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SOUTH AFRICA – GRAHAMSTOWN IMPRINT / THOMAS BAINES ARTWORK: The Eastern Province Annual Directory and Almanac for 1849, forming a Hand-Book for Travellers and Visiters and a Companion for the Farm, Desk, or Counting House. Compiled by R. Godlonton.



A gem of South African colonial ‘frontier’ printing, being one of only 2 annual almanac-directories published in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, by the pioneering printer and firebrand politician Robert Godlonton, featuring a wealth of information on the region in the immediate wake of the ‘War of the Axe’ available nowhere else, including a regional map especially made for the work and, importantly, 4 lithographed views based on original sketches by the famed topographical artist Thomas Baines – exceedingly rare.


8° (16.8 x 10.8 cm): 1 folding lithographic map frontispiece with original outline hand colour (19 x 24.5 cm cm), pagination and signatures irregular: ix, [15 pp.], 21-38, 40-132, 137-[215], [25 pp.], plus 4 lithographed plates interleaved; contemporary quarter roan, rebacked with original spine laid down (Good, light staining and toning in various places, some staining and old repairs to map; covers with minor shelfware, lower front tip worn off,).



This unusually lovely and extremely rare work of ‘frontier’ colonial printing is an almanac and directory of the Eastern Cape, which during the period in question was South Africa’s ‘wild, wild, east’, fiercely contested by European settlers and the indigenous Xhosa nation.  It was compiled and published in Grahamstown, the region’s main town, by Robert Godlonton, a larger-than-life figure, who was for decades the Eastern Cape’s leading ‘press baron’ and the leader of the regional separatist movement.  It is one of only 2 annual almanac-directories issued by Godlonton (the other being issued for the year 1848), and features a wealth of information on the Eastern Cape’s settlers, politics, military affirms, infrastructure, history and agriculture, with many details available nowhere else, making it an invaluable resource for scholars.  Included is a map of the Eastern Cape, custom made for the work and, importantly, 4 lithographed views based on original sketches by the famed topographical artist Thomas Baines.

The text commences with an ‘Introduction’ written by Godlonton, dated in Grahamstown, December 30, 1848 (pp. iii-v), where he reveals the objectives and attributes of the work, noting that he was “anxious that his labours should be conductive to the development of the resources of this confessedly fine and fertile country”.  This is followed by an ‘Index’, which acts as a table of contents; followed by a section on statistics (land areas of districts, heights of mountains, etc.); a historical chronology; natural phenomena; an almanac, with a daily calendar; post office operations (p. 21); Military Establishment (p. 23); and the Civil Establishment (p. 35).

Next, are sections on each of the Eastern Cape’s districts, describing their fixed establishments, geography, history and current state of settlement.  This includes valuable information, supplied directly by the colony’s key stakeholders, with some of the passages being highly entertaining accounts of frontier life.  The districts include Albany, with Grahamstown (p. 41); Uitenhage, with Port Elizabeth (p. 55); Somerset (p. 73); Cradock (p. 80); Colesberg (p. 85); Graaf-Reinet (p. 90); Fort Beaufort (p. 94), featuring a sketch map imbedded within the text; Albert (p. 101); and Victoria (p. 128).  Of note, the section on the newly created district of Albert (founded January 9, 1848) is especially important, being amongst the earliest descriptions of the jurisdiction.  Of the section on Albert, Godlonton noted that this area was until recently a “terra incognita”, and that the information provided “adds another important link in the chain of colonization; which we trust will ere long encircle the whole of South and South Eastern Africa”.

The text continues with a Farmer & Gardiners’ Manuel for growing crops in the region (p. 142); cattle ranching (p. 154); taxes, duties, etc. (p. 158); shipping rates and coastal navigation, including pilot descriptions by famous mariners such as Captain William J. Owen (p. 187); a list of the inhabitants of Grahamstown, a valuable sections noting each individual’s occupation (p. 195); and cotton planting (p. 207).  This is followed by 4 pages concerning the ‘Fixed Establishments’ for the districts of Graaf-Reinet and Richmond, that is placed as such as it “came to hand too late for insertion in their proper places”.

At the end are 25 pages of advertisements of local businesses, some with attractive pictorial vignettes, including for schools, hotels, liquor merchants, fashion purveyors, grocers, pharmacists, and trading companies.

