The fact is that the mass of the vernacular literature published in the past emanated, and still to-day emanates, from missionary presses, and naturally such literature has sought to fulfil the aims of missionary societies.
The special features of written vernacular history as a specific category of African historical documentation still await a general theoretical analysis. This article makes no attempt to remedy the deficiency, but considers two possible hypotheses from the relationship between Xhosa traditional historians and the Lovedale Press during the 1930s. First cf Vansina, that it is not only oral traditions which are affected by their mode of transmission. Second, cf Goody and Watt, that it is one thing to be literate, but quite another to find a publisher.
Perhaps the first printed work in Xhosa was that of a stoic-looking cow bestriding the legend “All cattle come from God,” which appeared in 1823. The writer was Rev. John Bennie of the Glasgow Missionary Society, and the printing was done at the Chumie mission station, shortly to be renamed Lovedale. From that time, Lovedale remained the focal point of the literate Christian culture which emerged among the Xhosa of South Africa's Eastern Cape. This primacy was reinforced in 1915 when the South African Native College (now Fort Hare) was established nearby under the chairmanship of the Principal of Lovedale. The Lovedale Press flourished along with its host institution. The only available estimates indicate that up to January 1939, 238 books were produced in Xhosa, more than in any African language except Swahili.