Special Collections is home to over 600 separate manuscript collections that vary in size from a single item to collections over 400 linear feet. The largest collections are the College of Charleston archive, the Spoleto Festival archive, the Jewish heritage collection, the L. Mendel Rivers collection, and the Burnet R. Maybank senatorial papers. All cataloged manuscript collections are available for public viewing during normal business hours; however, certain restrictions may apply for rare, fragile, or sensitive materials.
Special Collections houses roughly 40,000 cataloged volumes, many of which date to the founding of the College of Charleston Library by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1770. These include the remaining volumes donated by John Mackenzie in 1771 and the colonial and early republic libraries of Ralph Izard, Mitchell King, and Dr. D.L. Frampton. They also include the John Henry Dick ornithological collection, which, among other works, contains a first edition set of John James Audubon’s Birds of America and a number of volumes by John Gould, Mark Catesby, and Alexander Wilson. Special Collections also holds a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Christopher Gadsden’s copy of Common Sense, and a first edition of the Federalist Papers.
Special Collections houses a number of other non-manuscript collections including watercolor and oil paintings, drawings in both pencil and pen & ink, lithographs, photographs, portraits, maps, and the World War I and II poster collection.