In 1826, the South Carolina Baptist Convention established policies for the Furman Academy and Theological Institution. One of the earliest policies was to "take immediate measures for collecting a Library" and the library’s collection has continued to grow. Special Collections and Archives houses approximately 20,000 books in three distinct book collections: the Furman Collection, Baptist Collection and Special Collections.
The Furman Collection contains permanent copies of a variety of materials which the University publishes and creates. These publications include the yearbook, the catalogue, newsletters, alumni magazines, and student newspapers among other selections. If any member of the Furman community (student, staff, faculty or alumnus/a) publishes a book, this is the book collection in which those volumes are maintained (Books published by members of the Furman University Board of Trustees are held in the General Collection). Books from the library of Greenville Woman's College are also included in this section. In addition, this collection contains published materials about Furman University and Greenville Woman's College. Finally, this collection also houses any books with relevance for Furman University manuscript holdings. If any published materials within the parameters of the Furman Collection are not donated to Special Collections and Archives, the department will purchase them.
The Baptist Historical Collection was established to document the history of the Baptist denomination in South Carolina and the Baptist Book Collection contains many materials which support that collection. There are histories, biographies, autobiographies, theological treatises and other volumes that provide essential information for research. There are also serials, periodicals and newsletters for a number of churches, associations and the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
The Special Collections Book Collection contains non-Baptist religious and theological works, local and regional imprints, and Furman’s rare books. In addition, all pre-1870 imprints discovered in the General Collection that continue to support the curriculum and faculty research interests are added to the collection. Also included are any other books notable for their binding or printing style, especially if they include plates, engravings, or other illustrations; numbered copies of limited editions; notable books signed by the author; and first editions of works by important authors, among other criteria. The strength of the collection is nineteenth-century materials; however, there are a number of volumes from as early as the sixteenth century.
In partnership with the History Department, Special Collections and Archives has developed a Travel Literature Collection (link), and this collection covers several continents and centuries.
Special Collections books also includes published works of twentieth and twenty-first century South Carolina poets to complement the South Carolina Poetry Archives (link).
The Culinary Americana Collection includes cookbooks from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as works documenting food customs and traditions: Culinary Americana Collection.