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On the Shelf: South African Gazette

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In this edition of On the Shelf we’re examining a rather large title both in size of the individual volumes and the total number of volumes that comprise a complete set.

All photos by Betty Lupinacci

Staatskoerant is the current official government gazette of the Republic of South Africa.

The title has been published continuously since 1961 when South Africa left the British Commonwealth. This iteration of the South African legal newspaper takes up considerable space in our closed stacks. There are two complete and two partial ranges (one range equals 7 shelves by 7 shelves) housed with the rest of the South African material.  We also have another 18 or so shelves in an overflow area, waiting to be repatriated with the rest of the set once we’ve shifted the South African collection to make room for the incoming volumes.

The Library used to bind individual gazette issues received up until 1983 when we began receiving publisher bound volumes, which I find much more attractive with their gold lettering and decorative borders.



And we still get current unbound issues, which are housed in the Global Legal Gazette Room until the bound volumes are received.

What piqued my interest in this title was a project some of my colleagues worked on for the 2015 meeting of AALL’s African Law Interest Group. The group asked us to participate in their project to compile a comprehensive list of holdings of primary source African legal materials located in U.S. law libraries. We received their spreadsheet, complete with current titles of legislative and judicial publications listed by country. My colleagues, Ken Sigmund and Suneewan Creech, then surveyed all of our holdings.

In doing so, they discovered information on prior titles.

It turns out that in addition to Staatskoerant, we have many gazette titles, on even more bibliographic records, from before the Republic of South Africa broke away from the British Commonwealth in 1961.

DSC_0433As a matter of fact, our collection of this material housed in the South African section goes back to 1803 (Kaapsche Courant), for the short time (to 1806) that the Dutch had control of the Cape of Good Hope between periods of British control.

We also have the later Cape of Good Hope Government Gazette, one of the four colonies that eventually were joined into the Union of South Africa in 1910. After 1910, that title changed to the Official Gazette Cape of Good Hope.

Note the slight change to the “cutter” in the call numbers, indicating that these volumes are on separate bibliographic records.


Even though these three sets cover the same land area, because of differences in, for example, who controlled the area and in this case the language, these titles are on different bibliographic records with slightly different call numbers.  [KTL5501.5 .A224 for the Dutch title, KTL5501.5 .A227 for the interim title and KTL5501.5 .A23 for the post-1910 volumes.]  All three titles are shelved together, side-by-side, with little to indicate a change of record for the casual browser, but a slight change in call numbers for the more observant.

Also from this pre-1910 unification era we have the gazettes of the 3 other colonies that eventually comprised the Union of South Africa:

The Natal Government Gazette
Government Gazette of the Orange River Colony
Transvaal Government Gazette

Each had similar changes in names, governing body, etc., and therefore more than one bibliographic record exists for each colony.  Again for each jurisdiction the titles are shelved consecutively with little notice, at least externally, of any changes to the set.

Imagine training a new shelver on the intricacies of all these differences!

Volumes of the gazette of the Union of South Africa

In 1910, after the second Boer War, when the British afforded South Africa self-governance as a member of the British Commonwealth, a new gazette emerged for the new Union of South Africa entitled the Government Gazette or Union Gazette.

This title ended with the implementation of the 1960 referendum under which the Union unilaterally withdrew from the British Commonwealth and established the Republic of South Africa.

And so FINALLY we’re back to the title I started with: Staatskoerant.

Transition volumes from the Union Gazette to Staatskoerant in 1961

Again, the transition from one title to the next in 1961 seems innocuous on the outside. But when you open the books and turn to the last issue in volume 204 (April) on the top and compare it with the first issue from volume 1 (May) on the bottom, you see the changes, both literally (masthead, typeface, etc.) and figuratively (with the “Assumption of Office of State President” for a new nation).DSC_0519DSC_0512

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