Saturday, 31 December 2011

Report: December Visit to Brenthurst Library

The Brenthurst Library in Parktown is a gem in Johannesburgand on Tuesday 6 December 2011, 17 BAASA members were taken on a tour of the library.  For many of us it was a first-time visit and, I’m sure I speak for most, certainly not the last.
The library, designed by Hans Hallen, houses one of “the finest privately owned Africana collections”. The collection was started by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer and it was Sir Harry Oppenheimer who had the Brenthurst Library built. Today the Oppenheimer family continues the tradition of preservation and restoration, and of adding to the collection. The collection consists of books, maps, original artworks and sketchbooks, manuscripts - a veritable feast of materials and subjects.
Our visit was divided into three parts: a look at various botanical publications from the 1700’s, 1800’s and 1900’s – Redouté, Andrew’s Botanist’s Repository and other publications with illustrations/paintings by CJ Trew, Merian, Miller, Bateman and Bauer, to name but a few! Ooh’s and aah’s accompanied the turn of every page as we got some insight into both the style of painting, composition, etc, as well as the different printing and book-binding techniques.
The second part of the visit was to the gallery. To be in a room surrounded by original artworks and sketchbooks by such highly regarded artists was a feast for the soul! On the walls were works by Barbara Tyrell, Gill Condy and Lynda de Wet. In glass cabinets and taken out of the collection for us to peruse were the Pelargonium Watercolours & Pencil Sketches of Ellaphie Ward-Hilhorst, The wildflowers of the Port Elizabeth Area by H J Vanderplank, the Botanical Drawings of the Flora of Zimbabwe by Beatrice Drew and Mimetes by Thalia Lincoln, to name but a few!
Another highlight and treasure: we had the rare privilege of being able to see a Thomas Baines sketchbook up close. Though not botanical, it is an amazing record of one of his journeys and the inspiration for many of his works.
Finally, Alan Jeffrey took us through to the binding and restoration room that is full of beautiful old presses, with workbenches moaning under the maps, books and manuscripts being so lovingly restored and conserved! We were given some insight into the processes undertaken to restore maps, such as removing glue, repairing areas of painting, matching pigment, etc, and the importance of using acid free materials. What a great day job!!
This was a fantastic outing, and a big thank you to those who organised the visit, and to the Library staff for giving up their time.

Article and photo by Julie Herold.

To all BAASA Gauteng blog readers:
Wishing you a happy and productive 2012!