Books to Benefit Gifts Rare Book to Local Family
Out of 33,000 books available at the November 2-5 Books to Benefit Used Book Sale, a Civil War manual was found to have a direct connection to a local family.
Among the stacks recently donated from Solomon estate, Books to Benefit volunteer Norma Valentine discovered an 1862 vintage piece, The Bayonet Manual, written by George McClelland, who was later appointed to the rank of General by President Lincoln. The training manual, copyrighted in 1852, included 24 pages of sketches on the proper positioning, thrusting and parrying of a bayonet. The book was distributed to officers in the Civil War to train their troops.
“The unique content of the book piqued my interest,” shared Valentine. “I simply had to share this find with Mary.” Valentine showed the manual to fellow volunteer Dr. Mary Ryder, who specializes in vintage literature.
During Ryder’s examination of the book, she found the signature of the original owner, Captain G.W. Reynolds of the 83rd Illinois Regiment, K Company. Further research uncovered Captain Reynolds was a notable gentleman from Knox County, Illinois, near Galesburg. Reynolds owned a farm and significantly contributed to the county in the development of the Village of Victoria.
Ryder reached out to members of her local church, Steve and Kathy Gossard, whom she knew had roots in Knox County. While the Gossards did not recognize the name of Captain Reynolds, they suggested that their daughter Stephanie Long, an avid genealogist, might be able to help. “After only a few minutes searching through family records, Stephanie realized that Captain Reynolds was great-great-great uncle of her mother Kathy,” noted Ryder. “Our Civil War manual had a local connection.”
Since part of the mission of Books to Benefit is to find appropriate homes for rare and unusual books of literary significance or scholarly importance, the Books to Benefit Board decided to return the book to the family where it will be cherished, along with the photograph they have of their Civil War ancestor. Fittingly, the book presentation took place on Thursday, October 26, the 101st birthday of Kathy’s deceased mother.
In the last year Books to Benefit placed books of scholarly importance in over twelve academic libraries, museums and presidential libraries, including the Lincoln Library in Springfield. Books to Benefit is a local 501(C)3 nonprofit organization passionately working to support literacy. The proceeds of its semiannual book sales benefit STAR Adult Literacy and YouthBuild McLean County’s literacy programs, provide financial support for the Books to Benefit Community Service Scholarship Award at Heartland Community College, encourage volunteerism through community service, and assure that works of scholarly importance and/or unusual publication history or content find appropriate homes offering ready access to these works.