Rare Books and Special Collections

The University of South Carolina, then South Carolina College, started building its library collections in 1803.

'Coronation of the Virgin,' Southern Germany, ca. 1480
"Coronation of the Virgin," Southern Germany, ca. 1480

By 1850 the College had the largest library south of Washington, D.C. Many of the books acquired then still survive in Rare Books and Special Collections: incunabula, Theodor de Bry's Greater Voyages, Stuart's Antiquities, the complete Piranesi, the Description de l'Égypte, Kingsborough's Mexican Antiquities, Karl Bodmer's Travels in North America, and even South Carolina College Library Book 1. A special emphasis was on works in natural history, including John James Audubon's Birds of America (1827-1838). During the mid-twentieth century, with the growth of graduate programs and the first library endowment, the library acquired such additional treasures as the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), the King James Bible, and the Blaeu Atlas and began to build research collections in earlier British and American literature, as well as the separate South Caroliniana collections.

'Bachman's Warbler' from John James Audubon's Birds of America
"Bachman's Warbler"
from John James Audubon's Birds of America

The past 25 years have seen transformative growth, with new collections of international significance. Holdings in Special Collections have grown sixfold, with more than 120,000 volumes and several modern literary archives. Areas of significant growth include philosophy, history, exploration, military history and military aviation, natural history, the history of science, English literature, Scottish literature, American literature, children's literature, and the history of the book. For images and information on these collections, seehttp://www.sc.edu/library/spcoll/rarebook.html.

'Freedom of Speech' from The Four Freedoms, by Norman Rockwell
"Freedom of Speech"
from
The Four Freedoms,
by Norman Rockwell

Over the same period, the department has also expanded use of these collections, adding new initiatives in the areas of teaching, exhibits, digitization, and scholarly and public programs. In addition to supporting more specialized research, the department gives students and others firsthand experience of some of the world's greatest books. Through an extensive series of Web exhibits and Web projects, now attracting over 25 million hits a year, the department makes the University and its treasures known worldwide.

 

 

 

 

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