The state of South Carolina is seeking funding in order to conserve its oldest book.
Titled Records of the Secretary of the Province and the Register of the Province of South Carolina: 1671-1675, the work contains records dating from just after the founding of the colony by English settlers in 1670.
The earliest record listed is a property deed recorded only months after the first settlers landed at Albemarle Point on the Ashley River, according to the SC Department of Archives and History.
The book is in serious need of restoration and the South Carolina Archives and History Foundation is in the process of raising money for the effort.
“Last conserved in 1944, the record book’s pages are now acidic, dirty, and falling out of their binding,” according to the department.
South Carolina’s concern for preserving its government records dates back to the very beginning of the colony.
“Joseph Dalton, the first secretary of the province, worked hard to get ‘an orderly method’ to record keeping in the fledgling settlement,” according to a 1995 work South Carolina Begins: The Records of a Proprietary Colony, 1663-1721.
Records of the Secretary of the Province contains key documents from the colony’s founding, “including evidence of early support for the colony by Barbadians; wills by Governor William Sayle and Henry Woodward as he was preparing to explore the ‘hazardous and dangerous’ wilderness; and two complete inventories, including the names and terms of indentured servants, for a plantation established as a partnership,” according to the Department of Archives and History.
The goal is to send the record book to the Northeast Document Conservation Center, regarded as one of the best conservation facilities in the country.
There the 54-page volume will be conserved and housed in a period binding and a specially constructed case. In addition Archives and History staff will create digital images of the restored volume to make its information more widely available.
(Top: Pages from Records of the Secretary of the Province and the Register of the Province of South Carolina: 1671-1675, South Carolina’s earliest book.)