This Saturday, Provenance Auction House of Cape Town will sell the first instalment of an extraordinary collection of 300 bells formed by the late Keith Blumgart.
The 300 bells in the first sale on July 28, include a wide selection from all over Africa, including wooden camel bells from Somalia, bronze bells from Benin and square-section Yoruba bells from the Congo basin.
There are also bell-inspired works of art specially commissioned from prominent South African artists such as Robert Slingsby, Conrad Thys, David Reade and Guy Du Toit. The most valuable are likely to be examples from the Far East, with a large Archaic Chinese bell among the highlights.
Mr Blumgart began collecting seriously in 1986 with a core of six bells that he and his wife had accumulated over the years. From this small beginning he developed a passion that became an obsession from 1994 when he retired and started travelling widely, buying bells wherever he went and engaging agents to seek out exotic and unusual examples, so that new additions would arrive almost daily.
Among the 4000 bells that are his legacy are a number of historic items to be included in future sales, like the dinner bell used on the White Train when the Queen first travelled to South Africa, or the bell used to start the first horse race at Gosforth Park in Johannesburg.
He was also interested in the practical applications of bells. Some, like a bell from an original Alexander Graham Bell telephone, have obvious significance. Others might go unnoticed by those who have not developed an eye (or ear) for such things, such as bells from typewriters, pinball machines, alarm clocks and one-armed bandits.