Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Gold mining and lots more at Gallica

Gallica is the digital, online library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). Users can query over 4 million documents, about 2 million newspapers and magazines, half a million books, and a tremendous amount of other digitized objects. You are correct, Gallica provides access to interesting material for scripophily detectives like you.

For instance, pay attention gold mine collectors, here is a link to a digital version of the Annuaire des mines d'or, Afrique du Sud, Australie, Amérique, Europe. This investment manual was published in 1896 by Annuaire de la finance (Paris). The book counts more than 200 pages and briefly describes hundreds of gold mining companies operating all over the world.

One of the companies mentioned in the book is The New Chimes Gold Mining Company, Limited. The book tells us that this company was registered in 1890, Natal, South Africa. The purpose of the company was the exploitation of 27 mining claims at Benoni Farm, Heidelberg districht, Witwatersrand.

share in The New Chimes Gold Mining Company (South Africa)

The New Chimes Gold Mining Company, Limited 
Shares of £1, issued London, 1895 
click to enlarge image 

Melanie de Bussière Comtesse Edmond de Pourtalès (1836-1914), one of the most famed salonniéres during the Second French Empire, subscribed to the illustrated share in the New Chimes Gold Mining Company on 30 Oct 1895. She was appointed lady-in-waiting to empress Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III. From her father, Melanie inherited the Château de Pourtalès where she received important guests like George V King of the United Kingdom and Albert Schweitzer.

Our Gallica book reports that The New Chimes Gold Mining Company was successful and paid out a 55% dividend in 1895. No doubt, Melanie invested wisely, but back then there were no social media that unveiled the poor working conditions of the miners.

Besides reference books, you can search Gallica for other objects such as letters, patents, and maps. Let's try if we can find a map of the area where the New Chimes Gold Mining claims were located. I used the French terms "mines d'or afrique du sud" (gold mines South Africa). There it was, a nice map of the region from that period.

Map of the gold mines of Witwatersrand from 1895

Map of the gold mines of Witwatersrand in the districts of Pretoria, Heidelberg, Potchefstroom (Transvaal) 
with indication of the orientation and position of the gold veins, 1895.
click image to enlarge
source: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France

That's nice. Over 130,000 maps can be viewed on Gallica. What about our shareholder ? The magic key words for Gallica's search engine here are : Melanie de Bussière Comtesse Edmond de Pourtalès ..  et voilà !

portrait Melanie de Bussière Comtesse Edmond de Pourtalès

Melanie de Bussière Comtesse Edmond de Pourtalès 
source Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg 

As you see, Gallica is a great place for your scripophily research, e.g. the keyword Siemens or Hispano-Suiza yield hundreds of results. And in case you need some French key words,  here is a reference list of 100 French scripophily terms.


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