By Angelika Elstner
What a wonderful start to the day - the sun was shining after Cape Town had turned into a true "Cape of Storms" yesterday afternoon and we had started to wonder if anyone would brave the weather and come to see us at the Irma Stern museum. Yes they did - and they probably would have done so too in the pouring rain.
On a beautiful sunny autumn morning - we welcomed over 60 guests at one of Cape Town's most beloved museums to talk about one of the most famous explorers, William Burchell who is still largely unknown in his home country England.
Paul Mills of Clarke's Africana & Rare Books and AntiquarianAuctions.com introduced the speakers and explained the work of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers and the meaning of UNESCO World Book Day.
Susan Buchanan, author of the recently published book "Burchell's Travels - The life, art and journeys of William John Burchell" (Penguin Random House South Africa) , gave the audience a fascinating insight into Burchell, the person. Who was the man who landed in 1810 in Cape Town, 30 years old, after weeks on a ship and being left by his fiancée who meant to live with him but during the journey had fallen in love with the captain of the ship? Who then bought and equipped an ox waggon and embarked on an epic journey through the Cape Colony, lasting four years and covering 7000 kilometers, mainly through unexplored terrain?
Burchell was a remarkable explorer, naturalist, botanist, artist, cartographer, ethnographer and linguist. And he was a writer. None of the other pioneer travelers in the Cape, Peter Kolbe, Anders Sparrman, Carl Peter Thunberg, Francois Levaillant, John Barrow, would match his glittering literary style.
Dr John Rourke could have filled another entire evening with his interesting account of Burchell's legacy for botanical science. Burchell's meticulous and detailed observations and his vast collection of specimens which were shipped back to England, and his accuracy of drawings were unique. He collected over 50,000 plant and animal specimens and built up a vast collection of sketches and paintings.
Cartographers applaud Burchell's enormous map of the Cape Colony. Dr Roger Stewart who has done significant research and published widely on Burchell gave the audience a fascinating summary on Burchell's achievements as a cartographer. Burchell accurately charted his journey, providing meteorological data, distances travelled and very accurate measurements of latitude. Dr Roger Stewart's diverse publications on Burchell have certainly popularised his scientific genius, his artworks and his travels.
Many thanks to our speakers for the time they have invested to prepare for today's event. Thank you to Paul Mills and AntiquarianAuctions.com for the sponsorship and thank you to Penguin Random House South Africa for their contribution. For each book sold during the function, 100 South African Rand will go towards to the chosen charity. We will announce the final result shortly.
Thank you! See you again next year on the 23rd of April!
April 2016 – For immediate release. Pictures: ILAB, UNESCO, the organizers