Highlights of the almanac and directory are the lithographed plates which are amongst the finest early lithographs made in South Africa beyond Cape Town.  The folding map that makes up the frontispiece, a ‘Sketch of the Eastern Frontier of Cape of Good Hope by Godlonton & White’ (measuring 19 x 24.5 cm), executed with a charmingly crude printing quality, provides a fine overview of the region, with the locations of key towns are heightened in red, and the coastlines outlined in blue.

Of great importance, the work is illustrated by four lithographed topographical views based on original sketches by Thomas Baines (1820 – 1875), one of the era’s most famous scenic artists operating in southern Africa and Australia.  A native of Norfolk, Baines immigrated the Cape Town in the early 1840s, and soon established himself as professional portraitist and landscape painter.  He spent much of the period from 1848 to 1852, sketching and painting scenes in the Eastern Cape, his works being perhaps the highest quality and most historically important images of the region made during the era.  He gained international acclaim as the official artist for August Gregory’s expedition to Northern Australia (1855-7), sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society.  In 1858, Baines accompanied David Livingstone on his expedition to the Zambezi, being one of the first Europeans to visit Victoria Falls.  In 1861-2, Baines and James Chapman explored South West Africa (Namibia), resulting in the publication of Chapman’s Travels in the Interior of South Africa (1868) and Baines’ Explorations in South-West Africa (1864).  Baines also made drawings for Alfred Russell Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago (1869).  He latterly prospected for gold in Matabeleland (Zimbabwe).

 While the present lithographic views are unsigned, Godlonton reveals their authorship, and discusses their significance in the ‘Introduction’:

 “It may be observed, that in the hope of increasing the interest of the work, a few pictorial sketches, by the spirited pencil of Mr. Baines, of some portions of Graham’s town and given in the present work, and also a sketch of the newly formed town of Burghers Dorp.  These, though not executed – in the infant state pf the lithographic art in this place  – with all the distinctness that could be wished, will, we trust, be received by the public as an earnestly desires to render the “Eastern Province Directory,” not merely useful, but also interesting to as possible to the general reader” (p. iv).


The attractive views, executed in rudimentary lithography, are as follows:


1) ‘High Street from Dundas Bridge’ (placed after p. 38), depicting a scene in central Grahamstown.


2) ‘High Street from Drosday [Drostdy]Gate’ (between pp. 48 and 49), likewise depicting a scene in central Grahamstown.


3) ‘Loss of HMS Thunderbolt in Algoa Bay’ (between pp. 60 and 61), depicting the scene of a Royal Navy vessel which struck an uncharted reef near Port Elizabeth on February 3, 1847; while the crew and the cargo were saved, the ship was subsequently abandoned and wrecked.


4) An Untitled view (between pp. 94 and 95) of a stone bridge, or viaduct, being crossed by ranchers with their cattle.


A Note on the Work’s Collation


Something must be said of the book’s unusual collation.  The text is composed of leaves of irregular pagination and disordered signatures.  However, all of the contents as listed in the ‘Index’ are present and are seemingly complete (albeit with some variance in pagination).  Indeed, Godlonton directly addresses the work’s chaotic collation, noting that pages 212 to 215 inclusive are inserted out of order, as they “came to hand too late for insertion in their proper places”.  Such ‘on the fly’ book compilation was then common in colonial/frontier printing, where technical resources were always limited even where talent was in good supply.

Moreover, the work features the map and four lithographed views.  While we do not have access to another example of the work, or even a reliable recorded collation, and so cannot say for absolute certainty, the present example of the work appears to be complete as issued.


A Note on Rarity

The Eastern Province Annual Directory and Almanac for 1849 is of the most extreme rarity.  While cited in Alfred Gordon-Brown’s The Settlers’ Press (1979), a bibliography on early Grahamstown printing, and aspects of the work are quoted in a number of academic works (suggesting the existence of an institutional example somewhere), we cannot cite the current location of another example.

Moreover, we can trace only single sales record for the work, being an incomplete example (lacking the map) which sold at Christie’s London in April 2004.  The 1848 edition is likewise rare.


Robert Godlonton: Political Firebrand and ‘Press Baron’ of the Eastern Cape

Robert Godlonton (1794-1884) was for decades an extremely important figure in South Africa, being the father of popular printing in the Eastern Cape and the leader of the regional separatist movement.  Trained as printer in his native London, he immigrated to the Grahamstown as one of the famous ‘1820 Settlers’.  While he tried to set up a print shop in the town, his equipment was confiscated by the crown, as the freedom of press in the Cape was not yet permitted.  However, upon the liberalization of the press in 1828, Godlonton seized the initiative with gusto.  By 1834, he became a partner in the Grahamstown Journal, the Eastern Cape leading paper, taking over the enterprise in 1839.  Forming the firm of Godlonton & White, he quickly became the Eastern Cape’s first ‘press baron’, controlling several of the leading town newspapers all across the region.

