Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2014 Issue

“Everything Equine” at Keeneland Library in Lexington Kentucky

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Becky Ryder, Keeneland Library director, with 1922 Man O' War photo.

Most horse racing enthusiasts are familiar with Keeneland, one of America’s top ranked tracks in Lexington, Kentucky. Each year the venue hosts a variety of racing meets and major sales. Less well known is the Keeneland Library, housed in its own multi-story deluxe 10,000 square foot building on a hill just a short walk to the track. This facility is where the book world and the horse world meet and it is according to library director Rebecca “Becky” Ryder, “the home of everything equine.”

“The Keeneland Library is one of the largest libraries about horses in the world” wrote the Lexington-Herald Leader in a March feature article. “It is the largest library devoted to the thoroughbred — everything from the history of racing to stud books and pedigrees to small collections of racing silks and horseshoes.”

It is a non-circulating reference collection which contains an estimated 20,000 books augmented by journals, racing forms, photos, ephemera about early 20th century tracks and other material as well. “It’s the whole spectrum,” Ryder said, “horses, tracks, racing, breeding, veterinary, pedigrees….” About 80 percent of its books are cataloged and may be searched on line (See catalog link at end). Where digital copies are available links are provided.

The Keeneland Library also houses writing and statistics as well as horse sculptures and photos and Daily Racing Form in digital format. It is home to other non-horse treasures too: It has one of the largest photographic collections of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus.

A variety of scholars and authors have used it as a resource including writer Laura Hildebrand who did research there for Seabiscuit: An American Legend - a best seller about the famous race horse. Including Ryder, Keeneland has a staff of three full time employees, two part-timers and it usually hosts library-school interns too.

Ryder has held the position for four years and calls it her “dream job.” She was formerly head of preservation services for the University of Kentucky in Lexington for 20 years. There her work included preserving Kentucky newspapers. In 2007 she began a collaboration with Keeneland to archive the Daily Racing Form.

“I got to know them pretty well,” she said. So when there was an opening “my name came up and it was a good fit.” She is not the head librarian, rather an administrator working on “strategic planning and setting the direction for the facility in years to come.”

Like many other libraries the trend is away from “books only” collections. “The main things we’re interesting in now include photos, ledgers, diaries and business records

We’re looking for material about historic farms, historic families. We are moving toward being a primary resource as a major industry.”

 

“Since I’ve been here,” she said, “I’ve learned about the industry. I knew about racing, but I didn’t know about economics, sales, breeding and how big it is, and how many auxiliary services it supports. I’ve also learned about equine athletes -- the animals and the jockeys. Riding a 1,000 to 2,000 pound horse, in and out of traffic, takes skill and guts.”

 

As for acquisitions Keeneland is actively assessing its collection and considering its gaps. “We do buy some,” she said, “but not a lot.” Like many special collection librarians she is always interested in receiving inquiries. “If people have unique equine material to offer I would encourage them to be in touch.”         

 

The library also receives many calls asking for help. “We don’t do appraisals," she said, “and definitely stay away from valuation. But we do help with identification, bindings, association value, historic value, things like that, but no prices.”

 

Even with a large and relatively new facility room to expand is a concern. “We’re nearly out of space,” Ryder said, observing that the library was approaching capacity.

 

With an eye toward making more room and fostering better community relations the library held its first ever book sale in March where 10,000 volumes were put out at prices ranging from $5 to $25. The sale also included rarer items at higher prices.

 

That event caught the eye of Lawrence Hammar, owner of Blue Jacket Books in Xenia, Ohio, who ended up with a large assortment of things that didn’t sell. He carted home 103 boxes, which he estimated contained some 1,200 horse related books. So far he’s cataloged and listed the first forty boxes and has already found buyers for some of his new holdings.

 

Hammar was enthusiastic about his new relationship with the library and praised the “first rate and memorable” tour of the library he received from Ryder. That included the preservation area and climate controlled vault where he viewed African American jockey themed quilts and Nashua’s blanket. He was also impressed with a large collection from two different photographers containing thousands of glass plate negatives including derbies, sales, home life and other subjects.

 

A short stubby specially built case with pull out shelves containing seven photo albums going back to the 1930s also caught his eye. “It was fun to look through them and the case must have weighed 250 pounds. It was the most unusual shelving of ephemera I’ve ever seen."

 

In addition he has taken a special limited reprint edition of the Kikkuli text, one of the oldest known manuals of on horse training, on consignment and is selling it for the benefit of the library.

 

Still in need of space Ryder is contemplating a second sale in about 18 month. “March was not a good time,” she said, “It was very cold and we were in non-heated space. This time we're aiming for August.” Despite the chill factor she was pleased that she got to meet so many people including dealers, writers, and residents of the nearby area.

 

“In the end,” she said, “nothing was thrown away and everything was “placed with somebody who was delighted to have it.”

 

Admission to the Keeneland Library is free; it is open to the public Monday through Friday and also has Saturday hours during the racing meets.

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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