Personal Effects

Published 8:35 am Monday, July 24, 2017


Question: Jerry, My father was an avid historian and was always researching genealogy. This was one of his favorite books. It’s a copy titled “Bibliography of Kentucky History” by J. Winston Coleman. He always kept it at hand.

Dad passed on a few years ago and I’m just now going through his research library. I think that he paid $50 for this copy back in the 1980s. He said it was one of the best sources for Kentucky history.

Email newsletter signup

I know that Kentucky books are fairly collectible in a world where most books are on phones and laptops. Is this still a desirable book? Thanks for your time.

Answer: I was told many years ago by a fellow book dealer that you can’t run a bookstore without “Coleman.” John Winston Coleman Jr. was born in Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 5, 1898 and died, May 4, 1983.

He was a graduate of the University of Kentucky and was named to the Hall of Distinguished Alumni in February 1965. He was an engineer and Fayette County farmer. However, he was most well known as being the author of numerous books, pamphlets and articles on Kentucky history and the lives of Kentuckians.

He was an avid historian and major collector. His library on Kentuckiana is one of the largest in the state. His collection is now one the major jewels in the University of Kentucky Special Collections Library. His Kentucky library features more than 3,500 books and pamphlets, many of which are rare and valuable items and many are one of a kind. At time time of rapid growth and rabid destruction, he also encouraged the preservation of the history of the Commonwealth.

Your dad was right, Coleman’s is a great and important work on the written treasures of Kentucky history. The “Bibliography” isn’t necessarily a history book, but like its title says, is a collection of the books, authors and subjects that pertain to Kentucky’s history from pre-statehood to the mid 1940s.

Bear in mind that there were some great books written after the 1940s, so keep that in mind when researching because they won’t be in Coleman’s. I was tickled with my first copy of Coleman’s  “Bibliography” and still use it today. Even in today’s world of instant access, collectors and scholars still want a real book on their shelves. I’ll be honest with you, I found prices all over the place. I hit several internet places that I frequent. Some were priced at ridiculous prices like $24 and $38. I can almost guarantee that these are long since gone. Others had them priced upwards of $250. I think in the hands of a fairly knowledgeable book dealer, a copy in good condition with a pretty dust jacket and NOT an ex-library book would be priced at about $100-$125.

If you do any Kentucky research, I”d keep it.

Thanks for sharing it with us.