University of South Carolina Purchases Rare Book by Phillis Wheatley

The University of South Carolina recently paid $35,000 to acquire a first edition of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, one of the first books published by an African American. The book was originally published in London in 1773. There are about 100 copies of the book still in existence.

Wheatley came to America from Gambia in 1761 aboard the slave ship Phillis. She was 7 or 8 years old. She was sold as a house slave to John Wheatley of Boston. Six years later she published her first poem.

The value of the Wheatley book has increased tremendously over the past decade. In 1998, a first edition sold for $19,550.

The university has created a searchable, digitized copy of the book which is available online. To access the digital version click here.