Guide to the Research Collections

- Virginia


The holdings for Virginia are exceptional. Rare materials, general and special historical writings, printed and manuscript archives and documents, serials, and other items chronicle the history of the colony and state from the earliest period to the present day.13

Rare works in the library include copies of most of the seventeenth-and eighteenth-century books listed in W. Clayton-Torrence's A Trial Bibliography of Colonial Virginia (1908-10), which noted Lenox Library copies. The collection continues to grow; for example, the Arents Tobacco Collection has acquired King James I's copy of The General Histories of Virginia... (1624) by John Smith. Later works, such as Confederate imprints, are also held in significant numbers. Local historical materials are extensive, and there is a strong collection of public documents.

A noteworthy collection of manuscripts includes not only original papers but also transcripts of official records in European archives relating to early Virginia history. Of outstanding importance are the following:

Smyth Papers:

The manuscript collection of John Smyth (or Smith) of Nibley, one of the original promoters of plantations and settlements in the second Virginia colony, contains 84 letters, documents, and transcripts. The collection was given to the library by Alexander Maitland in 1897.

Comberford Map:

A manuscript map of the southern part of Virginia (now the northern part of North Carolina) made by Nicholas Comberford in 1657, one of two existing copies, is located in the Manuscripts and Archives Division. It is particularly significant for the light it sheds on contemporary place-names.

Proposed Constitution for the State of Virginia:

This is a third draft made by Thomas Jefferson in June, 1776. The manuscript was presented to the library by Alexander Maitland in 1894. The first and second drafts are in the Library of Congress.