African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia
The most important and comprehensive collection of its kind
… offers new and exciting opportunities for uncovering the lives of Africans during the early era of European exploration and colonization.
Krystal Appiah, Curator of African American History, Library Company of Philadelphia

Quick Facts

  • Covers the history of Africa and its diverse peoples over a span of nearly 400 years
  • More than 1,300 books, pamphlets, almanacs, broadsides and ephemera, both from and about this continent
  • Expertly compiled by the curators of the extraordinary Afro-Americana Imprints collection


Created from the renowned holdings of the Library Company of Philadelphia, African History and Culture, 1540-1921, is the most important and comprehensive collection of its kind. More than 1,300 fully cataloged and searchable books, pamphlets, almanacs, broadsides and ephemera cover the history, peoples, and social and economic development of the African continent from the 16th century to the early 20th century. All areas of Africa and important adjacent regions are covered.

New research and teaching opportunities
Major subject areas covered include Africana Studies, Atlantic Studies, Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, Economic Studies, Slavery and Diaspora Studies. Based on the Library Company collection that itself was an ambitious attempt to gather all printed information about this area and its history, works of all kinds are included: historical narratives, social histories, maps, navigational logs, military reports, government documents, demographic studies, anthropological studies, natural histories, personal and personal memoirs and much more. Many seminal items published prior to 1800 are included, but the majority of these 1,300-plus works imprints were published in the 19th century.

The places of publication of include primarily England and the United States, though there are works published in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Haiti, India, Ireland, Italy, Liberia, Mauritius, Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and other locations. Most of the works were published in the English language.

About the Library Company of Philadelphia
The Library Company of Philadelphia is an independent research library specializing in American history and culture from the 17th through the 19th centuries. Founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, the Library Company is America's oldest cultural institution. The Library Company houses an extensive collection of rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, ephemera, prints, photographs and works of art, as well as the second largest holding of early American imprints.

A Readex Africana Studies Collection
In addition to African History and Culture, 1540-1921, students and scholars of Africana Studies will be interested in African Newspapers, 1800-1922African History and Culture, 1540-1921, is also is fully integrated into America’s Historical Imprints for seamless searching with Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920; Black Authors, 1556-1922; Early American Imprints, 1639-1819; and other related collections.


“The Library Company of Philadelphia is an incredible resource for research in Africana Studies. The new Readex database, African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia, provides a digitized and searchable version of a vast amount of material from the Library Company’s collection. Researchers will find a variety of sources available at their fingertips, including early modern travel narratives written by Europeans, African language spelling books, and some of the first printed documents produced in Liberia. This database is especially important in facilitating the study of the slave trade, slavery, and abolition in the Atlantic World. It will allow scholars, researchers, and students to ask new and creative questions in Africana history and engage with the archive in depth.”
— Marie Stango, Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, University of Michigan

“The digitization of this unique collection will enable many more scholars to explore the history of Africa and its relation to early America and the larger Atlantic World.  When a collection of this type becomes available online, scholarship about the topic often expands exponentially.  I expect this invaluable collection to have a similar impact on the field.”
— Billy Smith, Distinguished Professor of Letters & Science, Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, Montana State University

“African History and Culture, 1540-1921, offers new and exciting opportunities for uncovering the lives of Africans during the early era of European exploration and colonization. While the collection provides rich sources about the motivations and activities of European colonial and commercial interests in Africa, reading against the grain allows scholars to excavate neglected details about African cultural practices, political systems, and economic pursuits. Furthermore, African History and Culture, 1540-1921’s unique provenance from the Library Company reflects American readers’ growing interest in European discovery and development of Africa.”
— Krystal Appiah, Curator of African American History, Library Company of Philadelphia


