Special book collection

  • Unisa theses and dissertations
  • Van Schaik Collection
  • Frederick Wagener Collection
  • Hesse Collection of German Africana
  • Special Collection
  • Cathedrals Collection
  • High Risk Collection
  • W A Joubert Collection of Old Legal Sources
  • Kenneth Birch Collection
  • Desmond T Cole Collection
  • Children’s Literature Research Unit

Unisa theses and dissertations

Theses and dissertations of Unisa students are kept in a special book collection and may only be consulted in the Archives.

Contact number : +27 12 429 2560

Van schaik collection

This collection of some 5 000 items was bequeathed to Unisa in 1965 by the well-known Pretoria publisher and bookseller, Johannes Lambertus van Schaik, who has been described as "one of the country's most important Africana collectors".

Collected over a period of almost 50 years, it is of great research value, covering the disciplines of history, language, literature, theology and art.

Its special feature is the many early editions of the First Afrikaans Language Movement. Mr Van Schaik himself played a great part in fostering Afrikaans as a language and as a young man realised the value of the early Afrikaans writings, mainly published in pamphlet form and therefore almost unobtainable nowadays. These include such classics as Oom Jan's Eerste Afrikaanse Prente Boekie vir Soet Kinders, printed in Paarl by the Du Toit Printing Press in 1885.

The collection also contains many fine examples of travel descriptions of the early voyagers and naturalists, the earliest of which is Ioannis Leonis Africani's Africae of 1632. Another rarity is Francois Levaillant's famous six volumes of illustrated natural history of Africa's birds, Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux d'Afrique, of 1799. The well-known names of Angas, Burchell, Daniell and others of the early 19th century are also represented.

Mr Van Schaik's collection of South African art books, including those on Bushman paintings and rock engravings, reflects the donor's special interest in South African cultural affairs. The collection is kept as an entity and arranged according to the original order employed by the collector. Apart from the books, it also contains rare editions of periodicals and newspapers, pamphlets and programmes. They may only be consulted in the Archives.

Contact number : +27 12 429-2560

Frederick wagener collection

The valuable Frederick Wagener Collection of Africana has been on permanent loan to the Unisa Library since 1982.

It comprises books, pamphlets, art prints and manuscripts about the lives of the peoples of the country. Many of the works date from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The documents provide researchers with information about

  • the discovery of South Africa
  • the first settlements
  • early expeditions into the interior
  • fauna and flora
  • the origin and development of Afrikaans
  • historical and ecclesiastical events

Of special interest are the famous travel stories of people such as F. Valentyn, H Lichtenstein, S Daniell, WJ Burchell, Le Vaillant and JH van Linschoten.

The collection contains interesting works by botanist R Marloth and the Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa (4 volumes) by A Smith. Of great value to students of Afrikaans are the numerous documents on the First and Second Afrikaans Language Movements.

There are also several copies of sheet music of early Afrikaans songs. Many of the pamphlets have either an historical or political flavour, for example the pamphlets of political parties and those containing the speeches by figures such as Generals Smuts and Botha.

The manuscript section of the Wagener Collection includes important correspondence of General Manie Maritz and DC Boonzaaier, including 37 of the latter's original caricatures. The Wagener Collection contains a wealth of information about the development of the southern tip of Africa since the 17th century.

The material may only be consulted in the Archives.

Contact number : +27 12 429-2560

Hesse collection of german africana

The Hesse Collection of German Africana includes publications, original manuscripts and archival collections and was initiated by the late Dr AO Hesse, who for many years was a lecturer of German at Unisa.

The published works include many valuable titles reflecting the German contribution to South African culture over many decades. These works have been incorporated in the Library's catalogue. They include :

  • travel stories
  • diaries
  • missionary literature
  • bible stories
  • hunting and animal stories
  • war literature
  • scientific works on many subjects

The manuscripts consist of :

  • diaries (mainly of 19th century German missionaries)
  • family histories
  • genealogies
  • correspondence and biographies

Because the old cursive Gothic writing is virtually obsolete, the more important works - such as the diaries of the Reverend Albert Nachtigal (1861-1893) and Carl Hoffmann (1894-1910) - have been transcribed and are available in book form.

Contact number: +27 12 429-2560

Special collection

This collection contains books published before 1800, valuable or rare publications, facsimile reprints and private press books. The books may only be consulted in the Archives.

Contact number: +27 12 429-2560

Cathedrals collection

The Cathedrals Collection consists of the libraries assembled in the 19th and early 20th century at the Cathedrals of Bloemfontein and Umtata by the bishops of the Church of the Province of South Africa. These libraries were purchased in 1974 and 1975 by the University of South Africa from the cathedral authorities.

