A guide to a monumental collection of South Caroliniana and a tribute to its devoted collectors
August Kohn (1868–1930) and his daughter Helen Kohn Hennig (1896–1961) were two of South Carolina's greatest book collectors. The object of their collecting was South Caroliniana, in all its variety. Their combined library of more than four thousand titles, now a part of the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina, includes novels, short stories, and poetry; biographies, sermons, and military histories; pamphlets, maps, and periodicals; and much more. In addition to identifying all the titles in that collection, this publication pays tribute to Kohn and Hennig, to book collectors everywhere, and indeed to the joys of book collecting. The volume includes essays by Allen H. Stokes, executive director of the South Caroliniana Library, and Belinda Gergel, a retired history professor and former president of the Historic Columbia Foundation.
When August Kohn began collecting Caroliniana ("at least by the 1890s," writes Stokes), many of South Carolina's most important publications could no longer be found within the borders of the state. Several great book collections had been destroyed or removed during the Civil War. South Carolina libraries were universally devastated. However, around the turn of the century a number of individuals determined to return to the state as many of those lost volumes as they could find. Working alongside Kohn, and sometimes at odds with him, were Charleston mayor William Ashmead Courtenay; Yates Snowden, journalist and professor of history; A. S. Salley, secretary of the South Carolina Historical Commission; and Dr. James W. Babcock, superintendent of the State Hospital. Without their efforts, researchers in South Caroliniana would be forced to leave the state.
Even before August Kohn's death, his daughter Helen Kohn Hennig was gathering volumes to supplement her father's collection, and she went on to expand it greatly. Their collection includes both the exceedingly rare (including a copy of the original German edition of Samuel Urlsperger's Detailed Reports on the Salzburger Emigrants Who Settled in America…[1744–52]) and the too easily overlooked (a rich collection of pamphlets, promotional material, and business histories). No corner of the state is excluded, and no subject ignored. The library is particularly rich in Jewish material, a topic especially dear to both collectors. But the wide range of titles catalogued in The Kohn-Hennig Library will inspire, intrigue, and fascinate readers, researchers, and collectors everywhere.