A pedestrian passes the Collectors Treasury in Johannesburg, South Africa. The three-story bookshop owned by brothers Jonathan and Geoff Klass, is dedicated to preserving history and nostalgia. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
South African bookshop a treasure trove of eclectic history
February 17, 2016
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The only clue to a literary treasure trove tucked away in downtown Johannesburg in South Africa is a fading sign. But behind this door is a fantastic maze. It contains an estimated 2 million books and prints.
The Collectors Treasury, a three-story bookshop owned by brothers Jonathan and Geoff Klass, is dedicated to preserving history. It contains everything from VHS tapes of classic TV to porcelain trinkets. Above all, books are prized.
"It is the symbol of the history of the human race," says Geoff Klass.
The collection is vast and eclectic. It includes yellowing news clippings, posters and first editions of John Updike, Alice Walker and H.G. Wells along with Enid Blyton's beloved children's series "Noddy."
It's also getting more traffic as downtown Johannesburg is revived. The bookstore is now on the hipster trail of the trendy Maboneng district. The area includes art galleries and rooftop markets.
Visitors thread single file between overflowing shelves and stacks of books.
Biographies of Leon Trotsky and Humphrey Bogart sit alongside the story of Wham. That's the '80s British pop group that launched George Michael's career.
Another room holds fraying antique books. Some date from the 16th century. There are heaps of non-fiction books. They range from angling journals to contemporary Russian art.
"It's a landscape of books rather than shelves of books," said Los Angeles set designer David Chow. He learned about the shop online. He set aside a whole day of his trip to explore it.
The Klass brothers have embraced the Internet as a portal to new customers. But they remain devotees of the printed page.
Their collection also features a copy of the manuscript of George Orwell's "1984," scribbled, corrected and typed over as the author crafted the classic.
"What would have happened if he had been writing it on a word processor?" asks Geoff Klass.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do visitors thread single file between stacks of books?
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