Exceptional piece of history

    Exceptional piece of history

    A rare photographic album capturing the journey of the infamous 1890 Pioneer Column, raised by Cecil John Rhodes and his British South Africa Company, which paved the way for Rhodes to annex Mashonaland as a British territory, goes on sale at a Stephan Welz & Co. Fine Arts and Collectables auction in Cape Town on October 10.

    With an estimated price of R90 000 to R120 000, the 127 years album is only one of 12 globally, each containing a total of 154 mounted sepia photographs, that were published as a record of Rhodes’ plan to circumvent resistance from the Ndebele kingdom of Lobengula and occupy Mashonaland as part of what was to later become Rhodesia.

    Adding to its rarity value is the fact that most of the album copies are in public library collections, making this one of only a few in private possession.

    “This is an exceptionally rare and highly collectable album, which is a work of art,” says Stephan Welz & Co. book specialist Lani Roux.

    The photographs in the album, titled The Occupation of Mashonaland, were taken on glass plates by William Ellerton-Fry (1846 – 1930), who came to South Africa in 1872 initially as a diamond prospector who later joined Rhodes’ British South Africa Company.

    The Occupation of Mashonaland contains photographs of the Pioneer Column, local chiefs and their subjects, and various places and events during the expedition, including the first photographs of Great Zimbabwe. While some photographs in The Occupation of Mashonaland are accompanied by captions, a feature of the album on auction is that it contains notes made in pencil by a previous owner who had undertaken research on the Pioneer Column.

    “This gives the album context and added-value,” says Roux. The album is among a number of notable works, including other rare books on African history.

    Books with a Twist

    A copy of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, published in 1838, goes on auction with all the tell-tale signs that it is indeed a first edition. Originally published in monthly instalments in a magazine, the publisher decided to rush out the story in book form before serialisation was complete, forcing the illustrator to hurry his last few plates.

    Dickens disliked one of the illustrations, called the Fireside plate, and the fact that his pseudonym, Boz, was used on the title page. Subsequent editions contained another plate and his proper name.

    The copy on auction includes the Fireside plate and the pseudonym. The book is being offered with an estimated price of R10 000 to R15 000. The last recorded auction of a first edition, in New York in June, fetched R32 000.

    “I believe our estimate presents excellent value for a first edition of one of the most loved books in the English language,” says Roux.

    Rocking with Battiss

    Fans of Walter Battiss (1906 – 1982) will be drawn to the limited edition copy of his book The Artists of the Rocks.

    Published in 1948, the signed book is numbered 2 of 500 copies and reflects his fascination with rock and primitive art. With an estimated price of R7 000 – R10 000, the book includes correspondence between Battiss and a previous owner relating to the latter’s dissatisfaction with a copy he had received from the publisher. Battiss replaced it with his own and pasted three original pieces into the book that goes on auction.

    When and where

    The Stephan Welz & Co. Fine Arts and Collectables auction takes place on October 10 and 11 at The Alphen Cellar, Alphen Estate, Constantia, Cape Town.

    Lots can be viewed from October 6 to 8.

    For more information visit stephanwelzandco.co.za or contact 021 794 6461 or e-mail stephanwelz@stephanwelzandco.co.za

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