Book Review Type: 
Battle of the Books

Western Provincial an album of Paintings and Drawings of the Western Cape, by Desiree Picton-Seymour and R I B Webster,  1952, Maskew Miller, Cape Town, 36 plates , 80 pages. This book was a collaborative effort by the artist (Picton-Seymour) and the author (Webster). The charm of this slender volume is that it captures in tipped in plates and scraper board drawings some of the architecture of the Western Cape.  It is an artistic and romantic gem.  If the 60 year rule applied to books as it does to buildings this title belongs in a "clearly should be preserved" heritage category. After all these decades I particularly like the composite drawings of the church spires of Cape Town and there are others of mosques and gables. People don't feature; facades and objects catch the artist's eye. The problem with this type of book of attractive plates is that the plates have a decorative appeal and so could be stripped to retrieve and frame these. Fewer copies of the book then survive. Picton-Seymour went on to produce the much more substantial study of Victorian buildings and made her mark in architectural drawings. 

2015 Guide Price: The book is still to be found at a very modest price  , approximately R100 - R150 


A selection of famous gables (Picton-Seymour)



Transvaal Republican, An Album  Drawings of Johannesburg and Pretoria, by Desiree Picton- Seymour and R I B Webster, 1956, Maskew Miller, Cape Town, 31 plates, 71 pages. This  small album was a sequel to the first,  published a few years later and presented in much the same format of scraper board drawings, but with a single tipped in plate , a water colour of the Raadsaal Pretoria .  The all too short descriptive texts accompanying each drawing is again by Webster.   Most of the drawings capture  the old CBD Johannesburg buildings  (in fact only 7 from Pretoria).  It is an album of early Johannesburg and Pretoria , pre 1900 .  The appeal of this book lies in the artist's impression of so many either demolished  buildings (the Standard Building, the Old Arcade,  the Exploration Building, Ziman's Building , cottages on Ameshoff St, Braamfontein ) or edifices now derelict (the Castle Factory). The one heritage success is perhaps the old iron framed Park Station, but that now stands isolated , unused and unloved despite recycling plans. Early wrought iron work was particularly successfully captured by Picton-Seymour in the woodcuts, and again facades mattered more than people. This is also a highly collectible title.

2015 Price Guide:  R150 - R200 



The first volume appeals because of the tipped in plates, while the second volume is worth owning because of its glimpse into lost Johannesburg.

Kathy Munro is an Honorary Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. She enjoyed a long career as an academic and in management at Wits University. She trained as an economic historian. She is an enthusiastic book person and has built her own somewhat eclectic book collection over 40 years. Her interests cover Africana, Johannesburg history, history, art history, travel, business and banking histories.  She researches and writes on historical architecture and heritage matters. She is a member of the Board of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation and is a docent at the Wits Arts Museum. She is currently working on a couple of projects on Johannesburg architects and is researching South African architects, war cemeteries and memorials. Kathy is a member of the online book community the Library thing and recommends this cataloging website and worldwide network as a book lover's haven.

Sunday, October 18, 2015 - 14:34
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