Vitam impendere vero

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I came across this Latin phrase in 1995, when the magazine was preparing to publish a story on the life of William Herbert Guthrie­Smith—Hawkes Bay sheep farmer, naturalist, writer of the acclaimed Tutira, voice for the land.

The words were part of a coat of arms imprinted on a piece of Guthrie-Smith’s crockery. They mean “To spend one’s life for truth,” or “A life devoted to truth.”

I found the motto inspiring then, and I do now. Considered along with the photographs we pub­lished—of Guthrie-Smith writing up field notes in a but on some offshore island, of G.-S. regarding a native pigeon with affection and solici­tude—the words speak of a man for whom knowledge was a lifelong journey. And such is the journey of New Zealand Geographic.

We have chosen to celebrate our 10th anniversary year with the words “A decade of discovery.” We use “discovery” in a broad sense. We are not often in a position to announce great scientific revelations in our pages; our discoveries are often more akin to those T S. Eliot alluded to in his lines:

“We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”

It is these personal moments of discovery—what someone has called the “Aha!” factor—that New Zealand Geographic seeks to provide. Discov­ery in our pages may take the form of looking at the familiar but seeing it in a fresh way. Or it may mean finding out about a fragment of history and watching it click into place with other pieces like a jigsaw. It may take the form of armchair travel with a writer and photo­grapher whose skills are the loom on which our own impressions are woven.

When I explain to people that New Zealand Geographic is a “knowledge publication” I some­times feel the need to jazz up the comment with examples of particu­larly heroic exploration or daring adventure. I shouldn’t feel so constrained. The “increase and diffusion of knowledge” is a goal our magazine shares with such august bodies as the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society. It’s just that knowledge doesn’t seem like much of a reward these days, when “info” usually has to have “tainment” after it to be deemed palatable.

Yet for those who choose to “spend their life for truth,” the acquisition of knowledge is every bit as exhilarating as scaling a peak or winning a lottery.

“The person who collects know­ledge will seldom be downhearted and never be bored,” was the recent comment of a woman who had amassed a huge collection of Ameri­can folk art. It seemed to me a very Guthrie-Smith thing to say. And, I’d like to think, a very New Zealand Geographic sort of statement, too.

You are holding the first issue of the magazine to exceed 128 pages. Think of the extra pages as our “thank you” for your support.

To those who have been with the Geographic for a while (how gratify­ing it is to pick up the telephone and hear a person announce themselves as a “proud member since the first issue”), we salute you.

For those who are new to the magazine, welcome to the journey and to the quest for vitam impendere vero.

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