Notable Titles

1623 England The golden trade: or, A discouery of the Riuer Gambra, and the golden trade of the Aethiopians. : Also, the commerce with a great blacke merchant, called Buckor Sano, and his report of the houses couered with gold, and other strange obseruations for the good of our owne countrey; set downe as they were collected in trauelling, part of the yeares, 1620. and 1621. Jobson, Richard, fl. 1620-1623.
1670 England A relation of the coasts of Africk called Guinee; : with a description of the countreys, manners and customs of the inhabitants; of the productions of the earth, and the merchandise and commodities it affords; with some historical observations upon the coasts. Being collected in a voyage made by the Sieur Villault, Escuyer, Sieur de Bellefond, in the years 1666, and 1667. Villault, Nicolas, sieur de Bellefond, 17th cent.
1695 England The present state of the empire of Morocco. : With a faithful account of the manners, religion, and government of that people. Pidou de Saint-Olon, Monsieur (François), 1646-1720.
1738 England Travels into the inland parts of Africa: : containing a description of the several nations for the space of six hundred miles up the River Gambia; their trade, habits, customs, language, manners, religion and government; the power, disposition and characters of some Negro princes; with a particular account of Job Ben Solomon, a Pholey, who was in England in the year 1733, and known by the name of the African. ... Moore, Francis, fl. 1744.
1750 England A compleat history of the piratical states of Barbary : viz. Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, and Morocco. Containing the origin, revolutions, and present state of these kingdoms, their forces, revenues, policy, and commerce. Illustrated with a plan of Algiers, and a map of Barbary  
1762 Pennsylvania A short account of that part of Africa, inhabited by the Negroes : With respect to the fertility of the country; the good disposition of many of the natives, and the manner by which the slave trade is carried on. Benezet, Anthony, 1713-1784.
1768 France Considerations philosophiques de la gradation naturelle des formes de l'etre, ou Les essais de la nature qui apprend a faire l'homme. Robinet, J. B. (Jean Baptiste), 1735-1820.
1789 England Memoirs of the reign of Bossa Ahádee : King of Dahomy, an inland country of Guiney. To which are added, the author's journey to Abomey, the capital; and A short account of the African slave trade Norris, Robert, d. 1791.
1798 Massachusetts A journal, of the captivity and sufferings of John Foss; : several years a prisoner at Algiers: together with some account of the treatment of Christian slaves when sick:-- and observations of the manners and customs of the Algerines. Foss, John, d. 1800.
1802 England Life, trial, and particulars of the execution of Governor Wall, : who was executed on Thursday morning last, fronting Newgate, for the murder of Benjamin Armstrong, nearly 20 years ago, at Goree, in Africa. By causing him to receive, without trial, 800 lashes, which were inflicted by black slaves, changed at every 25 lashes. Wall, Joseph, 1737-1802.
1823 Massachusetts A narrative of the expedition to Dongola and Sennaar, under the command of His Excellence Ismael Pasha, : undertaken by order of His Highness Mehemmed Ali Pasha, Viceroy of Egypt. English, George Bethune, 1787-1828.
1825 Pennsylvania The life of Africaner, a Namacqua chief, of South Africa Campbell, John, 1766-1840.
1826 District of Columbia History of the American colony in Liberia, from December 1821 to 1823 Ashmun, J. (Jehudi), 1794-1828.
1834 New York Examination of Mr. Thomas C. Brown, a free colored citizen of S. Carolina, as to the actual state of things in Liberia in the years 1833 and 1834 : at the Chatham Street Chapel, May 9th & 10th, 1834. Brown, Thomas C. (Thomas Cilavan), b. 1800.
1837 England Visit to the great oasis of the Libyan Desert; : with an account, ancient and modern, of the oasis of Amun, and the other oases now under the dominion of the pasha of Egypt. Hoskins, G. A. (George Alexander), d. 1864.
1844 Massachusetts Colonization and missions. : A historical examination of the state of society in Western Africa, as formed by paganism and Muhammedanism, slavery, the slave trade and piracy, and of the remedial influence of colonization and missions. Tracy, Joseph, 1793?-1874.
1854 New York The looking-glass : being a true report and narrative of the life, travels and labors of the Rev. Daniel H. Peterson, a colored clergyman; embracing a period of time from the year 1812 to 1854, and including his visit to western Africa : with engravings. Peterson, Daniel H.
1859 England Commerce with Africa : The inefficacy of treaties for the suppression of the African slave trade, and their injurious influences on British commercial interests in Africa, with suggestions for the development of the commercial resources of western central Africa: and a short notice of the kingdom of Benin Jamieson, Robert, d. 1861.
1861 New York A pilgrimage to my motherland : An account of a journey among the Egbas and Yorubas of Central Africa, in 1859-60 Campbell, Robert, of the Niger Valley Exploring Party
1863 Scotland Journal of the discovery of the source of the Nile Speke, John Hanning, 1827-1864.
1872 England The diamond diggings of South Africa : a personal and practical account; with a brief notice of the new gold fields Payton, Charles A.
1872 New York How I found Livingstone : travels, adventures and discoveries in Central Africa : including an account of four months' residence with Dr. Livingstone Stanley, Henry M. (Henry Morton), 1841-1904.
1877 New York Serpent and Siva worship and mythology, in Central America, Africa, and Asia : And The origin of serpent worship : Two treatises Clarke, Hyde, 1815-1895.
1879 England British rule in South Africa. : Illustrated in the story of Kama and his tribe, and of the war in Zululand. Holden, W. Clifford (William Clifford), 1814?-1897.
1880 England Eight months in an ox-waggon : reminiscences of Boer life Sandeman, Edward F.
1888 New York Yankee girls in Zulu land Sheldon, Louise Vescelius.
1890 England Madagascar; : or, Robert Drury's journal, during fifteen years' captivity on that island : and a further description of Madagascar by the Abbé Alexis Rochon Defoe, Daniel, 1661?-1731.
1899 Massachusetts A history of the colonization of Africa by alien races Johnston, Harry Hamilton, Sir, 1858-1927.
1900 England Besieged by the Boers : a diary of life and events in Kimberley during the siege Ashe, E. Oliver (Evelyn Oliver)
1902 England The memoirs of Paul Kruger : four times president of the South African Republic Kruger, Paul, 1825-1904.
1915 Pennsylvania A camera actress in the wilds of Togoland : the adventures, observations & experiences of a cinematograph actress in West African forests whilst collecting films depicting native life and when posing as the white woman in Anglo-African cinematograph dramas Gehrts, Meg, 1891-1966.


Many resources are devoted to African American history and culture, but few offer the archival detail of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922….a multifaceted file for students and researchers of all types.

“…the new interface…is a significant improvement in terms of usability and function. Clearly labeled "browse by" options are in the middle of the page and include genre, subjects, author, history of printing, place of publication, and language. The purposely large boxes are easy to read, meaning patrons should be able to navigate them with ease.”
— Library Journal (June 1, 2015)

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