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Launch of the Digital Marloth Collection
Author: Wiida Fourie-Basson
Published: 31/07/2018

A precious collection of the original botanical illustrations prepared for printing between 1912 and 1932 in Rudolf Marloth's Flora of South Africa, has now been digitalised by the Stellenbosch University Library.

The collection of 176 plates contains the original illustrations by botanical artists such as Ethel May Dixie (1876-1973), Esther Smith (1878-1954), Florence Amy Thwaits and Peter McManus, with handwritten notes and instructions for the printers by Marloth.

Marloth (1855-1931) is regarded as one of South Africa's greatest early botanists. He was a chemist and pharmacist who emigrated from Germany to the Cape of Good Hope in 1883. It is said that on the very first day of arriving in the Cape, he climbed Table Mountain and started collecting plants. Marloth's association with Stellenbosch University started in 1888, when he was appointed as lecturer in Chemistry and Experimental Physics at the then Victoria College, the forerunner of Stellenbosch University today. In 1922 Stellenbosch University awarded him with an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of his contribution to the understanding and knowledge of the Cape Floral Kingdom.

Over the years, the Marloth family donated several of the original illustrations and plates to the Stellenbosch University Library. This collection has now been taken up in the SUNDigital Collections of the library. The Special Collections Division of the library also hosts many of his personal documents, correspondence and photographs.

Ms Ellen Tise, senior director of the SU Library, says the preservation of and access to these materials will contribute to future research, not only at Stellenbosch University but worldwide.

The formal launch of the Marloth Digital Collection will take place on Tuesday 31 July in the Africana Room, Stellenbosch University Library. During this occasion, the botanist Dr Piet Vorster, botanical artist Vicki Thomas and evolutionary ecologist Professor Anton Pauw will talk about the value of botanical collections such as this one from a scientific and artistic perspective.

 On the photos above, Rudolf Marloth, one of the South Africa's greatest early botanists, did much to introduce the rest of the world to the beauty of the Cape Floral Kingdom. Photo: Stellenbosch University Library

Marloth was the first botanist to describe the pollinator of the Red Disa – the butterfly Meneris tulbaghia, better known as the Pride of Table Mountain. This is also the Western Cape's official flower. Image: Marloth Digital Collection, Stellenbosch University Library.

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