Jessamine County Historical and Genealogical Society hosts historic book sale

Published 9:28 am Friday, November 2, 2018

From staff reports

Today’s Jessamine County Public Library is an innovative state of the art facility. In a history spanning parts of three centuries, it has repeatedly moved, remodeled and adapted to its patrons’ changing interests and needs. 

Now, for the first time in 50 years, county residents and others have a chance to own a piece of that history thanks to the Jessamine County Historical and Genealogical Society and a generous donor.

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The Jessamine County Historical and Genealogical Society will host a book sale this month from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays, at the Farmers Square located at 216 N. Main St. Prices range from $1 to $10 and must be paid by cash or check. The sale offers hardback editions dating back to the 1800s which include westerns, mysteries, romance and adventure.

According to the library’s website, public library services in the county began in 1896 with a local literary society’s small collection but expanded the following year after a bequest from a former resident, Sarah Rice Withers. The Withers Memorial Library, with two full time employees, existed in a rented room on Main Street until 1907. At that time, it moved into its own quarters in a newly constructed two story building at the corner of Main and Oak streets. Those premises would be its home for the next 60 years and is the first location remembered by long-time county residents.

As Jessamine County grew, so did the demand for library books and services. In 1967, volunteers collected names on a petition to create a local taxing district that would provide the library with permanent dedicated funding. One of those volunteers was Dorothy Swintosky, wife of Dr. Joseph Swintosky.

With successful passage of the tax, the library trustees were able not only to move to a larger facility at Second and Chestnut, but also to purchase new books.

Instead of moving the old collection, they held an auction. At least 3,000 books were purchased by bibliophiles Dr. and Mrs. Swintosky for their own and their family’s enjoyment. They moved their private library into a cottage behind their historic home on Main Street, and there it remained until a few weeks ago.

After the death of Dr. Swintosky, his widow married Robert Zuck. The couple has now generously donated the collection to the Jessamine County Historical and Genealogical Society to raise operating funds through book sales.

Though the sale is historic, it is not exclusively a sale of historic books. Some do date from the late 1800’s and a few even contain uncut pages. However, some are books by living authors whose names still appear on best-seller lists today. All are hardbacks and many are first editions.

Browsing through them is like a trip through time. Classics and nonfiction are well represented, but apparently our parents’ and grandparents’ also enjoyed mysteries, westerns and tales of adventure. Passages in a 100 year-old romance novel sound strange to our ears, yet familiar at the same time.

The library, which is still officially known as the Withers Memorial Library, has moved two more times since 1968 to its current location at 600 Main St. which has undergone extensive expansions twice.

Some of the books are available as CDs or MP3 downloads, and it offers high tech services like 3D printers, laser cutters and movie making facilities which Sarah Withers could never have imagined.

Still, for those who like to feel the texture of paper and the weight of a volume in their hands, there is a special sense of nostalgia, romance and adventure in exploring the pages of an old book and connecting through it to a bygone time and to past generations of authors and readers.

Lee Robinette is a member of the Jessamine County Historical Society.