encircled Lands: Te Urewera, 1820-1921.
In the Queen’s Birthday and Diamond Jubilee Honours announced last weekend, Bridget herself became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to publishing.
Bridget (pictured right; image credit Bruce Foster 2011) told PANZ News, “I felt greatly honoured also by the words in the citation that acknowledged my part in publishing Judith Binney’s Encircled Lands. Tuhoe’s voice here meant a great deal to me, and the book continues to have resonance, as a piece of critical scholarship in Maori history that connects to the present.”
The book is one of many landmark publications in her career which has been dedicated to New Zealand publishing since 1976, producing early key titles such as The Oxford History of New Zealand, The Collected Poems of James K. Baxter and Maurice Gee's first children’s book, Under the Mountain.
With bookseller Roy Parsons and designer Lindsay Missen, she started Port Nicholson Press in 1981, producing a small distinguished list including authors Bill Manhire, W.H. Oliver and Lauris Edmond. In 1985, Bridget produced a New Zealand list under the imprint Allen & Unwin/Port Nicholson Press including the seminal Treaty of Waitangi by Claudia Orange. She later bought back the New Zealand list, and formed Bridget Williams Books.
The BWB imprint joined Auckland University Press in 1995, publishing under a joint imprint. Two books won the Montana Book of the Year Award in successive years – Judith Binney's Redemption Songs and Jessie Munro's The Story of Suzanne Aubert.
Bridget Williams Books emerged as an independent again in 1998. They continue to publish key titles in history and on contemporary issues, and are supported in this by the Bridget Williams Book Publishing Trust formed in 2009.
“I think the award acknowledges most of all the significance of New Zealand publishing. Writing and publishing books about New Zealand has never been easy, but at this time I believe there is a greater risk than ever of losing ‘our voice’” Bridget says. “Globalisation has a neutralising impact, and there are threats as well as opportunities in the digital revolution.
“Many work hard, in the book publishing industry, to make and produce good books about New Zealand.”
PANZ president Kevin Chapman believes the honour is well deserved. “On behalf of the industry I would like to offer congratulations to Bridget. Her publishing is widely admired and this recognition will meet with much approval.”