This month we offer a marvellous selection of books, with lots of Hunting, Natural History, Geology and Mining. Several of the books give one an almost palpable sense of contact with the protagonists and the events they describe.
When next you sit down to a plate of hake and chips, think of John Gilchrist, the enthusiastic marine biologist appointed to investigate the fishing potential of the Agulhas Bank. In 1897 a small steam trawler, dubbed the Pieter Faure, was delivered from Scotland for Gilchrist’s work. In no time at all, Gilchrist was reporting great hake stocks off Dassen Island, and had discovered the riches of sole east of Cape Agulhas. This month we offer his impressive Report of the Marine Biologist for the Year 1898, which records an important voyage of the Pieter Faure. There are also some pamphlets from Gilchrist on offer, signed for, or by, his friend and collaborator Keppel H. Barnard. According to the book A History of Scientific Endeavour in South Africa, “At sea [Gilchrist] was as enthusiastic and stimulating as ever but back in Cape Town, wrapped in scientific thoughts, he was the epitome of an absent-minded professor. He passed a lady he thought he knew one day and courteously raised his hat; but she was indignant. ‘Surely, John, you know your own wife?’”
The man who succeeded Gilchrist and Barnard as the preeminent fish expert in South Africa was J L B Smith. Fishermen enjoyed his company, because he could not only identify unusual fish but also say what baits to use, and where the fish could be found. Have a look at the rare volume of The South African Angler for 1947-48, and marvel at what anglers were catching in those days.
One of the most famous scientists our country has ever produced was Alex du Toit, credited with the discovery of continental drift. We have his own signed copy of Science in South Africa this month, along with his famous work Geology of South Africa, and several issues of the Alex L. du Toit Memorial Lecture.
It is a little-publicised fact that the famous scientist Isaac Newton wrote more about religion than he did about science. In his works on the Bible, many of which were not published until long after his death, he reached conclusions that were often at odds with Church doctrine. One of Newton’s religious works was Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel. This month we offer Bishop Robert Gray’s copy. Considering Gray’s position as the representative of orthodoxy in the Colenso heresy case, it is intriguing that he had this book in his possession.
The many hunting books in this month’s list include such highlights as the first edition of Scully’s Lodges in the Wilderness, the first edition of Bulpin’s The Ivory Trail, David Enderby Blunt’s Elephant, Das Neves’ A Hunting Expedition to the Transvaal, the first edition of W D M Bell’sKaramojo Safari, and a limited edition facsimile of A Breath from the Veldt, by John Guille Millais.
Contact between the Portuguese and Boers receives copious attention in O J O Ferreira’s Serpa Pinto amongst Boer and Brit, D W Kruger’s Die weg na die see, and J B de Waal’s Die rol van João Albasini in die geskiedenis van die Transvaal. Travelling further afield, we have an early report on irrigation in Kenya, and volumes from the Oppenheimer Series: The Northern Goldfields Diaries of Thomas Baines, and The Barotseland Journal of James Stevenson-Hamilton.
The natural history books this month are thrilling. They include Linder and Kurzweil’s Orchids of Southern Africa, Pennington’s Butterflies of Southern Africa, and The Flora Capensis of Jakob and Johann Philipp Breyne, by Mary Gunn and Enid du Plessis.
As always, we hope we have found something to tempt you.
Lindsay and Wendy