Stephenson Percy Smith (1840-1922) arrived in New Zealand as a boy, and soon became fascinated by Maori culture. After retiring in 1900 from his career as a government surveyor, Smith devoted himself to the study of the Maori and co-founded the Polynesian Society, which published this two-volume study in 1913-15. The book contains the Maori text of an important body of beliefs and traditions which had been committed to writing over fifty years earlier, when the young W. H. Whatahoro had acted as scribe for a group of senior elders concerned to preserve this ancient and sacred kwledge. Only long afterwards was Whatahoro willing to divulge it to Europeans, and he personally assisted Smith with the translation provided here. Although Smith's interpretative tes and 'comparative mythology' agenda are typical of their time, this pioneering work laid foundations for later research. Volume 1 focuses on the gods and creation myths.