Johannesburg

In its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, Ravan Press was regarded as the daring, oppositional anti-apartheid publisher in Johannesburg, ready to take an alternative perspective of South African society. The publishing firm was established by Peter Randall, Danie Van Zyl and Beyers Naude and the firm's name, Ravan was an amalgam of their three names. They were publishers of the left and they supported the academic struggle for a different view and ideological interpretation of social issues of the day.

Albums are normally highly idiosyncratic and personal to the individual who has assembled a collection of photographs or stamps or newspaper cuttings. In 1986 Dr Oscar Norwich, was a medical man with an insatiable appetite for collecting African maps and all information relating to Johannesburg history.

From Mining Camp to Metropolis the buildings of Johannesburg 1886-1940, Gerhard-Mark van der Waal, 1987, publisher Human Sciences Research Council and Chris van Rensburg publications, 268 pages, illustrated, with maps.

Observatory in Johannesburg is one of those rare "hidden treasure" type of suburbs in Johannesburg, located to the north east of the city and spreading across the high ridges of the Witwatersrand. It is a suburb that takes full advantage of the koppies, panoramic views and rocky terrain. Established more than 100 years ago, there are many fine old heritage houses on stands between half an acre and a full acre.

The Johannesburg and Pretoria Guide, An Illustrated volume for Reference for Travellers, containing information of every character for visitors and residents, including Guide to all Points of Interest in and around Johannesburg and Pretoria, Description of Building etc.  2nd edition, published by Dennis Edwards of Johannesburg and Cape Town (1905), 373 pages, illustrated.

This book is one of those rare specialist items of Johannesburg history. It was published in 1976 some eight years after the death of the original researcher and author, Tony Spit and the project was brought to conclusion by Brian Patton and a number of other contributors and collaborators. It is a book that strangely was published in London and not South Africa and the intended appeal was to a small international group of enthusiasts of trams, trains and trolley buses around the world, as the publishers were the Light Railway Transport League.

Johannesburg is well into its second century and at a time when it seems that the roots of Johannesburg’s past are being altered, the physical landscape shifting and the street names honouring the city’s pioneers reflecting new histories, it is timely to pull out a book published at the turn of the twentieth century and engage with some early history. “Men of the Times” must have been one of the earliest “who’s who” type of publications. It dates from 1905 and was one of those large format works, very “coffee table” in looks, it weighs in at over 5 pounds or 2.5

Review of  Tea  at Ansteys, photographs by Mark Lewis and words by Tanya Zack, Fourthwall Books, 2015, illustrated 35 pages. Price  R 200, First Edition 150 copies. Tea At Ansteys is number 6 in a series of 10 small book or rather booklets, Wake Up, This is Joburg, published by Fourthwall Books, 2015. With a first edition of only 150 it is an almost instantly collectable item of Johannesburg Africana.

The Golden Crown of Johannesburg by Gerhard Freiherr von Ketelhodt, edited by Willie van den Berg, published by Willsan Mining Publishers, 2007, paperback, 150 pages, illustrated. This is an authentic quirky small book of memoirs of an immigrant miner from Germany who worked underground as a miner at the best known of the Witwatersrand mines, Crown Mines, for some twenty years from the mid 1950s to the 1970s. He sets his own story against the backdrop of the early mining origins of Johannesburg.

In the Footsteps of Gandhi An illustrated history of Johannesburg's Linksfield Ridge and environs by Alkis Doucakis, 2007, published by Colors, illustrated, 80 pages. This is a fascinating work of local history. It starts with the advantage of an appealing title, hanging the history of the north eastern suburbs of Johannesburg (Linksfield Ridge, Linksfield, Orange Grove, Norwood, Sydenham, and Observatory) to the association of Mahatma Gandhi and the Johannesburg German,  Jewish architect Hermann Kallenbach in the early years of the 20th century.   

Gandhi's Johannesburg Birthplace of Satyagraha, Eric Itzkin, published by Wits University Press with Museum Africa, 2000, (st edition) 2001 (2nd printing) paperback, illustrated, 91 pages + 24 pages of colour plate illustrations, including the 1896 Plan of Johannesburg. Mahatma Gandhi has an even stronger presence in Johannesburg today than when he was alive and moving around the city in person.

The Pioneer Architects of Johannesburg and their buildings (1886 to 1899), with postcard illustrations is likely to be of interest to the Johannesburg heritage fraternity and will be a useful addition to the literature available on Johannesburg architectural history. The work of twenty architects and their buildings over the period 1886 to 1897 has been researched.

The Rand Club  1887-1957 no author (research/writing by L E Neame), published by The Rand Club, illustrated, 183 pages, first edition, with dust wrapper. This volume, published to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Rand Club in Johannesburg, was the first of the three official histories of the Club.

The Barnett Collection A Pictorial Record of Early Johannesburg, published by The Star to commemorate the City's 80th year (Johannesburg, 1966). This large volume of sepia toned photographs of early years of life in Johannesburg was such a success that it became volume 1 of the now much sought after two volume set. The Barnett brothers, David and Joseph were photographers of the town. Their collection of over two thousand prints became a valuable and essential photographic record and resource of the emerging town and pioneering gold mining initiatives.

Changing Space, Changing City, Johannesburg after Apartheid edited by Philip Harrison, Graeme Gotz, Alison Todes and Chris Wray. 2014, Wits University Press. Johannesburg is a city of vast expanse and substance. Within its short history it has become that the economic powerhouse of the subcontinent. It is a city that is changing rapidly and this book seeks to document what is happening right now and to place that change in a  time context. How has the city fared since 1994?

Early Johannesburg Its buildings and its People,  Hannes Meiring, with text by G-M van der Waal and Wilhelm Grutter, Human & Rousseau, 1986. 143 pages. This book has the feel of a album and was published in the Johannesburg centenary year. I think it was one of the most appealing of centenary publications. The inimitable Meiring style comes through in his light touch but detailed sketches of Johannesburg buildings. The project started as drawings in a series, "Ou Johannesburg ", for Die Beeld.

Wagon-tracks and Orchards Early Days in Sandton, Juliet Marais Louw: Pictura Africana Series, published by AD.Donker, 1976. Juliet Marais Louw was the sister of  the prolific author , Eric Rosenthal and also wrote popular local social history.  She died in 2001, aged 90  , her lifespan marked huge changes in her city . She was a well known teacher in Johannesburg and lived on a farm in Sandown.

Braamfontein Spruit Trail, edited by James Clarke, sponsored by AECI Ltd, published 1981. This soft covered pamphlet and handbook was published more than 3 decades ago has now become an item of Johannesburg Africana . It is 52 pages in length but is a dual book with text in both English and Afrikaans.

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