Fonds BC151 - Bleek and Lloyd Collection

Reference code



Bleek and Lloyd Collection


  • 1848-1948 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

88 archival boxes and oversize material, as well as dictionary boxes

Name of creator


Biographical history

Wilhelm Heinrich Immanuel Bleek, Ph.D, b. Berlin 8.3.1827 - d. Mowbray, Cape, 17.8.1875. He was the eldest son of Professor Friedrich Bleek, professor of theology at Berlin University, and later at Bonn University, and his wife Augusta Charlotte Marianne Sethe. Bleek graduated from the University of Bonn in 1851 and achieved his ambition of going to Africa when he was appointed official linguist to Dr W D Baikie's Niger Tshadda Expedition in 1854. Unfortunately ill-health forced Bleek to leave the Expedition when they reached Fernando Po. He returned to England where he met J W Colenso, Bishop of Natal, who invited Bleek to accompany him to Natal in 1855 in order to help him compile a Zulu grammar. When this project had been completed Bleek accepted an invitation, in 1856, from the Governor, Sir George Grey, to become his official interpreter in Cape Town. When Sir George was appointed Governor of New Zealand, he presented his very valuable library to the South African Public Library. A condition of this gift was that Bleek should be appointed curator of the Grey Collection, a post he held from 1862 until his death. Bleek continued with his philological research and published his findings from time to time. He also wrote leading articles for the English edition of "Het Volksblad" for a number of years. From 1870 Bleek had access to Bushmen prisoners at the Breakwater Prison. Later some of the Bushmen were released into his custody and lived at his home in Mowbray where their language and folklore was recorded with the assistance of his sister-in-law Lucy Lloyd. Bleek published a number of articles, reports and books during his lifetime, mainly concerning his philological studies and Bushman folklore. Many years after his death his sister-in-law published "Specimens of Bushman Folklore" in London (1911), based on their joint research. He married Jemima Lloyd in 1862 and they had seven children, one son and six daughters. Their son and one daughter died in infancy. Bleek is buried in the Wynberg cemetery.

Name of creator


Biographical history

Lucy Catherine Lloyd, b. Norberry, Staffordshire, England, 7.11.1834 - d. Mowbray, Cape, 31.8.1914, second eldest daughter of the Rev William Henry Cynric Lloyd and his first wife Lucy Anne Jeffreys. After her mother's death she and her three sisters went to live with her maternal aunt, Caroline Dundas, and was privately educated. When her father was appointed Colonial Chaplain for Natal in 1849 she accompanied him and his second wife and family to Durban.
After her sister Jemima married Wilhelm Bleek in 1862, Lucy Lloyd lived with them in Cape Town and was trained by her brother-in-law to help him with his work, particularly with his Bushman studies, and she proved to be a very able pupil. When Bleek died she was asked to take over some of his duties in the Grey Collection while she also continued her work with the Bushmen for a number of years.
Lucy Lloyd played a leading part in founding the "South African Folklore Society" and also in the establishment of the "Folk-lore Journal" in 1879. During the 1880's she went to England and lived there and on the continent for about 20 years but returned to Cape Town some years after the Anglo-Boer War. Her major publication was "Specimens of Bushman Folklore". In 1912 she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Literature by the University of the Cape of Good Hope; the first woman in South Africa to be honoured in this way. She is buried in the Wynberg cemetery.

Name of creator


Biographical history

Dorothea Frances Bleek, b. Mowbray, Cape 26.3.1873 - d. Plumstead, Cape, 27.6.1948. She was the sixth child of Wilhelm Heinrich Immanuel Bleek and his wife Jemima Lloyd. During the 1880's Mrs Bleek took her children to live in Europe where Dorothea attended schools in Germany and Switzerland and studied at Berlin University, where she trained as a teacher and took a course in African Languages.
She returned to South Africa in 1904 and taught at the Rocklands Girls High School in Cradock until 1907. She accompanied one of her colleagues, Helen Tongue, on expeditions to copy rock paintings, and to London when the paintings were exhibited there in 1908. Some of these paintings were published the following year with notes on the Bushmen by Dorothea and her sister Edith. When she returned from London she devoted all her time to studying Bushman life and languages. She assisted her aunt in the preparation of "Specimens of Bushman Folklore" for publication, and edited and published much of the research left by her father and her aunt.
She went on many expeditions to study Bushman dialects and rock art, her travels taking her to the Kalahari, Botswana, Angola and Tanzania. Not only did she record vocabularies, genealogies and rock art in those areas but also took many photographs which illustrated their dress, shelters and weapons.
From 1923-1948 Dorothea Bleek was Honorary Reader in Bushman Languages at the University of Cape Town. Her major achievement was the publication of the "Bushman Dictionary" in 1956, eight years after her death, which incorporated the lexicon started by her father almost a century earlier and which was added to by Lucy Lloyd. In 1936 the University of the Witwatersrand wished to confer an honorary doctorate on Dorothea Bleek which she is reputed to have declined on the grounds that there could only be one Dr Bleek. She died in Plumstead in 1948.

Archival history

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Scope and content

The Bleek Collection includes notebooks, lexicons, Bleek family records, diaries, certificates and other personal documents, a travel document, Wilhelm and Jemima Bleek's last Will and Testament, various published biographical notes about W H I Bleek, and obituaries, photographs and copies of articles. The most important part of this collection is section A, the notebooks and lexicon, which reflects the work done by Dr Bleek, his sister-in-law Lucy Lloyd, and later that of his daughter Dorothea, in recording the language and folklore of the Bushman. These also show how closely he and Lucy Lloyd collaborated in this work. The letters and correspondence reflect Bleek's relationship with his family and colleagues in many parts of the world and show his wide interest in philology. They also contain important biographical information about him and reflect the progress he was making on various projects he had in hand. The letters and correspondence of Lucy Lloyd and Dorothea Bleek also reflect their progress, particularly with their various publications. There are interesting photographs of Bushmen, some portraits and some which show their shelters, implements and way of life, mainly collected by Dorothea Bleek. There are also 75 leaders written by Bleek for the English edition of "Het Volksblad", 1862-1866, which give an interesting insight into the issues of the day in mid-Victorian Cape Town. The Collection covers a period of roughly a century, c1848-c1956, with the main emphasis on Bushman language, life and folklore. The papers of Dr Wilhelm Heinrich Immanuel Bleek, his sister-in-law Dr Lucy Catherine Lloyd, and his daughter Dorothea Frances Bleek, were presented to the U.C.T. Libraries by Miss D Bleek and her niece Dr K M F Scott, between 1936 and 1988.


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Conditions governing access

No restrictions apply

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Language of material

  • English

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Publication note

Bank, Andrew 2006. Bushmen in a Victorian world : the remarkable story of the Bleek-Lloyd collection of Bushmen folklore. Cape Town : Double Storey.
The Bleek and Lloyd notebooks on !Xam Bushman folklore / transcribed and with an introduction by Andrew Bank

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  • English



Accession area