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Special Collections: Pamphlets

Pamphlets in the Special Collections

The Charleston Library Society has a large pamphlet collection of over 5,400 titles dating from 1765 up to today.  Pamphlets were an inexpensive means of disseminating information quickly, and they were often an anonymous way to distribute controversial thoughts.  There are several distinct collections at the Library though similar topics run through all of them: history, agriculture, natural history, slavery, politics, and science.  



Almanacks (or Almanacs) were ubiquitous in Colonial America.  They were an inexpensive means to bring more information to people.  They may include information on tides, a lunar calendar, the names of government officials, names of residents, a table of simple interest, or homemade cures for everyday ailments.  The Library's copy of the Tobler Almanack (1766) was printed by Robert Wells, Loyalist printer, bookshop owner, and Bookseller.  

Distinct Pamphlet Collections

The Hinson Collection was part of a larger donation given by William Godber Hinson (1838-1919) in 1919.  Mr. Hinson donated a collection of over 2000 books, pamphlets, and maps to the Library and they formed the "seed" of one of our vaults, the Hinson Vault. His pamphlet collection is made up of over 500 titles.

Hinson owned Stiles Point Plantation on James Island and had a keen interest in many things, primarily agriculture, slavery, and history.  To search for pamphlets in the Hinson Collection, search "hinson pm" in our online catalog

Major Edward Willis (1834-1910) was a Charleston native and the founder of the Antiquarian Society of South Carolina.  He donated over 400 pamphlets to the Library on topics ranging from medicine to government to sermons, most published between 1820 and 1880.  To search for pamphlets contained in the Willis Collection, search for "" in our online catalog. 

Major Willis fought in the Civil War and had a lifelong interest in public affairs.  His mother was the daughter of Dr. John Shecut, famous for writing a detailed history of Charleston, including its topography, impact of yellow fever, social conditions and more.  Dr. Shecut also discusses the founding of the Library and praises our collection of books on "Botany, Natural History, Voyages, Civil History, Biography, Languages, and Miscellaneous Literature," but finds fault in our collection of Ancient Literature.

Mayor William Ashmead Courtenay served the City of Charleston from 1879 to 1887.  Courtenay (1831-1908) gifted to the Society his personal library, containing portraits, books, pamphlets, maps, and manuscripts.  To search for pamphlets contained in the Courtenay Collection, search "" in our online catalog

Prior to holding office, Courtenay worked in the publishing and book selling business, as well as running The Charleston Mercury, a leading political newspaper in South Carolina.  A catalog was published at the time of his donation describing the collection, including over 650 pamphlets on topics largely focused on Charleston.  Courtenay was mayor during two major disasters: the Cyclone of 1885 and the Earthquake of 1886, both of which were devastating to Charleston.  His gift included four scrapbooks related to these historic events.

The Library's collection of Miscellaneous pamphlets contains over 2600 titles and includes many that were printed in Charleston before 1800.  There are two main section: the S.C. Pamphlets Miscellaneous and the Pamphlets Miscellaneous.  To search the two collections of miscellaneous pamphlets, use "pm.misc." in our online catalog.  When we get new pamphlets to add to the collection, we place them here.

The American Pamphlet collection contains over 1100 examples and was the Library's original, "in-house" collection, meaning ones we purchased.  Many include our shelf markings and are noted as "Charleston Library Society" on the cover. Almost 250 are from the 17th and 18th centuries, many printed here in Charleston.  To search for pamphlets in the collection, search " ser" in our online catalog.

Early City Directories

Some of these early almanacks acted more like city directories than what we think of as an almanac today.  This edition was more of a business and commercial guide rather than an actual attempt to provide a census of the city. It contains the family names of early Charlestown/Charleston residents as well as the street names established as the city was being settled. The most comprehensive content relates to government office-holders, the locations of business and government offices, and the sites of private enterprises. The 1782 directory takes up slightly more than five and a half pages and includes entries for 258 individuals: 253 men and five women. The majority of these individuals are listed as merchants (39%). Businesses and residences were concentrated in the lower part of the peninsula especially on Broad Street, Bay Street, Tradd Street, Church Street, and Meeting Street. Of the listed professionals, 9.7% were British officials. The British occupied the city from May 1780 to December 1782.  This directory can be viewed on the Low Country Digital Library.  The Library has almanacs for 1766, 1768, 1769, 1770, 1773, 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1782, 1784, 1785, and 1799.