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First edition book by Phillis Wheatley purchased by University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina got a first edition book by 18th-century black American writer Phillis Wheatley, who published her first poem when she was 13.

The are roughly 100 first editions of Wheatley's "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral," Patrick Scott, director of rare books and special collections at the university's Thomas Cooper Library, said Thursday.

The university also will offer a fully searchable digital copy of the book on the Internet.

"As one of the first published African-American writers, Phillis Wheatley achieved unusual stature in the 18th-century Atlantic world," said Daniel Littlefield, director of the university's African-American research program. "USC's offering of a searchable digital rendering of her work will be of immense importance to scholars of American and African-American literature, history and society."

Wheatley, who was born in 1753 in Africa, was kidnapped by slave traders and sold on the auction block when she was 7 to a prosperous white Boston family. She learned English in about a year and a half.

Widely celebrated in her own lifetime, she read her poetry in the presence of notables such as George Washington.

Her book was published in London in August 1773 and Wheatley was given her freedom later that year. She died in 1784. The first American edition of Wheatley's "Poems" was published in 1786.

The school paid $35,000 (24,807 EUR) for the book, Scott said.

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