Quagga Rare Books & Art
NEWSLETTER - October 2009

Welcome to Quagga’s latest newsletter, please subscribe here. To those that have already subscribed, thank you!

This month we are pleased to announce the start of our on-line auction. Please click here to see the six books we have available.

We are also featuring a bushman bow and arrow set that is for sale at our Stellenbosch branch. Please scroll down or click here to read more.


Online Auction
Books on Auction this month:
Click on the book title to bid.

  • African Village
    African Village
    James Walton
    J.L. Van Schaik Ltd.
    Pretoria, 1956
    Dust jacket a little worn at the top edge otherwise a very good copy of this interesting work on traditional african settlements. Please click here for more...

  • Art & Artists of South Africa
    Art & Artists of South Africa
    Esme Berman
    A.A. Balkema
    Cape Town, 1970
    Dust jacket worn, with a 3 x 8cm piece missing from the back. This is the first deluxe edition of Berman's classic work. Number 173 of 200 copies. Green leather spine with marbled boards. Some minor damp damage to the first and last pages, though text is not affected. Please click here for more...

  • Disgrace

    J.M. Coetzee
    Secker & Warburg,
    London, 1999
    Condition of book and jacket, very good. Slight lean to the spine. True first edition, Biddles printing. Please click here for more...

  • The Dictionary of South African Painters and Sculptors
    The Dictionary of South African Painters and Sculptors
    Grania Ogilvie
    Everard Read Gallery
    Johannesburg, 1988
    Dust jacket in good condition with some sunning to the spine. Bookplate to endpaper, otherwise a good firm copy of this excellent reference book on South African art. Please click here for more...

  • 650 Cookery recipes
    650 Cookery recipes
    Hildagonda J. Duckitt
    Maskew Millar
    Cape Town, 1951
    A well-loved well used copy. Dust jacket in poor condition (Illustrated by Desiree Picton- Seymour) 650 cookery recipes from “Hilda’s where it is?  And Diary of a Cape housekeeper” Some extra recipes from news clippings tipped into end papers. Recipes from “apples (a nice way to cook) to Wenteljefies, an old Dutch dish. Please click here for more...

  • 300 Years of Cape Wine
    300 Years of Cape Wine
    C. Louis Leipoldt
    Cape Town, 1974
    Dust jacket in good condition. Some discolouration to endpapers and slight foxing to fore -edge. Good firm copy with black and white illustrations. Please click here for more...



Set of 1950’s Bushman bow, arrows and quiver
A few months ago we purchased a small bushman bow, arrows and quiver set. The previous owner stated that his grandfather had obtained it in Hereroland in the 1950’s while involved in governmental affairs in the area. He gave each of his grandchildren a similar set.

The other day the former lecturer at the dept of Anthropology, at Stellenbosch University, and curator of the University’s collection, Mr L J Botha was in my shop. He noticed the set and and it’s rather neglected condition and offered to do some restoration work on it. Having seen Mr Botha’s extensive collection and the superb condition of every piece, I immediately agreed. A week or two later Mr Botha returned the set to me in fantastic condition, beautifully restored. All the natural fibers nourished and cared for.

Mr Botha also presented me with the following status report on the set. The report serves to illustrate the point that armed with a small thread of provenance or history, and with a superior knowledge of subject matter, what can be achieved. Many thanks to Mr Botha for this fascinating study:



Status Report: Set of Bushman bow, arrows and quiver purportedly obtained in the 1950’s in Hereroland, South West Africa (Namibia)
Set of Bushman bow, arrows and quiver

  1. Assuming that this set was indeed obtained in the 1950’s in Hereroland in the northeastern region of the then S.W.A, it is almost certainly identifiable as of the /=au//ei origin. The /=au//ei constitute the southernmost section of the Northern Bushmen collectively known as the !xu (Europeanized as “!Kung”; /=au//ei is similarly corrupted as “Auen”) Judged by the criteria of material, manufacture and use, the set is undoubtedly authentic.
  2. The light reddish brown colour of the Acacia root bark quiver, the state of the arrows (see 4. below), the light colour of the bow and the pristine appearance of the main part of the bowstring justify the conclusion that the set has not been in regular use for any extended period of time.

  3. A rather severely cracked section of rootbark was used for the quiver (such longitudinal cracks occur naturally, but vary in extent). Also, a very roughly cut piece of already aged thong serves as the quiver’s carrying thong. Seemingly reflecting as lack of fastidiousness and precision, these features indicate neither laxity nor a scarcity of materials, but the intention to produce serviceable artifacts of a certain size and scale for shorter term purposes under certain contingent circumstances (see 5 and 6 below). This view is supported by the very limited number of arrows – only three, and the absence of any secondary paraphernalia found in quivers (eg. spare shafts, broken arrows with still usable parts, and gum kits). Significant is also the absence of customary slits in the lower and upper ends of the carrying thong. Through such slits a bow is ordinarily inserted so as to be conveniently carried in tandem with the quiver, slung over the shoulder. In the present case the bow can therefore not be carried in this very practical way.

    All three arrows are fitted with metal heads fashioned from readily available fencing wire.

