Acquired by the university in 1938 from the De Renne family, the Wymberly Jones De Renne Georgia Library is the most complete collection of manuscript and printed materials relating to the early history of Georgia. The collection of 15,000 volumes and 35,000 manuscripts, once housed at Wormsloe plantation near Savannah, was begun in 1880 and consists of materials dating from Georgia’s beginnings as a colony in 1732 into the 1930s. The library is an invaluable source for the study of Georgia’s history. Primary source documents touching various aspects of the state’s history are included. For example, the collection contains William B. Maxwell’s The Mysterious Father, the first Georgia drama printed in Savannah in 1807.
One of a kind materials include the only known copy of the second Georgia Constitution of 1789, which includes the signatures of William Few, one of Georgia’s two signers of the United States Constitution along with Governor Edward Telfair and other important historical figures. Other unique items include a 1780 Royal Georgia Gazette account of the siege of Savannah, a rare satin broadside of the Ordinance of Secession of the Republic of Georgia as passed in 1861, and the only extant copy of The Death Song of the Cherokee Indian, published in London in 1762.
The De Renne Library also has a rich map collection. John Mitchell’s 1755 map of European dominions in North America and William Faden’s 1783 map of North America are among the many notable cartographic treasures in the collection.
One of the rarest items in the collection is an original drawing of Savannah prepared by London draftsman George Jones in 1734. He prepared this image from a survey report by Noble Jones, ancestor of the DeRenne family, that was presented to the Trustees of the Colony of Georgia. The George Jones drawing became the basis of a famous engraving by P. Fourdrinier, and the image is commonly attributed to Peter Gordon, who delivered the report to the Trustees. The De Renne Library also owns a fine example of the Fourdrinier engraving.
The De Renne Library includes a wide variety of formats: books, manuscripts, engravings, newspapers, maps, broadsides, and photographs. The earliest book is dated 1700. This vast collection covers topics ranging from natural history of Georgia with original watercolors of Georgia birds by John Abbot, circa 1822, to Indian affairs in Georgia, to documents and books relating to the War between the States. The permanent Constitution of the Confederate States, engrossed on vellum 12 feet in length, is one of the rarest items and is viewed by hundreds of people when exhibited one day each year.
Collection Profile: Mary Ellen Brooks
Overview: Jean Cleveland
Illustrations: Nelson Morgan, Ben McCormick