This article explores a number of issues around the culture of reading and writing in South Africa during the missionary era, particularly from 1870 to 1945. It examines the unique influence of missionary publishing and in particular that of the Lovedale Press, and their contribution to the culture of reading and writing during this period. It also examines how book-publishing programmes in the 21st century mimic the missions of their Christian predecessors in Africa and elsewhere. The conclusions made indicate a continuation of the mission of the original missionaries in parts of Africa in the way their modern-day counterparts conduct their organizations. The ‘development machine’ is part of a legacy that has displayed little or no cultural sensitivity in the literary sphere. There is definitely a need for more research in this area.