Godlonton was a zealous believer in the expansion of European settlement in the Eastern Cape, and resolutely opposed any compromise with the indigenous Xhosa nation, believing that “the British race was selected by God himself to colonise Kaffraria”.  He went to great lengths to promote the mass migration of Europeans to the Eastern Cape and countered the moderate system constructed by Sir Andries Stockenström (who served as the Lieutenant Governor of the Eastern Cape from 1836 to 1838), which endeavoured to limit settlement in frontier areas, so as to ensure peace with the Xhosa through mutual treaty obligations.  Rather, Godlonton wanted Britain to wage constant war against the Xhosa until they were utterly vanquished.  Cape Town’s lack of enthusiasm for continued eastern expansion caused Godlonton to advocate for the separation of the Eastern Cape into its own colony, with the movement gaining considerable support due to his articulate editorials.

In addition to his newspapers and ephemeral works, Godlonton was a highly influential (albeit jingoistic!) author of what are today considered seminal works on contemporary affairs in the Eastern Cape and Anglo-Xhosa relations.  These titles include: A Narrative of the Irruption of the Kafir Hordes Into the Eastern Province (1836); Sketches of the Eastern Districts of the Cape of Good Hope: As They are in 1842 (1842); and Memorials of the British Settlers of South Africa: Being the Records of Public Services, Held at Graham’s Town and Port Elizabeth on the 10th of April, and at Bathurst on the 10th May, 1844 in Commemoration of Their Landing in Algoa Bay, and Foundation of the Settlement of Albany in the Year 1820 (1844).

Godlonton, known popularity as “Moral Bob’ due to his strict adherence to Methodism, became a member of the Cape legislative assembly in 1854, where he maintained a fiery presence as the arch-nemesis of Sir John Charles Molteno (the Cape Premier from 1872 to 1878), until his retirement in 1878.


The Eastern Cape: South Africa’s ‘Wild, Wild East’

During the latter period of Dutch rule over the Cape Colony, the region that would become the Eastern Cape was known as the ‘Zuurveld’, part of the large territory that was fiercely contested between the Netherlands and the Xhosa nation.  The Dutch fought three wars against the Xhosa between 1779 and 1803 (the first part of what would become ‘Africa’s Hundred Year War’ between Europeans and Xhosa, lasting from 1779 to 1879!), and while they managed to push the line of control further east, the Zuurlveld was considered far too dangerous for permanent European settlment.  For some years it remained an ill-defined buffer zone, or “no man’s land”.

Upon the British conquest of the Cape, in January 1806, the new regime was determined to push the Xhosa further eastward, and to settle the Zuurlveld, which was home to prime ranchland with easy access to the sea.

The anchor of the British presence along the so-called ‘Eastern Frontier’ was Grahamstown, founded in 1812 as a military outpost by Lieutenant-Colonel John Graham.  In 1819, the garrison of only 300 men narrowly survived an assault mounted by a Xhosa army of 10,000 warriors.  The British high command in Cape Town knew that they had dodged a bullet, and that going forward a chain of isolated military outposts would be insufficient to contain the Xhosa threat.  The Eastern Frontier had to be comprehensibly and quickly settled by loyal British subjects, who could provide sufficient manpower and resources for its defense.  If this was not realized, it was accepted that the region would be lost to the Xhosa.

Turning to the big picture, upon the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, Britain experienced high unemployment, with no realistic hope of domestically engaging many hundreds of thousands of its people.  The crown encouraged British emigration to ‘settler colonies’, overseas domains with climates suitable for European agrarian practices, such as Canada, Australia and South Africa.  The Cape’s Eastern Frontier was home to excellent ranch land, supposedly ideal for English emigrants, and its development would simultaneously tackle two imperial problems.

