Special Collections

From colonial-era letters to literary manuscripts and Audubon folios, the Library Society’s expansive Special Collections house some of the Lowcountry’s greatest cultural treasures. Our rare books and archives provide unique insight into Charleston’s past as one of America’s earliest urban settings.  The materials housed in the Library Society’s Special Collections consist of more than 20,000 rare books, pamphlets, maps and plats, along with our notable manuscript and early American newspaper collections.  Among the treasures are correspondence from George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, Dubose Heyward’s manuscripts for Porgy, and the jaw-dropping illustrated volumes of Pierre-Joseph Redouté.

The Library’s archives, vaults and special collections exist for the benefit of members and non-members for any and all research needs (subject, of course, to any specific parameters in place to protect and preserve historic materials). Researchers are invited to work with our staff on any project, large or small, and we welcome the partnership.  Advance 24 hour notice is encouraged, so that we are prepared to assist with materials and direction for your project.  Daily passes are available to non-members with the completion of some basic information.  Please call or email to connect with one of our Research Librarians. 


We are like books. Most people only see our cover, the minority read only the introduction, many people believe the critics. Few will know our content.

– Emile Zola