The Head of a Unicorn, killed near the City of Mashow, which appears on the front page of this month’s newsletter, is of course that of a black rhinoceros. It is the subject of one of the hand-coloured plates appearing in John Campbell’s account of his second journey in Travels in South Africa. The plight of all rhinos is today of great concern, and the remaining animals are closely guarded. However, Campbell, writing in the early part of the nineteenth century, adopts a matter-of-fact tone in relating the death of the creature depicted:
“During our absence from Mashow two rhinoceroses came into the town during the night, when the inhabitants assembled and killed them both. … They brought also the head of one of them, which was different from all the others that had been killed. …The projection of this great horn very much resembles that of the fanciful unicorn in the British arms.”
The two-volume set of Campbell’s Second Journey, with its remarkable plates, is the outstanding offering in our Travel Section this month, closely followed by A Narrative of a Visit to the Mauritius and South Africa, byJames Backhouse.
A new title that has attracted quite a lot of interest is Lawrence Anthony’s The Last Rhinos: The Powerful Story of One Man’s Battle to Save a Species. It is the gripping account of how “the Indiana Jones of conservation” learned “that there were only a handful of northern white rhinos left in the wild, living in the Congo and soon to be hunted into extinction,” and then set about taking action to secure the animals’ future. As the northern white rhino’s last outpost is the area controlled by the Lord’s Resistance Army, the task was not going to be an easy one. Look out for Lawrence Anthony’s book in the Natural History section of this month’s list.
Salvador Dali, the leading light of the surrealist movement, was deeply interested in natural history and science. The rhinoceros, and particularly the rhino horn, which Dali took to signify divine geometry because of its logarithmic-spiral growth form, features in several of his works. It is a fact little-known even to residents of our town, that Port Elizabeth had its own surrealist painter. Fred Page is the subject of Frederick Hutchinson Page 1908 – 1984: Ringmaster of the Imagination. Page’s is a true “artist starving in the garret” sort of story, but his works deserve wider attention. Be warned, though, that collectors tend to hang on to them, and they are almost impossible to find, other than on the pages of Ringmaster of the Imagination.
Surrealist it may sound, but Why Cats Paint presents a serious argument that “that some cats’ marks are aesthetically motivated and should be regarded as genuine works of art.” You can find the book in this month’s list, along with two very uncommon references on Eastern Cape art, profiling our regions greats, such as George Pemba, along with several lesser-known but nevertheless talented visual artists. We also offer the wonderful Ardmore – We are because of others: The Story of Fée Halsted and Ardmore Ceramic Art, a book that does justice to this extraordinary studio in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Look out for all these books in our Art & Architecture section.
Other highlights this month include the landmark Orchids of South Africa, by Harry Bolus, with its stunning plates. The set has now been reduced to half-price, and will go quickly once we re-list it internationally. Long-term customers get first crack, however. It is one of several excellent books in our Botany section. The month’s list is also particularly strong on Cookery, with such highlights as Reuben Cooks Local: Recipes by Reuben Riffel and Franschhoek Food, in which Reuben Riffel’s famous restaurant also features. The Military History section includes three journals in the elusive Fighting Forces of Rhodesia series, and South African History has Theal’s History and Ethnography of Africa South of the Zambesi. With so much to choose from, we are sure we have found something for you.
The list can be found here: http://christison.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Newsletter-131.pdf
Lindsay and Wendy