We enter the 100th year of our existence with a new name in the offing and several centenary activities already launched or soon to be launched, culminating in a grand centenary function in Cape Town on 29 August 2018. There is also the possibility of a similar function in Gauteng later in the year. Read on for more information!


94% of members present at our AGM in Ravenswood House, Cape Town on 27 November 2017 voted in favour of re-branding the Society as ‘Historical Publications Southern Africa (formerly the Van Riebeeck Society)/Historiese Publikasies Suider-Afrika (voorheen die Van Riebeeck Vereniging)’. The neat acronym which this name yields is HIPSA in both English and Afrikaans – we are currently trying to come up with isiXhosa, Sesotho, Setswana or isiZulu equivalents to render the acronym wholly inclusive. Any suggestions in this regard will be most welcome. Whether this acronym will make all members of the society ‘Hippies’ is, as yet, an open question.

VRS 100

Our centenary programme started off in January with a 5-lecture course organized by our deputychair, Dr Elizabeth van Heyningen, at UCT’s Summer School. Entitled ‘Witnesses to South African History: From Cinna the Slave to Richard Victor Selope Thema’, it attracted some 60 attendees who were treated to five intriguing lectures on important themes in South African history, as illustrated by volumes we have published during our 100 years. The 5 topics and the lecturers who spoke on them were: History and its sources (Dr Elizabeth van Heyningen); Slavery (Prof Gerald Groenewald); Botany (Dr John Rourke); Hidden black voices (Dr Pam Maseko); War (Professor Bill Nasson). Our very sincere thanks go to these 5 lecturers for sharing their knowledge and expertise with the enthusiastic audience. The lectures underlined the enormous contribution made by the Society to Southern African history by making available to scholars, students, history buffs and the general public an impressive array of key sources on our past. A second way in which we will mark our centenary will be by presenting all fully-paid-up members with an extra volume this year free of charge as the Society’s centenary gift to them. This will also ensure that, at long last, we make good our failure back in 1925 to publish a volume that year, which has meant that ever since then our volumes have trailed our age by one year. By publishing two volumes this year we will, at long last, repair this omission and so bring out our 100th volume in our centenary year. The two volumes which we will publish this year are: Hendrik Swellengrebel in Afrika: Journalen van Drie Reizen in 1776-1777 (in both the original Dutch and in an English translation) and In a Time of Plague: Memories of the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 in South Africa. Payment of this year’s subscription of R275 will bring you both volumes.

The third centenary event will be the launch of a Centenary Fund to build up a solid financial base for our next 100 years. You will therefore soon be receiving a special fund-raising appeal from us. Our aim is to raise a sum which will be a significant multiple of our age this year. Please respond generously to this once-in-a-century appeal. We will not be repeating such an appeal until 2118. The culmination of our centenary celebrations will start on the afternoon of 29 August 2018 (the exact centenary of our foundation meeting the South African Public Library) with the opening of a centenary exhibition on our history at the South African Public Library’s successor, the National Library of South Africa on Government Avenue in Cape Town – the National Library is itself celebrating its bicentenary this year – followed by a short walk up Queen Victoria Street to the Centre for the Book where our own gala centenary function will take place. Details of this event will be provided closer to that date, but please set aside that date already now. It too will not be repeated until 2118. Plans for a function in Gauteng to mark our centenary are still being finalized at present. More information will follow in our next newsletter.


Apart from the two launches in 2017 mentioned in our last newsletter, the first after our AGM in Cape Town and the second at that most appropriate site in Bloemfontein, the War Museum, near which President Steyn is buried, several public talks about the book have been given by one of the editors and the translator, respectively Dr Elizabeth van Heyningen and Professor Chris van der Merwe. These have included a radio interview on RSG, a discussion at the Protea Bookshop in Stellenbosch chaired by a member of our Council, Dr Francois Cleophas, and lectures to an array of societies like the Genealogical Society of South Africa, the Hermanus Historical Society, the Friends of the Netherlands Library and the Fish Hoek Public Library. If you know of any other organizations which would like to hear about the book (or indeed about our own Society’s history), please do not hesitate to inform our office.


The Society was invited to participate in a display by the Genealogical Society of South Africa at the Woordfees in Stellenbosch on 10 March. The event was held in the historic Dutch Reformed Church Seminary in Dorp Street. The display consisted of a table decked with several of our publications, posters and pamphlets. Both members of the public and Genealogical Society members expressed great interest in the publications and the event generated valuable publicity.

Van Riebeeck Society display at the Woordfees in Stellenbosch


We regret to announce the deaths of the following members: Mr I Brown, Mr K Hartwanger, Mr A S Henry, Mrs M W Nel, Mr B S van der Merwe.


We are delighted to welcome the following as new members: Mr M Clark from Hermanus, Ms M Hall from Rosebank, Cape Town, Mr B Jones from Hermanus, Mr Z E Kose from Kraaifontein, Cape Town, Mrs P Rivett-Carnac from Newlands, Cape Town and Prof B-E van Wyk from Johannesburg.



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