A library book – apparently checked out about 185 years ago – recently found its way back to the circulation desk at Centre College in Kentucky.
The book, second in the volume from a collection titled “Ancient Civilizations” by Charles Rollin, was found by intern Caroline Washnock last week as she took inventory of books in exhibit rooms at the Jacobs Hall Museum at the Kentucky School for the Deaf, less than a half-mile away from Centre College, the book’s rightful home.
The missing tome was apparently “hiding in plain sight” amidst a group of old, rare books inside a desk, said JoAnn Hamm, assistant director of Jacobs Hall Museum, in an interview with The College Fix.
“You might say it is surprising that it had not been found before now,” Hamm said.
Stan Campbell, director of library services at Centre College, said the book was part of the college’s collection before it built its first library, Sayre Library. That was constructed in 1862, but prior to that collections were scattered around campus. This book was housed in one of those small collections, Campbell said.
The book was returned to Centre College and is being archived and preserved.
Finding the book highlights a unique connection between Centre College, where the book belongs, and the Kentucky School for the Deaf, where the book was found, a connection that had been long forgotten about until the recent discovery, some say.
In 1823, the Kentucky legislature asked Centre College to operate the Kentucky Asylum for the Tuition of the Deaf and Dumb. John Adamson Jacobs was the third superintendent of that school, from 1835 to 1869, and he “built the school to prominence,” Hamm said.
Three months after his death in 1869, the state severed ties between the school and Centre College, marking the official end of their connection.
The overdue library book was found among some rare books believed to have been Superintendent Jacobs’ personal collection. It was found in one of his old desks.
“There is no way to tell when (the book made its way to the Kentucky School for the Deaf), although there is a hand-written note on the back page of the book dated July, 1854, which unfortunately, is almost completely faded away,” Campbell said. “Someone has written on the back pages, ‘I will eat neither meat nor gravy…’ Whether this person had a spiritual conversion and became vegetarian or was suffering from food poisoning, I have no idea.”
As for school and museum officials, they said it’s been fun how the whole experience prompted them to investigate and highlight their history.
“The school started as the Kentucky Asylum, in 1850 became the Kentucky Institution, and in 1906 became the Kentucky School – recognition that it was not an asylum or an institution, but a place of education,” Hamm said.
She added museum officials were happy to give the book back.
“We at the museum did not think we should keep it,” she said. “It is an amusing story, but we can tell the story with the news articles.”
Fix contributor Kara Mason is a student at Colorado State University – Pueblo.