The Charleston Library Society, the oldest library in the South, has been conducting a muti-year search and cataloguing project to record the multitude of volumes it contains in its vault. (The library has been moved a number of times over the years and collections have been integrated, thus necessitating the project.) Recently the search unearthed a rare, 270-year-old book on political parties, Henry St. John Lord Bollinbroke's Dissertation Upon Parties.
Published in 1743, the book was one of 800 volumes donated to the College of Charleston by John Mackenzie, a planter and diplomat in the 1700s. His library was housed at the Charleston Library Society until the college could erect its own library, but after a terrible fire in 1778 all but 77 of Mackenzie's donated books were thought to be lost. This newfound 78th volume, which is embossed with Mackenzie's name, will be returned to Charleston College in a special ceremony today.
The book is quite rare; only 15 other copies remain in existence and most of them are held in academic libraries. A limited number to be sure, but the survival of that "many copies of a book that's almost 270 years old shows it was popular at the time".
The search has turned up some other exciting discoveries, including two letters penned by Alexander Hamilton and "a unique third letter written by John Marshall, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, to South Carolinian Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, who helped draft the Constitution", on the day that Thomas Jefferson was sworn in as President. "John Marshall was the one who actually swore him in," said library archivist Trisha Kometer. "He started a letter to Charles Coatesworth Pinckney in the morning and then he took a break and came back at 4 o'clock to finish the letter and said I have just administered the oath."