Rare Books & Manuscripts

The Department of Special and Area Studies Collections holds a large number of rare books and manuscripts related to Latin America and the Caribbean.  These non-circulating materials are accessible through the Special Collections Research Room on the second floor of Smathers Library.

Patrons interested in using these collections should email Margarita Vargas-Betancourt at mvargasb@ufl.edu or (352) 273-2692.

Photo from the Braga Brothers Collection of Hauling sugar cane, Cuba

Hauling sugar cane, Cuba from the Braga Brothers Collection 


The manuscript collections of the George A. Smathers Libraries reflect the libraries’ commitment to preserve and interpret the history of the Caribbean. Cuba and Haiti figure prominently in the Libraries’ holdings and include some of those nations’ most important historical collections.

Documents relating to the history of Latin American Studies at UF are kept in the University Archives.  These include the papers of distinguished faculty members, such as those of the late Dr. Charles Wagley, as well as institutional documents.

The P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History contains over 2.5 million pages of Spanish Florida archival materials, gathered from years of microfilming in Spain’s Archivo General de Indias.  The archival calendars of the Spanish Borderlands Collection are available online.

A few major manuscript collections are described below, but a list of finding aids by subject area can be found here: Latin American and Caribbean Collection Finding Aids

The Braga Brothers Collection

The Braga Brothers Collection is the gift of George Atkinson Braga and B. Rionda Braga to the University of Florida's George A. Smathers Libraries. Donated to the Libraries' Department of Special Collections in 1981, the collection is one of the richest archival sources on the modernization and expansion of the Cuban sugar industry. As the archive of a large North American company that did business in Cuba it provides insights to the unique commercial relationship that once existed between Cuba and the United States. The collection is, as well, an unavoidable historical source on topics pertaining to the social and political aspects of sugar production in pre-Castro Cuba.

Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur Rochambeau Papers

The Rochambeau Papers include correspondence, decrees, microfilm, maps and other documents regarding Saint Domingue and Toussaint Louverture. The collection contains information on the history of Saint Domingue (Haiti), Santo Domingo, Jamaica and Martinique. It covers population, commerce, laws, customs, roads, buildings, agriculture, and especially the uprisings that occurred in Haiti around 1801-1803. The letters sent by English commanders Laring, Dundas and Bligh are the most significant. Some letters contain news about the war, security measures, troop movements, and military administration. These documents illustrate the failing condition of the French Army due to lack of supplies and sickness such as Yellow Fever. There are also microfilm copies of letters from the Archives Nationale from various significant figures, as well as original maps of roads and ports in the French portion of the island.

Jérémie Papers

As the records of the jurisdiction of Jérémie, the Jérémie Papers contain the archives of more than thirty notaries who operated both in Jérémie and in outlying areas. These archives contain such legal documents as marriage contracts, wills and successions, and sales of both urban and rural real estate. Pertinent to the study of the African slave population are sales of slaves, slave emancipations, and the sale of plantations, which often included the enslaved workforce. The Jérémie Papers also contain ecclesiastical records covering scattered years for both parishes of the Grand'Anse and records of the quartier's civil administration. Some land survey records have survived from the period beginning in the early 1770s, and several land concessions from the governor and intendant of the colony survived as well.

Rare Books

The Harold and Mary Jean Hanson Rare Book Collection

This collection holds many unique and scarce Latin American and Caribbean imprints, and books range in date from the 15th century through the present era.

Selection lists of Latin American and Caribbean materials in the Rare Book Collection have been compiled for Brazil before 1900, Cuba, Cuban imprints before 1900, and early literature of the Caribbean.

Other Materials

Outside the Department of Special Collections, the Libraries’ Map Collection includes historic maps of Latin America.  Also, the Florida Museum of Natural History has extensive holdings of Pre-Columbian and early colonial artifacts from circum-Caribbean archaeological sites.