Walking through the Academical Village can be a lesson in living history. But just across McCormick Road, "under Grounds," is another treasure trove of American history that's not nearly as visible but almost as impressive—the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.

Tracy W. McGregor's book plate. Scroll down for a look at some of the books from his personal library, the cornerstone of Special Collections' American history holdings. Luca DiCecco
The McGregor Library has been the cornerstone of the Special Collections' American history holdings since 1938, when the collection was donated to UVA after the death of Tracy McGregor, a noted philanthropist and civic leader. Although McGregor lived in Detroit and was not a UVA alumnus, he became interested in the University during a visit to Charlottesville. He bequeathed his notable collection of books and manuscripts to the McGregor Fund with instructions that his collection go to an institution "having fine ideals of higher education and reasonable likelihood of achieving those ideals."

At about the same time that trustees of the McGregor Fund decided to give the collection to the University, Alderman Library opened its doors. A room was designated to house the collection, which included approximately 5,000 volumes of rare books, a research collection of 12,500 volumes and numerous manuscripts. The collection centers on English literature, and in particular, American history.

"This collection came to a small library at the moment when that library was attempting a new role," wrote librarian Harry Clemons in 1950. "The significance of the collection was therefore much greater than it would have been in a library rich in such collections, or in a library not committed to an ambitious programme."

To celebrate the McGregor Library's 75th year, an exhibit at the Small Library, opening in October and running through May 2014, will showcase items from the collection. Here are a few highlights.

Geographie, 1513
Often described as the earliest “modern” world atlas, Johann Schott’s 1513 edition was the first to include new maps based on contemporary Spanish and Portuguese explorations. In the hand-colored woodcut map shown here, the New World is not labeled “America,” but “Terra Incognita.” Europeans’ geographic knowledge of the Caribbean, Florida and northeast Brazil was expanding rapidly; this map was outdated on publication.

Luca DiCecco

Woodcut Portrait of Richard Mather, ca. 1675
Richard Mather, arriving in Boston in 1635, founded the Mather family dynasty of New England Puritan ministers. This woodcut portrait of Mather, created after his death in 1669, is the earliest known American woodcut and portrait print, and one of only five known examples. The artist was John Foster, a graduate of Harvard and Boston’s first printer. The McGregor Library contains one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of books and manuscripts written by Richard Mather, his son Increase Mather, and grandson Cotton Mather. Luca DiCecco

Notes on the State of Virginia, 1787
Thomas Jefferson wrote this work in 1781, bringing the manuscript with him to Paris the following year. There, he printed 200 copies for private distribution to friends and colleagues. Jefferson authorized the 1787 London edition, shown here, for public sale. This is Jefferson’s copy, which he annotated extensively in anticipation of a revised edition. All told, he added some 500 lines, plus 16 inserted manuscript pages and additional notes and corrections. Jefferson’s revisions were eventually incorporated into an edition published in Richmond in 1853. Luca DiCecco

John Rolfe, “A true relation of the state of Virginia,” 1616
After coming to Virginia in 1610, John Rolfe established Virginia’s tobacco trade, married Pocahontas and served as colony secretary. This is one of three known copies of a report Rolfe circulated privately to spark interest in the struggling colony. He counted 351 colonists in six settlements and, on the page shown here, tallied their livestock. The manuscript is in a secretary’s hand, with Rolfe’s signature at the end. Luca DiCecco

The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, 1845-1848
After completing The Birds of America in 1839, John James Audubon embarked on a new publication documenting the “viviparous quadrupeds,” or mammals, of North America. The completed work featured 150 elephant folio plates printed by lithography and hand colored after original drawings by Audubon and his son, John Woodhouse Audubon. Three text volumes, written largely by the Rev. John Bachman, accompanied the plate volumes. Luca DiCecco

The Holy Bible … Translated into the Indian Language, 1663
Puritan missionary John Eliot dedicated his life to converting New England’s Indians and translated the Bible into the language of the Massachusett tribe. Printed by Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson at the newly established Indian College adjacent to Harvard, the Eliot Indian Bible was the first Bible printed in the Americas. The New Testament was completed first, in 1661, followed two years later by the Old Testament. Luca DiCecco

Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, 1777
In June 1776 the Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft a constitution uniting all 13 states in one confederation. After protracted debate, Congress approved the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777 at Lancaster, Pa., where it fled after the British occupied Philadelphia. Probably the work of John Dunlap, first printer of the Declaration of Independence, this is one of the 200 official copies distributed to the states. The Articles remained in force until the Constitution took effect in 1789. Luca DiCecco