Willi Fels in Stockholm
c/n E6132/3. Hocken Library
Willi Fels (1858-1946) was a successful Dunedin businessman, attached by kinship to the Hallenstein family. Married to his cousin Sara Elizabeth Hallenstein, he was uncle to Dora, Mary and Esmond de Beer, and grandfather to Charles Brasch. He was managing director of Hallensteins, and of the Drapery and General Importing Company of New Zealand (DIC). Fels was a notable collector, who began collecting stamps and coins as a boy. Collecting fields opened up to him, expanding to Maori and Oceanic artifacts, fire-arms, ceramics, decorative art and ethnographic objects from Tibet, Persia, India, Burma and Japan. He also collected Greek, Roman and English coins. Most of his collections are now visible in the Fels Wing at the Otago Museum (opened in 1930) or at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Books were also his passion. In 1946, he gave the University of Otago Library 400 of his most valuable pre-1801 books, including illuminated manuscripts, incunabula and many German and Italian imprints. This gift formed the nucleus of what was to become the de Beer Collection.
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