The Sir Walter Raleigh Collection is a distinguished component of the North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The collection of over one thousand titles preserves writings by Raleigh, materials about Raleigh, and works on English exploration during the Elizabethan Era.
In addition to explorations of North America, Raleigh also organized several expeditions to South America, specifically Guiana. Raleigh himself sailed on two of these missions. The actions of Raleigh's crew on his last trip to Guiana proved to be Raleigh's undoing. Queen Elizabeth had briefly imprisoned Raleigh in 1592 to show her displeasure over Raleigh's secret marriage. A more serious, long-term imprisonment began in 1603. The new monarch, James I, did not share his subjects' dislike of Spain, and the new king wanted anti-Spanish adventurers like Raleigh neutralized. Raleigh was arrested, charged with treason, and sentenced to death in December 1603. Raleigh remained imprisoned in the Tower of London until 1616 when he received a reprieve of his sentence. The reprieve was revoked in 1618 when men under Raleigh's command attacked a Spanish camp during their explorations of the Orinoco River. On the basis of the 1603 treason charge, Raleigh was beheaded on October 19, 1618.
Raleigh was the classic "Renaissance man." In addition to being a soldier, courtier, and adventurer, he was also a freethinker, poet, and historian. The Sir Walter Raleigh Collection contains Raleigh's surviving writings in contemporary and modern editions. In addition to Raleigh's own works, it includes volumes on Raleigh, associates of Raleigh such as John White and Humphrey Gilbert, Elizabeth I and her court, and English explorations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The collection is comprised of a variety of printed materials, including primary texts, scholarly monographs and journals, historical pamphlets, brochures, and ephemera. It also contains some audiovisual materials and a few manuscripts. The collection has been built through gifts and purchases; collecting is ongoing. The following examples of recent acquisitions give some idea of the collection's range:
Walter Bigges. Sir Frances Drakes' West Indian Voyage. Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1969. [facsimile of 1589 edition]
Anthony Burgess. A Dead Man in Deptford. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1995.
Cecil H. Clough and P. E. H. Hair, editors. The European Outthrust and Encounter: ... Essays in Tribute to David Beers Quinn .... Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1994.
Ivor Noel Hume. The Virginia Adventure: Roanoke to James Towne. New York: Knopf, 1994.