Fonds BC255 - Lestrade Papers

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Lestrade Papers


  • 1788-1962 (Creation)

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210 files, 2 067 items

Name of creator


Biographical history

Gerard Paul Lestrade was born in Amsterdam on 22nd August, 1897 to a French speaking mother and a Dutch father. During his childhood he learnt to speak several languages and continued "collecting" languages all his life. (He eventually spoke more than thirty). His family settled in Cape Town in 1902 where Lestrade was educated at the Normal School and at SACS. In 1917 he obtained his BA in languages and later an MA in Latin and Greek at the University of Cape Town. He studied for two more MA degrees at Harvard in 1922 (Hebrew, Arabic and Chinese) and at London 1923 (African Languages and Phonetics). In 1923 an accident occurred which left Lestrade blind for two years. His sight was partially restored in 1925 but he suffered from poor eyesight all his life. In 1925 he married widow Cornelia Aartes-de Vries (died 1963) and in the same year was appointed as first ethnologist in the Department of Native Affairs in Pretoria. In 1930 he became Professor of Bantu Studies at the University of Pretoria and was, in 1935, appointed to the Chair of Bantu Languages at UCT, which post he held until his death. Lestrade was also associated with the University of South Africa for many years, (as member of the Senate from 1926-1962), where he was concerned with the introduction of new language courses, syllabuses, exams etc. Through his association with UNISA he came into contact with the teaching staff of Fort Hare and promoted communication between black and white academics. Lestrade was also a member of the Joint Matriculation Board and the Place Names Commission (1937-1961). Professor Lestrade died on 6th November, 1962.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The Lestrade Papers were presented to the University of Cape Town Libraries in 1962 by Mrs G P Lestrade and in 1963 by Dr W H Aarts (her son) .

Scope and content

The collection consists mostly of papers relating to Lestrade's lifetime study and teaching of Bantu languages. A large number of papers deal with the problem of the classification of Bantu languages and the unification of the various orthographies with which Lestrade was concerned for many years. These papers take the form of minutes and reports of the various committees and there is also correspondence between Lestrade and the numerous people involved, especially Professor C M Doke, Professor of Bantu Languages at the University of the Witwatersrand. In each language section there are papers on grammar, phonology, vocabulary, oral literature etc. Among the various lectures and articles are not only those pertaining to Bantu languages, but many on the subject of other European and Oriental languages with which Lestrade was so familiar. The correspondence section contains letters to publishers and letters re the Duggan-Cronin Gallery in Kimberley where Lestrade was asked to give his advice. Papers on Bantu education include reports from the S A National Council for the Blind-Braille Committee on Bantu Languages. Some interesting material is found in the TSS of trials in the Supreme Court. Many well known anthropologists, missionaries, tribal chiefs etc. were called as witnesses. Among these were Sol T Plaatje, Isang L Pilane (Paramount Chief of the Bakhatla) etc. The archaeological papers deal mainly with Lestrade's visit, in 1934, to Mapungubwe and includes his ethnological report. There are also many maps (mainly language oriented) of different areas of the world. The photographs consist mainly of portraits and groups of various tribes and of the site at Mapungubwe.


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  • English

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  • English



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