Our Rich History

The National Library of South Africa (NLSA) is the custodian of South Africa’s collective national heritage materials and the national depository of published output materials in the country.

The NLSA is mandated by the National Library of South Africa Act to collect and preserve published documents and make them accessible to all and to ensure that knowledge is not lost to posterity. The National Library of South Africa, as we know it today, was formed on 1 November 1999 as a result of the amalgamation of the two former national libraries: the South African Library in Cape Town and the State Library in Pretoria. The collections of the NLSA contain a wealth of information, including rare manuscripts, books published in South Africa, periodicals, government publications, official foreign publications, maps, technical reports, Africana and newspapers.

See History Timeline

In 1818, Lord Charles Somerset, the Cape Colony's first
civil Governor, issued a proclamation to control the wine trade,
imposing a tax on wine brought into Cape Town for sale.

1818

Formation

In 1818, Lord Charles Somerset, the Cape Colony's first civil Governor, issued a proclamation to control the wine trade, imposing a tax on wine brought into Cape Town for sale. The net proceeds would be used to form a Public Library which should "lay the foundation of a system, which shall place the means of knowledge within reach of the youth of this remote corner of the Globe,

1954

The State Library

The Staats-Bibliotheek der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, 'State Library of the South African Republic' came into being thanks to a donation of books from the Maatschappij der Nederlandsche Letterkunde. These books consisted of a complete library of Dutch works, mainly Dutch literature and language, to the Transvaal Republic's government. The first consignment of eight chests of books arrived in 1883, including a chest from the Dutch Bible Society.

1997

Creation under the National Library Act

The National Library of South Africa's core national library functions are described in Section 4 subsection 1 of the National Library Act, No 92 of 1998, and cover the following broad areas: To build up a complete collection of published documents emanating from or relating to South Africa;

2018

Modern Consolidation

Until 1 November 1999, for historical reasons, South Africa had two national libraries, the South African Library, founded in 1818, in Cape Town, and the State Library, founded in 1887, in Pretoria. In terms of South African legal deposit legislation, each of the national libraries was a legal deposit library, entitled to receive from the publishers a gratis copy of every book, serial, newspaper, government publication or other printed item published in South Africa. In South Africa legal deposit, in some form or another, dates back to 1842.

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