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To college’s delight, rare library book nets $110,500 at auction

Sun., June 24, 2012, midnight

A 200-year-old book found in the Centralia College library sold for $110,500 at Christie’s auction house in New York City on Saturday.

The amount the college will net from the auction is uncertain at this time, according to a release.

The “Pomona Britannica” is an annotated compilation of etchings of fruits that were grown primarily in England’s Royal Gardens at Hampton Court.

It contains 90 pages that depict fruit in rich colors. This edition has Centralia College library tags on it. A similar book, without library tags, sold at auction for nearly double the price of the Centralia College book, according to a release.

“This is simply amazing,” Centralia College President Jim Walton said in a prepared statement. “A book that we were going to give away will now fund a program that will provide a great benefit to our students. All because it wouldn’t fit in the box.”

The box refers to the package of books that was being taken to the University of Washington for its use. Because the book didn’t fit, it was left wrapped in cloth on a shelf in the Centralia College library for later shipment to the UW, according to the college.

Proceeds from the book’s sale will endow the Mary Chenoweth Student Loan Fund, accessible to students who need to borrow money to purchase textbooks.

The loan fund was named in honor of the book’s donor.

Chenoweth, who died in 1975, purchased the book in 1907 for a little over 12 British pounds while attending Oxford. Her husband, Arthur, was a Rhodes Scholar who later served as president of the Miss America Pageant.

The family later moved to the Silver Creek area.

Chenoweth donated Pomona, along with others in her collection, to the college in 1964. The collection mostly collected dust for more than 40 years before library staff decided to give the books to UW, which is set up to handle old and rare books.


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