Cecil Rhodes’ Library

//Cecil Rhodes’ Library

Cecil Rhodes’ Library


Duncan Clarke



For over one hundred and twenty-five years, the secreted Catalogue, listing Cecil Rhodes’ private library books at Groote Schuur in the Cape, has been viewed by but a privileged few. Cecil Rhodes’ Library offers the first complete evaluation of these texts and their significance for Rhodes’ life.

Rarely visited in the last thirty years, hidden in plain sight, barely exposed in over fifty biographies, ignored by most critics, this literary trove offers revelatory insight into the mind of the late Victorian Age’s most prominent figure.

Groote Schuur’s assemblage of 2,554 valuable texts include rare books on Africana, world history, biography, social science, literature, Federation, law, governance, geography, art, science, architecture, Classics (Ancient Greek, Latin, French), novella, and works of reference.

The most notable private library holding in late 19th century Africa, this unique collection shaped Rhodes’ thoughts, ideas, acts, and decisions in southern-central Africa, and Zambesia, later shaping civilisation and literacy in that land.

Rhodes is revealed as an adept bibliophile, connoisseur and itinerant nomadic who relied on literature and cartography for ideas and thoughts in speeches, as Cape Colony premier, 1890-96, and founder of Rhodesia., 1890-1902 when he died.

These endeavours brought literature to Zambesia, then a literary desert devoid of alphabet, pen, writing, books or any library – from the times of the San, tens of thousands of years ago, to the mid-19th century when before, at first the Portuguese, then missionaries, hunters, explorers, and traders entered its Great Plateau from the mid-1850s.

Cecil Rhodes’ Library is the first-ever expose of this unique intellectual trove that covers literature Cape to Cairo, and Classics from antiquity to then avant-garde works. Rhodes never crafted any autobiography but scripted a vast ‘grey’ literature and was an avid collector of rare cartography on Africa and the world.