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The Library of the College of William & Mary is almost as old as the College itself. More information about each of the buildings in which the library has lived can be found on their respective pages.

Library, 1693-1909

For more information about the 18th Century library, see Books Owned by the College of William and Mary Prior to 1793.

The original library of the College of William & Mary consisted of over 200 books donated by Francis Nicholson, governor of Virginia from 1698 to 1705. This library was destroyed, except for one book, in the fire of 1705. After the building was rebuilt, the library collection was also. The library suffered additional damage during the Siege of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War, and was again destroyed in the fires of 1859 and 1862. After the College was reopened after the Civil War, the library remained in the Wren Building until 1909.

The Old Library

Until 1909, the library was in Wren Building. In 1905, Andrew Carnegie pledged $20,000 for the construction of a new library on campus. The building was just called the Library, and served as such from 1909 until 1966. The building now known as Tucker Hall or the Old Library.

Earl Gregg Swem Library

On January 4, 1966, Earl Gregg Swem Library opened, even though it was not yet fully complete. There were renovations and additions to the building in 1986-1988 and 1998-2005.

Number of Library Volumes

1831-1833: 3600

1834-1837: 3500

1838-1840: 3600

1841: 4250

1842-1857: 5000

1858: 8500

1859-1860: 9000

1861: 53000

Material in the Special Collections Research Center


Need help?

To search for further material, visit the Special Collections Research Center's Search Tool List for an overview of the Special Collections Database, W&M Digital Archive, Flat Hat-William & Mary News-Alumni Gazette index, card catalogs, and other tools available to help you find material of interest in William & Mary Libraries Special Collections Research Center.

Questions? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at or 757-221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at William & Mary.

A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki
The information available in this wiki is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the Special Collections search tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.