Not long after the Battle of Grahamstown, the British regime sponsored the arrival of the ‘1820 Settlers’ to the Eastern Frontier.  A total of 4,000 settlers (including Robert Godlonton) arrived in 60 separate parties between April and June 1820.  They initially attempted agricultural endeavours, as the Crown had intended; however, as many of the settlers had been tradesmen back home, they soon quit their rural homesteads, populating communities such as Grahamstown, Bathurst and Beaufort, developing services and light manufacturing.  Agriculture was relegated to a supporting role in the local economy, largely left in the hands of the Afrikaners.  The districts of Albany and Beaufort were founded, and the area became an ‘English Island’ in an Afrikaner-Xhosa sea.  By the early 1830s, Grahamstown had become one of the largest settlements in the Cape, with over 6,000 residents.

However, all was not well.  The British had begun to push into the lands between the Great Fish and Keiskamma Rivers, evicting the Xhosa and causing them great hardship, due to the loss of cattle grazing land.  Xhosa parties took to raiding European homesteads, often in an effort to avoid starvation.

In response, on December 11, 1834, a British colonial commando party killed a high-ranking Xhosa chief.  In turn, a Xhosa force of 10,000 invaded the ‘Eastern Frontier’, causing much devastation, before besieging Grahamstown, causing the city’s women and children to barricade themselves within the main church, while the town’s men fought to save the city.

While Grahamstown narrowly managed to keep the Xhosa at bay, the response from Cape Town was swift and brutal.  An army under Colonel Sir Harry Smith relieved Grahamstown, on January 6, 1835.  Meanwhile, a detachment of Boer commandos under Piet Retief was dispatched to defeat a Xhosa force in the Winterberg Mountains.

From Grahamstown, Smith coordinated a series of lightning strikes upon Xhosa positions, forcing them out of the Albany District, and decisively defeating the main enemy army at Trumpetter’s Drift.

Cape Governor Benjamin D’Urban enforced a harsh peace treaty upon the Xhosa (April 29, 1835), which moved the Cape Colony border eastward to the Great Kei River, while requiring the Xhosa to pay astoundingly large reparations in cattle, the compliance to which would result in mass starvation.  To make matters worse, a top Xhosa chief, who was being held hostage by the British until the cattle ransom was paid, was accidentally killed when he tried to make his escape.

In the wake of the showdown, Sir Andries Stockenström’s, who served as the Lieutenant Governor of the Eastern Cape from 1836 to 1838, instituted a moderate policy, limiting European settlement in frontier areas, so as to presereve the peace with the Xhosa.  This enraged expansionist diehards, like Godlonton, helping to spark the Eastern Cape separatist movement.

Conflict would break out once again in the Eastern Cape during the Seventh European-Xhosa War (1846-7), popularly know as the War of the Axe.  The fighting commenced in March 1846 when the British retaliated against a Xhosa tribe for killing a British escort who was transporting a prisoner accused of stealing an axe.  The Xhosa fought bravely, but their main force was defeated on June 7, 1847, near Fort Peddie, by an army under General Somerset, although the conflict continued until the end of the year.

This conflict, in many ways, proved decisive, as the Xhosa never again posed an existential threat to the European presence in the Eastern Cape, and were hitherto on the defensive.  The British soon set upon a resolutely expansionist agenda, overturing Stockenström’s designs (much to Godlonton’s delight!) and in December 1847 extending the Cape Colony’s boundaries north to the Orange River and east to the

Keiskamma River, with the easternmost territories being named ‘Kaffraria’, a buffer territory protecting the heartland of the Eastern Cape from the Xhosa.

Over the coming decades, the British and the Zulu people would press the Xhosa further and further, until their once large domains were confined to much smaller areas along the Cape-Natal borderlands.  Meanwhile the Eastern Cape’s European communities prospered, with Grahamstown becoming the second largest city in the Cape by 1860.  Formal Xhosa resistance to the British regime ceased by 1878, ending Africa’s longest colonial military contest.


References: Current location of other examples unknown; Alfred Gordon-Brown, The Settlers’ Press: Seventy Years of Printing in Grahamstown Covering the Publication of Books, Pamphlets, Directories, Almanacs, Newspapers, with Historical Notes and Anecdotes and Contemporary Illustrations (Cape Town: A.A. Balkema, 1979), p. 119; Stuart Jones, Banking and Business in South Africa (1988), p. 67.; John Montgomery, The Reminiscences of John Montgomery (1981), p. 181; Margaret Rainer (ed.), The Journals of Sophia Pigot, 1819-1821 (1974), p. 143; Arthur C.M. Webb, The Roots of the Tree: A Study in Early South African Banking: The Predecessors of First National Bank, 1838-1926 (1992). p. 19.  Not cited in Mendelssohn’s South African Bibliography.

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