The bookstock of the libraries represents the Anglo-Catholic interests of the bishops. The collection is very strong in the following areas;

  • Works of Church fathers, containing many Benedictine editions and series such as the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology and the Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers
  • Works of Anglican divines of all persuasions, but especially of the Tractarians and Cardinal Newman in particular
  • An almost complete set of Tracts for the Times
  • Books such as the Biblia Sacra Polyglotta (1657)
  • The English Hexapla (1841)
  • the Revised Version of the Bible (1885), representing a milestone in English church history
  • Liturgical works, including many different versions of the prayer book and the historical works of the Henry Bradshaw Society
  • Individual volumes containing many inscriptions of ownership, providing a fascinating insight into the history of the early pioneers of the Church of the Province of South Africa
  • Volumes which contain the bookplate and inscriptions of the well-known bibliophile, Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford.

The Bloemfontein collection is fully described and catalogued in Sylvia Williams' MBibl dissertation.

The collection may be consulted in the Archives. Only books published after 1850 may be issued. Cataloguing of these items is intended in 1999.

Contact number: +27 12 429 2560

High risk collection

These publications (expensive, rare, etc) are those considered to be at risk on the open shelf. They may be consulted in the Archives or be issued.

Contact number: +27 12 429 2560

WA Joubert collection of old legal sources

The core of the WA Joubert Collection of old Roman and Roman-Dutch legal sources was bought in 1960 in Cape Town from a private legal library. The collection is named after Prof WA Joubert, a former dean in the Department of Law at Unisa, in recognition of his efforts to expand the University's legal sources. These original old legal sources, in Latin and Dutch, are still important works of reference for South African legal scholars.

The WA Joubert Collection, of some 1 000 volumes, consists of the following special publications:

  • legal sources published before 1800
  • reprints of legal sources published before 1800 - rare and very valuable legal sources.

They include publications such as :

  • the brothers Johannes and Frederic van Sande's Opera Omnia Juridica
  • Hugo Grotius' Inleydinge tot de Hollandsche Rechts-geleertheyt
  • Hugo Donellus' Opera Omnia (12 vols)
  • the Italian jurist Jacobus Menochius' De praesumptionibus, coniecturis, signis et indiciis
  • the Groot Plakkaatboek 's Lands van Utrecht
  • the Groot Placaat-Boeck (9 vols), published between 1658 and 1796

The WA Joubert Collection is shelved in the Archives in alphabetical order according to the author or title.

The collection may only be consulted in the Archives.

Contact number: +27 12 429 2560

Kenneth Birch collection

The Kenneth Stanley Birch Collection, consisting of sketches by Mr Birch and publications, was donated to the Archives in 1994 and 1995. Mr Birch was born in 1914 and grew up on the Witwatersrand. He graduated as an architect from the University of the Witwatersrand.

Mr Birch's Civilisations Collection consists of approximately 400 publications dealing with the rise, maturity and decline of five great civilisations over 4 500 years. These publications on the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Persian and Graeco-Roman civilisations are accessible via the Library Catalogue and although they are not issued, the books may be consulted in the reading room of the Archives. The publications date from 1850 to the present.

The Birch collection of 87 volumes of watercolour sketch books is of special Africana interest. His beautiful and well-annotated sketches of South African scenery date from the 1930s to the late 1980s. The sketches reflect Mr Birch's skill and fine use of the very difficult watercolour medium. His use of colour is excellent. The sketch books also include paintings done by him during his many visits to Britain, Europe and the Middle East.

The titles of the sketch books are very interesting and varied, including, among others:

  • Predestination
  • Enthusiasm
  • Ophir Road
  • Zimbabwe
  • Alicedale
  • Spitzkop
  • Ferreira's Town and Le Corbusier; the last includes a sketch which the famous French architect, Le Corbusier, made for Mr Birch.

The Birch Collection is an important and valuable addition to the Archival and Special Collections.

Contact number: +27 12 429 2560

Desmond T Cole collection

Professor Desmond T Cole, a retired professor of African Languages at the University of the Witwatersrand, donated his private book collection to the Unisa Library.

This extensive and valuable collection contains books, manuscripts and journals on a variety of subjects, including history, religion, psychology, education and botany. The majority of the items are on African languages, with the emphasis on southern Africa, and linguistics. The collection contains interesting and rare grammars and dictionaries of many African languages.

Books in the Desmond T Cole Special Book Collection may be issued, but magazines and reprints may only be consulted in the Archives.

Contact number : +27 12 429 2560

Children’s literature research unit

The archives and book collection of the CLRU was started in 1995 by the Department of Information Science as the result of an international conference on children’s literature held at the University of South Africa. Over the years embassies and delegates from abroad have continued to donate books to the Children’s Literature Research Unit. At present the collection consists of about 1400 publications.

The Collection is administered as a special collection in the Archives & Special Collections Section of the Unisa Library. All the publications are available for loan purposes.

Contact number: +27 12 429 2560

Last modified: 2019/03/19