Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects

Irvin Department of Special Collections

The poems of Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) are read and studied by students and scholars in a variety of disciplines (American literature, African-American Studies, African Studies, and Women’s Studies), but the first edition has not previously been freely accessible in a digital facsimile without a fee or subscription. Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (London, 1773) is the first book published by an African-American author, and the frontispiece portrait of Wheatley is the only surviving work by the African-American slave artist Scipio Moorhead (born ca. 1750). Thomas Cooper Library’s copy, acquired with support from the College of Arts & Sciences and from library endowments, is the first copy recorded in WorldCat for any library in South Carolina.

To mark the inauguration of the College of Arts & Sciences interdisciplinary African American Research Symposium, the first in a cluster of related initiatives planned by the College, the library’s Digital Collections team is pleased to make available this full page-by-page digital facsimile of the first edition, in searchable form. Prof. Vincent Carretta, a leading scholar of eighteenth-century African and African-American writing, has provided an authoritative introductory essay on Wheatley and the publication of her book. This freely-accessible facsimile is provided, not only as a research tool, but also as a resource for teachers and students (Grades 6-12 as well as college level), in South Carolina, nationally, and worldwide.

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