This is the title page for the Free Negro Register in Amelia County from 1835 until 1855. In 1793, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law requiring all free Blacks to register with their local court every three years. A formal register of free Blacks was kept by the court, and a copy of one's individual registration was given to each free Black. These so-called "free papers" had to be produced on demand to prove one's freedom. Fines or imprisonment could be meted out for failure to register.
The faint pencil sketch of a ghostly figure on the page was probably not part of the official document, but was created later by an unknown hand.