Subseries NMPP-PC-2012/14 - Mandela’s unpublished autobiographical manuscript written on Robben Island

Identity area

Reference code



Mandela’s unpublished autobiographical manuscript written on Robben Island


  • 1976 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

1 CD with MS Word doc (1.2MB) and PDF doc (1.9MB)

Context area

Name of creator

(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

Biographical history

Archival history

Nelson Mandela wrote his autobiography on Robben Island in 1976. The manuscript was smuggled out of Robben Island in the bound cover of a study file in 1976 by Mac Maharaj when he was released. Soon thereafter the handwritten manuscript was typed up by Mac Maharaj and Sue Rabkin on a typewriter. In the late 1980s it was typed into an electronic copy.
Mandela's Lawyer Iqbal Meer gave Verne Harris a copy of the manuscript in MS Word in 2008. It was converted to PDF and jpeg by the NMF. Meer had been given a copy by the ANC for safe-keeping.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Accession number 2012/14
Deposited by Verne Harris
Date received - 2008

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Electronic files (MS Word - converted to PDF and jpeg) of Nelson Mandela's original autobiography written on Robben Island. It covers his life story from birth to about 1976. It was intended that the manuscript be published to mark Mr Mandela's 60th birthday in 1978 and help draw attention to the freedom struggle. The ANC leadership decided not to publish it. It later formed the basis for Mr Mandela's autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom".

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Access by permission of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright held by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

MS Word; PDF; jpg

Finding aids

Digitised Archival Materials Inventory DA0010

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

4 handwritten pages of the manuscript are deposited with the NMF by Mac Maharaj in 2015 and 7 handwritten pages are in the Nelson Mandela Department of Correctional Service files held by the National Archives of South Africa; the NMCM has digital copies of all these pages.

Existence and location of copies

Nelson Mandela Digital Archive DA0010

Related units of description

ZA COM NMPP-PC-2009/5.2
ZA COM NMAP-2015/14

Related descriptions

Publication note

Nelson Mandela Foundation. 2005. A prisoner in the garden: opening Nelson Mandela's prison archive. Johannesburg: Penguin.

Publication note

Mandela, Nelson. 2010. Conversations with myself. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Publication note

Mandela, Nelson. 2011. Nelson Mandela by himself: the authorised book of quotations. Aukland: PQ Blackwell Limited.

Publication note

Mandela, Nelson. 1994. Long walk to freedom: The autobiography of Nelson Mandela. London: Little Brown.

Notes area

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Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G) Second Edition



Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion




Accession area

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