Encountering colonialism and Christianity, African people became intertwined with the development of a documentary culture in the Northern Transvaal. In the second half of the nineteenth century Africans, missionaries and settlers produced and read Bibles, codes of law, newspaper articles, translations of religious texts and church declarations. As a result of multifaceted social interaction, African people's attitudes were never an exclusively African business. The article shows how certain peoples cherished the technical skills of reading and writing, while others defined literacy as a subordinate instrument employable only for the attainment of religious goals. It argues that especially missionaries' and Africans' attitudes towards documents changed as a response to the broader economic and social transformations in the area. It also points out how the new Christian elite tried to use literacy as a window to the European reading public and how they produced documents of their own in which they ixed important parameters of African Christianity.