A visit to one of the top libraries of the world, the private Africana library of the Oppenheimer family, the Brenthurst Library (by appointment only) is more than a treat. For a bibliophile one feels as though one has had the happy experience of dying and being directed to heaven. Located off the M1, at the lower end of the grand Oppenheimer estate in Parktown, Johannesburg, this distinguished library is all a world class private library could possibly be from the tranquil garden setting to the treasured volumes viewed on fine, eye level, wooden, free standing bookcases. The subdued lighting from shaded green library lights at comfortable tables is just right for reading. The attention to functional detail as well as the magnificent presentation of the collection of books, artworks and maps creates the perfect ambience of the ultimate gentleman’s library. The comparison has to be with the JP Morgan library in New York or the Chester Beattie Library and Museum in Dublin. I visited the library this week and needed to pinch myself to decide I was still alive and be reminded that Johannesburg indeed has some hidden delights.
Nasir Carrim: Fietas, A social History of Pageview, 1948-1988, published by Save Pageview Association, 1990. Softcover, A4 size, 191 pages, illustrated, maps. This book in its day was an item of campaign literature to Save Pageview from demolition and the ravages of apartheid social engineering. It was a sad and disgraceful story and the people of Pageview fought valiantly for their rights of ownership and a city presence for the Indian Community. Who wanted to move or be moved to Lenasia?
Battle of the Books – The Barnett Collection (Vols I & II) reviewed by Kathy Munro on the The Heritage Portal.
The Barnett Collection A Pictorial Record of Early Johannesburg, published by the Star to commemorate the City’s 80th year (Johannesburg, 1966). This large volume of sepia toned photographs of early years of life in Johannesburg was such a success that it became volume 1 of the now much sought after two volume set. The Barnett brothers, David and Joseph were photographers of the town. Their collection of over two thousand prints became a valuable and essential photographic record and resource of the emerging town and pioneering gold mining initiatives.
Battle of the Books – Memoirs of Early Johannesburg reviewed by Kathy Munro and posted on the website of The Heritage Portal and well worth reading.
Johannesburg Pioneer Journals 1888 – 1909 edited by Maryna Fraser, published by the Van Riebeeck Society Cape Town 1985, Second Series no 16. This is an elegant well presented volume and an excellent item of Johannesburg history. The Van Riebeeck Society was well known for its reproductions of choice Africana diaries, travel books, memoirs and biographies. This volume marked the centenary of Johannesburg and brought to light four early eye witness accounts of life in the mining town between 1888 and 1909. Charles Du Val was a theatre man, from an Irish family who settled in England. Du Val travelled through South Africa, performing, observing and writing about his experiences. His series of four articles were published in “the Weekly Irish Times” in Dublin and give his impressions of life in early Johannesburg.