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October 27, 2005

CW's John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library acquires Yorktown ledger and plantation letter and account book

Colonial Williamsburg’s John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library recently acquired two manuscripts that illustrate the lives of early Virginians. The Yorktown ledger and the plantation letter and account book will be available in the Special Collections section of the library. “These items are wonderful additions to our collection,” said James Horn, the Abby and George O’Neill Director of the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library. “They will provide a treasure trove of information about Yorktown and 18th-century plantation life in Virginia for employees, researchers and other patrons who use Special Collections.”

The Yorktown ledger, dated from 1764-75, lists business transactions from 18th-century gentry such as Carter Burwell, Edmund Berkeley, Thomas Nelson and his brother, William, as well as many ordinary customers. “This ledger gives us a great deal of information about what people were buying and selling,” said Gail Greve, special collections librarian/associate curator of rare books and manuscripts.

“The ledger contains a lot of insight into the local economy, as well as trade with Britain, consumer preferences and an indication of the networks connecting residents of the area,” said Colonial Williamsburg historian Lorena Walsh.

In addition, Special Collections also has acquired a plantation and account book owned by William Fauntleroy and dated 1735-74. “It’s extremely rare to see a plantation book of this type,” Greve said. “It brings an incredible amount of information regarding plantation life and how things operate on a plantation. You also get to see letters that go back and forth between family members.”

“This is a significant book because it documents a little known planter about whom we have little or no documentation,” Walsh said. “It describes the way a planter without vast tracts of land increased his real estate holdings and acquired a slave labor force. It also provides a lot of information on slave family life, trading networks in Britain and insight about how this planter was running a country store.”

Dedicated in 1997, the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library possesses one of the country’s finest collections of materials relating to colonial America and specializes in the decorative arts, history, archaeology and architecture of the Chesapeake region. The library also includes rare books, manuscripts, architectural drawings and photographs documenting the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg.

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