Rare Book, Manuscripts and Special Collections Library, Duke University

Developing an understanding of human experience and culture requires access to historical documentation in many forms and subject areas. The Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University preserves such documentation and promotes its use. While the library’s holdings are developed in relation to instructional and research interests in the University, they are available for use by visiting scholars and the general public as well as Duke faculty and students.




The Guide to the Cataloged Collections in the Manuscript Department of the William R. Perkins Library, Duke University contains information on 5991 archival collections in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University. Archival collections described in The Guide consist of materials formed around a person, family, organization, or subject. They may contain a wide variety of items such as manuscripts, diaries, correspondence, legal papers, memorabilia, photographs, films, tapes, computer files, maps, drawings, pamphlets, and other forms of material. The Guide to the Cataloged Collections in the Manuscript Department of the William R. Perkins Library, Duke University does not contain complete information on the holdings of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. Additional access to the Library’s holdings may be found in the the Library’s Finding Aids, the Duke University Libraries Online Catalog, or by contacting the Library.

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Notable Manuscript Collections: South Carolina

Milford Baptist Church Minutes 1831-1868 – Click to Expand

Collection Number: 3669

1 volume

Records of baptisms, membership, and services at Milford Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. Members included whites, slaves, and freedmen. View Item in Duke University Libraries Catalog

Sanders Family Papers, 1767-1930 - Click to Expand

Collection Number: 4649

211 items and 3 vols

Walterboro (Colleton County), S.C. The Sanford family papers are made up primarily of the papers of Derrill Burrell, Benjamin K. Sanders, and their families, concerning the management of small plantations in Colleton County, South Carolina. Correspondence contains family letters and letters from various cotton factors in Charleston, South Carolina. Financial papers include household and plantation accounts, receipts for the sale of slaves, and tax receipts. The collection also contains wills, deeds, records of lawsuits, and three volumes, including a book listing slaves and their prices and a record of days missed and wages lost by Negro workers in 1866. View Item in Duke University Libraries Catalog

McDonald Furman Papers, 1883-1903 - Click to Expand

Collection Number: 1923

36 items and 1 vol

Account book for Cornhill Plantation in Sumter District, apparently kept by John Blount Miller from its beginning in 1827 until about 1860, when it was evidently taken over by his son-in-law, Dr. John H. Furman. The book contains a note that Dr. John H. Furman (d.1902) and Susan Miller went to Cornhill Plantation on November 20, 1859. The plantation book includes many different types of records kept by Miller: receipts; expenditures; marriages, births, and-deaths of slaves; weekly rations and clothing issued to his slaves; domestic animals on the plantation; corn, cotton, and other crops produced; illnesses, deaths, and visits of members of the family; lands owned and inventories of tools; rules for governing slaves; accounts of unusual weather; and lists of keys. In the latter portion of the account book, kept by John H. Furman, there are many records of contracts with freedmen, and accounts of money and goods advanced to them. View Item in Duke University Libraries Catalog

John H. Howard Papers, 1848-1880 - Click to Expand

Collection Number: 2670

86 items and 1 vol

Grahamville (Beaufort County), South Carolina. Miscellaneous papers of John H. Howard include letters concerning the sale and the care of slaves, papers related to the administration of the estate of Mrs. A. M. Lawrence of Marietta, Georgia, receipts for pew rent and Episcopal publications, and legal papers. A daybook, 1851-1864, records slave lists, supplies, cattle, remedies, blacksmith work, pew rents, and work for the C.S.A. Army as captain of the Beaufort District Troop of cavalry, listing supplies, repairs, and tents. View Item in Duke University Libraries Catalog

Notable Manuscript Collections: Georgia

Joseph Belknap Smith Papers, 1802 (1845-1872) – Click to Expand

Collection Number: 4895

664 items and 8 volumes

Columbia Mine (Columbia County), Ga. Business papers of Joseph Belknap Smith relating to his investments in copper mines in Michigan and Tennessee, gold mines in Georgia, the New York Bay Cemetery Company, a lumber company and a cotton and land company in England, a project to build a railroad and telegraph from Caracas to La Guaira, Venezuela, a grain mill, sawmills, and salt mines and lands in Georgia.

Included are contracts; scattered financial reports; schedules of property belonging to the Columbia Mining Company containing lists of slaves and their values; contracts for hiring slaves and freedmen. View Item in Duke University Libraries Catalog

John Binion Estate Inventory and Account Book – Click to Expand

Collection comprises one volume (40 pgs.) containing an estate inventory (circa 1829-1833) and appraisment for and a list of accounts due the estate of John Binion. Among the items in the inventory were over twenty slaves, including Allen, who was a blacksmith. Other items noted were cotton gins, carts and wagons, livestock, tools, and blacksmith shop. Includes detailed records for the renting of the slaves, blacksmith shop, land, and other property until the final settlement, dispersion, and sale. The volume also contains lists (circa 1827) of accounts owed and notes belonging to the estate of Andrew Danielly (1827?), who was a captain in the same Georgia militia regiment. In addition to the volume, there are 10 small receipts and accounting notes that were laid in, including a receipt for the sale of Binion slaves in 1822 and Binion’s account for his administration of the estate of Pleasant Bonner in 1828. View Item in Duke University Libraries Catalog

Rockingham Plantation Journal, 1828-1829 – Click to Expand

Collection Number: 4534

1 volume

Chatham County, Ga. Daily record of work done by slaves on the Rockingham plantation, including mention of those who were sick and those who had run away. View Item in Duke University Libraries Catalog



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