One of the most remarkable amateurs to grace South Africa’s shores was Harry Bolus, pioneering botanist. No fewer than five genera have been named after him. Born in Nottingham in 1834, Harry Bolus arrived at Algoa Bay in 1850. He spent the next twenty-six years in the eastern Cape, both in Grahamstown and Graaff-Reinet, excelling in business ventures and public affairs. A family tragedy apparently sparked his interest in the study of plants. According to the Dictionary of South African Biography: “On 19.8.1864 Bolus’s son died of diphtheria; it has been said that this left Bolus in such a state of despondency that [his friend] Guthrie persuaded him to take up botany to take his mind off his bereavement.”
Bolus developed a particular interest in ericas and orchids. This month we are proud to offer his most celebrated work, Icones Orchidearum Austro-Africanarum Extra-tropicarum; or, Figures, with Descriptions, of Extra-tropical South African Orchids – otherwise known simply as Orchids of South Africa. For background on this beautifully-illustrated set, again the Dictionary of South African Biography is most helpful: “It was about the time of his first trip to Kew that Bolus began to take a special interest in the Orchidaceae. Although several other botanical interests took up much of his time, he retained a particular interest in orchids until his death. His first publications on Orchidaceae appeared in 1882, when, besides his ‘Notes on some Cape orchids’, he published ‘A list of published species of Cape orchideae’, prepared largely during a visit to Kew in 1881. He published The orchids of the Cape Peninsula in 1888, many of the 102 species which he described being illustrated with partly-coloured plates, which he prepared himself. This work was followed in 1893 by the first volume of his Icones orchidearum Austro-Africanarum extra-tropicarum. Although he worked on two volumes, the second did not appear until just after his death in 1911. A third volume was edited and completed by Miss H. M. L. Kensit, with nine extra plates painted by his son, Frank Bolus (1870-1945), and published in London in 1913.”
As recently as 1959, the previous owner of our Orchids of South Africa was able to purchase the work from the Bolus Herbarium. Part One of the first volume was, however, unavailable. One can speculate as to the reasons for this. Had the catastrophic fire at Juta’s Adderley Street building in 1901, which destroyed so much of the firm’s stock, been responsible for the dirth of this part? Possibly. What we do know is that we have been able to partially atone for the incompleteness of the work by obtaining a modern reprint of the missing section. This has been rebound in a style that fits in rather well with the three original volumes.
In keeping with the botanical theme, we have this month also included several other excellent books on plants in our list.
Like Harry Bolus, Olive Schreiner had a close acquaintance with the eastern Cape, and the Karoo in particular. Best-known for her landmark novel Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner perhaps deserves recognition even more for the egalitarian spirit promoted in her many books and pamphlets. This month we have an unusual ‘dream’ by Olive Schreiner, published by the American feminist Sarah E. Holmes – exceedingly uncommon in this form. We have also included in the month’s list several other items either by, or about Olive Schreiner.
In addition to some recently catalogued items in the areas we generally cover, this month we also include a large section of books obtained new from the publishers, which we are now offering at very competitive prices.
Although the official exchange rate is currently hovering above R16: £1, we are pleased to offer our newsletter subscribers everywhere a preferential rate of R14: £1 for everything in this month’s list – effectively a reduction of around twelve percent. As always, we hope we have found something for you.
Lindsay and Wendy