Most of the books on display have been in the USC library since the 1830's and 1840's. They are dramatic evidence of the intellectual ambitions of the original South Carolina College and of the worldwide range of the books that were purchased for its library. The oldest item on display is an engraving of Mexico city printed in 1565, from the Italian writer Ramusio’s Voyages. Other early works include illustrations of Aztec customs by the German Theodor de Bry from 1594 and Dutch engraved maps from the seventeenth century by the Dutchmen De Laet and Montanus.
Some of the most impressive volumes are from the early nineteenth century, in Alexander von Humboldt’s great folio Vue des Cordelleres et Monumens des Peuples Indigene de l’Amerique(Paris, 1810) and Lord Kingsborough’s seven-volume Antiquities of Mexico (London, 1830), with its colored facsimiles of pre-Columbian illuminated manuscripts. The architecture of the pre-Columbian Aztec and Mayan cultures is represented both from Kingsborough’s work and from the American J. L. Stephens’s books about the Yucatan (1841, 1843). Of special note in the final case is a copy of the Mexican military code of justice owned by General Santa Anna.
Director, Rare Books & Special Collections
Thomas Cooper Library