- Publisher: Cambridge University Press
- Online publication date: October 2014
- Print publication year: 2013
- Online ISBN: 9781107326071
- DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107326071
From humble origins, and trained by the London Missionary Society in theology, printing and rudimentary medicine, William Ellis (1794–1872) sailed for the Society Islands in 1816. He found himself at the cusp of major cultural change as Western influences affected the indigenous Polynesians. During his time there, Ellis became a skilled linguist and able chronicler of the traditional yet rapidly shifting way of life. He succeeded in capturing vivid stories of a leisured people who, without written language, had developed a rich oral tradition, social structure and belief system. Published in 1829, this two-volume collection proved to be an important reference work, notably for its natural history; it soon accompanied Darwin aboard the Beagle. Volume 1 covers the voyage to Tahiti, the development of Tahitian orthography, the conversion of chief Pomare II, the establishment of a printing press on Moorea, and Ellis's first sermon in Tahitian, delivered on Huahine.
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