  4. All three arrows are fitted with metal heads fashioned from readily available fencing wire. The use of wire has long since superceded bone as the predominant medium of Bushman arrowheads in general. Paradoxically all three all three arrows exhibit the relatively rarely used bone link-shafts. Explanation hereof invites speculation, and is left at that for present purposes. More to the point: Two of these arrows have not yet been used. This is evident from the clean surface of the tangs below the triangular tips and from the unsullied sinew binding of these tangs( such bindings smeared with Acacia or yellow-wood gum, enables the poison to stick to the otherwise smooth metal surface; poison is never applied to the tip itself). The third arrow, if not actually having been used, has certainly been primed for action: the dark substance on the sinew binding covering the full length of the tang is at least gum; the presence of any residual traces of poison and possibly also blood demands determination by means of chemical analysis.

  5. With reference to the individual size of each of its basic functional components, i.e. bow, arrows and quiver, the set represents a scaled down version of the typical Northern (and Central) Bushman equivalent. This is suggestive and confirms the alleged Hereroland provenance. Surrounded by farms, Hereroland is inside what was known as the Southern Sector or Police Zone of South West Africa. The carrying of ‘arms’ by Bushmen within this Sector/ Zone was prohibited. Enforcement of the prohibition was one of the functions of police posts and police patrols. However, given the opportunity, Bushmen still hunted despite the real risk of the confiscation of hunting equipment and of arrest and goaling.

  6. It follows from these restrictive and menacing circumstances that it would have been foolish to conspicuously carry a bow and quiver over the shoulder in the customary manner described in 3. above. Concomitantly, scaled down hunting equipment could be more readily hidden from view under items of clothing such as shirts and trousers. The latter, often discarded and tattered were obtained by the Bushmen from their Bantu, in this case Herero, neighbours and masters. The smaller size of the set and the absence of bow slits in the carrying thong come, therefore as no surprise. The same, given the constant threat of confiscation of equipment , is to be said of the not so meticulous attention to the finish of the quiver, the very few arrows and the absence of associated objects in the quiver (se also 3. above). As a corollary, it may be stated that the set itself was almost certainly obtained via police confiscation: the mention of some connection with Hereroland officials and of more than one set having simultaneously been obtained, it makes very telling sense.

    Set of Bushman bow, arrows and quiver

  7. Once removed from its original context the set found no care at the hands of its new Western owner(s), only abuse. Its general condition can be described as neglected and battered, including more specifically, the following:
    • The bark, reed, sinew, skin and leather components were dry and brittle, while fine cracks were appearing in the wood of the bow.
    • It is evident that the arrows were irresponsibly shot at unforgiving targets. This left the tips buckled and the link-shafts hammered into their sockets. In one case the link-shaft was wrenched from the socket, breaking the gummed joint and the connecting reed, and severely damaging the sinew binding of the reed. All three arrow shafts were cracked and some of the sinew binding frayed.
    • The tying of the compound sinew bowstring was undone and as shown by the fraying, the ending of the dry and brittle string broken off( the bow itself had traces of Prestik sticking to it, perhaps indicating an attempted mounting).
    • The sinew binding at both ends of the bow was completely frayed and loose. The binding at the end where the bowstring is tied would have fastened the special bit of thong for tightly stringing the bow. If originally present, this bit of thong was certainly lost by the loosening of the sinew.
    • The removable quiver cap is in a mangled state. The short thong (Afr:”riempie”) securing the cap to the quiver was torn away, as evidenced by the distinct tear in the now loose cap. This thong is altogether missing. This is not surprising as the quiver’s carrying thong itself was no longer attached to the upper end of the quiver where it would have been joined with the cap’s securing thong.
    • The diagonal crack in the rim of the quiver is not natural, but the result of abuse.


  8. Summarily stated, restoration of the set comprised the following: counteracting dryness and stabilizing brittleness and cracking by treating all animal and vegetable components with appropriate fluids; realigning and refurbishing the metal arrowheads; rewinding all frayed sinew sections, on the arrows and the bow; repairing the broken connecting reed using only authentic materials, and refitting the link-shafts; re-tying the bowstring (in Bushman style, but hampered by the broken off end); reattaching the loose end of the carrying thong utilising, in the customary way, the quiver’s thong binding; and, as a final phase sealing the metal arrowheads and all the fine sinew binding, on the arrows and the bow with protective, specially formulated wax.

  9. Please note the following:
    • The cracked arrow shafts, the diagonal crack in the rim of the quiver, and the torn, cracked and warped quiver cap are irreparable (the condition of the latter is such that it does not allow a replacement of the missing securing thong).
    • The applied wax is not to be compromised by touching or exposure to other sourced of direct heat, including also direct sunlight; handling is to be restricted to wood (bow), bark (quiver), arrow shafts and bone link-shafts.


    Stellenbosch, August 2009

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George Curtis

86 Main Road
Kalk Bay
South Africa

Tel: +27 (0)21 7882752
Fax: +27 (0)21 7883581
Mobile: +27 (0)82 4583795

Simon Curtis

1 Andringa Street
South Africa

Tel: +27 (0)21 8870113
Fax: +27 (0)21 8870113
Mobile: +27 (0)83 4630404

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