The decision was first taken to build an Africana collection at the University of Pretoria in 1932, first using the existing collections in the library, and then increasing the collection with special purchases. Initially, £100 per year was allocated for Africana and a Liaison Committee was appointed for the collection. This undertaking received a nice boost in August 1932, with the addition of the late Dr N.M. Hoogenhout's surviving books, including literature on the Eerste Taalbeweging, a valuable complete series of Die Brandwag (1910) and a full set of the Huisgenoot, that is still maintained today.
In 1934 the nucleus of the African collection was established by P.C. Coetzee, later professor in Library Science and chief librarian at the University. In December of that year, the entire Africana collection was placed in one location. By this time, it had also received the valuable Brand Collection (Sir Christoffel and Pres. J.H. Brand), which included many travel narratives. In 1935 and 1936, Dr W.J. Leyds sent a part of his library from The Hague, consisting mostly of Transvaal Africana and historical pamphlets. At the same time, thanks to the influence of Prof S.P. Englebrecht, Leyds also donated a bust of himself, sculpted by Fanie Eloff.
In 1939, a book collection comprising 6,000 items was purchased for the library from the estate of the late Professor John du Plessis of Stellenbosch, for £3000. A large part of this purchase was Africana, with the result that the Africana collection was nearly doubled. Rare and expensive works, as well as a pamphlet collection, from which some items were already totally unavailable, once again stood on the shelves.
In August 1940, Mr J. de. V. Roos—who had close ties to the T.U.K. and the University since 1908—died in Pretoria. He left his precious Africana book collection in its entirety
to the University, and in addition another £500 for the care of the collection. This collection is preserved as a unit in the Africana section. (Ad Destinatum 1910-1960)
The Special Collections Unit was separated from the Humanities Faculty Library in April 2007.