Special Collections Research Center

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The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) of the Earl Gregg Swem Library of the College of William and Mary in Virginia defines and enhances the history of the University and promotes and preserves the scholarly pursuits of its faculty, students, alumni, visiting scholars, and friends. The SCRC contributes to the excellence of our scholarly reputation by providing the College with the rare books and unique manuscript and archival materials that make primary research possible. Additional information is available at the SCRC's website.


The mission of the Manuscripts area of Special Collections is to provide primary source material for the College of William and Mary faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and visiting scholars and researchers.

The Manuscripts Collections are primarily focused on Virginia history from the 17th to the 21st centuries. They include the papers of many famous alumni and individuals who have shaped the course of Virginia and the nation. Among them are:

  • Virginia Family Papers including the Blows, the Galts, the Taliaferros, the Tylers, the Blairs, the Robbs, the Carters, and the Armisteads
  • The Tucker - Coleman Collection
  • Local History and Genealogy Collections including the Williamsburg Historic Records Association and the Tyree Collection
  • Distinguished Alumni Papers that include those of Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John Marshall, and John Tyler
  • Twentieth Century Political Papers including those of Governor Mills E. Godwin and Governor and Congressman William Munford Tuck
  • Business Papers including 18th and 19th century account books
  • Sheet Music from the late 18th, 19th and 20th centuries
  • Newspapers numbering over 750 titles mainly Virginian
  • Maps including the famed "Frenchman's Map" of Williamsburg in 1782
  • Artifacts
  • Military Papers including those of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and colonial Colonel Leven Powell of Loudon County

Rare Books

The Rare Books Collection is a vital, growing collection that provides research opportunities in many areas of western thought and experience from history to religion and science to art. Like the Manuscript Collections the Rare Books Collection focuses primarily on Virginia history but includes collections that cover many other areas and interests that span the 15th through the 21st centuries.

The Rare Books Collection is actually made up of many distinct collections which each focus on a particular subject area or a particular period in the history of the book. These libraries include:

  • The general rare books collection which focuses mainly on Virginiana but contains books on historic gardening, military history, early American culture, travel accounts, science and medicine. There are seven beautiful incunabula (books printed before 1501) in the collection.
  • There are five family libraries in amongst the Rare Books. These are the Skipwith library, the Tucker - Coleman library, the Jerdone Library, the John Minson Galt library, and the John Millington Library. They all date from the 18th and19th centuries.
  • The Francis Nicholson Library is in the process of being acquired by Special Collections. It is our goal to recreate the original library of the College of William and Mary given by the colonial governor before the 1705 fire destroyed all but the single volume we have left. We now have more than 80 of the original 150 titles in the library.
  • The Ralph Green collection on printing and the Joseph Hennage collection on printing and the Carol Beinbrink collection on papermaking total more than 1400 volumes on the history of the book as an object and includes our oldest title the Quadragesimale by Johannes Gritsch printed in 1479.
  • The Ralph H. Wark Collection of fore-edge paintings. Fore-edge paintings are painted on the edges of the leaves of a book so that they can only be seen when the edges are fanned. Exquisitely rendered paintings like this date almost entirely from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth centuries in England.
  • The Chapin-Horowitz collection of cynogetica. This is the second largest collection of books about dogs in this country and continues to grow through its own endowment. It contains scholarly work that dates back to the sixteenth century as well as children's literature, breed guides, and the records of the American Kennel Club.

University Archives

The University Archives is the memory of the College of William and Mary, documenting its history from before the founding in 1693 to the present. The wide variety of materials relating to the College and its people through the years includes official records created in the College's daily operations, photographs, publications, video and audio tape recordings, personal papers and books or articles written by or about past or current William and Mary people, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and artifacts.

Time has taken its toll on the records of the College. The Wren Building, the main campus building, burned in 1705, 1859, and 1862, destroying many of the original records. Occupation of the Wren Building by military units during the American Revolution and the Civil War also did significant damage to the records. There is, however, still a wealth of information on all eras of William and Mary's history. Late nineteenth and twentieth-century materials comprise the bulk of the Archives collection, although a number of earlier documents do still exist. From 1888 on, most of William and Mary's vital records are intact and available, either in paper copy or on microfilm.

Warren E. Burger Collection

The Warren E. Burger Collection consists of the lifetime professional and personal papers and memorabilia of the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, as well as of related acquisitions, collected by the College.

The Warren E. Burger papers were given to the College of William and Mary by his son, Wade A. Burger in 1996. Warren Burger served as the 20th chancellor of the College of William and Mary from 1986-1993, and the College is honored to serve as the permanent home of the papers of one of the most influential legal figures of this century, whose papers will become an immeasurable resource for future historians and legal scholars. NOTE: In accordance with the donor agreement, the Warren E. Burger Papers will be closed to researchers until 2026.

Warren E. Burger (1907-1995) grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he attended the University of Minnesota and then the St. Paul College of Law as a night student while working full time during the day. After graduating magna cum laude in 1931, he joined the firm Boyeson, Otis, Brill & Faricy St. Paul, becoming a partner in 1933. His participation in Harold Stassen's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 1952 led to his becoming Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, in the United States Department of Justice under the Eisenhower administration. He served as a judge for the Federal Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, from 1956-1969. In May 1969, President Nixon appointed him Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and his nomination was confirmed by an overwhelming margin in June. During his seventeen years as Chief Justice, he not only presided over the Court's many historic decisions but also worked tirelessly to improve the way the judiciary functions and how justice is administered throughout the nation's courts. In 1986, he resigned from the Supreme Court to devote his time and energy to serving as chairman of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution. All these facets of Warren E. Burger's career are well represented in the approximately 1,200 cubic feet of papers, 1,500 photographs and more than 300 artifacts in custody of the College of William and Mary.