Rare Finds – Black Dog Books
Black Dog Books Is No Ordinary Bookstore
Writer: Suzanne Huntzinger
Photographer: Ryan Woodall
When you visit Black Dog Books, you can expect to be greeted by the beautiful Black Lab, Sophie, who draws you in with her friendly wag as you walk through the door. You might also expect to find something historical. Zionsville Village is lined with shops in quaint historical buildings, and this gem of a bookstore is no exception.
The little shop specializes in used, rare and collectible books, and it doesn’t disappoint. Throughout the shelves of books on history, mystery, art, literature, poetry, business, dogs, science and more, you’ll find a wealth of unusual books you can’t find in just any ordinary bookstore.
Your mouth will drop when you lay your eyes on such rare gems as the First Edition of the English Language by Samuel Johnson from 1755. The book is complete with a preface providing an overview of grammar rules, introducing the standards of our native language.
But that’s not even the oldest book in the store.
That honor belongs to Il Corpo Humano, a Latin titled book from 1712 about the human anatomy. The age of this anatomy book is only one part of its unique story. This book is even more valuable than other similar anatomy books because it has a long treatise about muscles at the end.
If you’re a Presidential history buff, take a seat on the couch and get comfortable as you read the 10-volume collection of Abraham Lincoln’s biology written by his personal secretary, Nicolay Hay. Even if you’re not up for losing yourself in a fascinating read, you can’t help but be impressed at some of the other vintage books Black Dog Books has in its collection.
You can find a set of First Edition Charles Dickens books, a 1700s era book in fine condition about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, written by Gibbons, a large Edward Gorey collection of first editions (many signed by Edward Gorey), Science and the Common Understanding written and signed by Robert Oppenheimer and many first editions by Dickens (one including his signature). You’ll be equally impressed with the store’s smallest book, a four-inch by two-inch bound copy of Winston Churchill’s speech to England the night King George VI died.
Black Dog Books also carries fine art. Currently, they’re featuring the oil paintings of local artist, Susie Rachles. You’ll also find a selection of maps in the shop. One of the most important antiquarian maps in the store is John Melish’s map of the United States dated 1820. Melish was the first person to map the U.S. coast to coast. This map is based on Lewis & Clark’s expedition and is one of the earliest maps of the U.S.
Filling a shop full of special, rare books and other treasures takes the love and care of a special owner. Tania Roudebush is that special owner. Roudebush bought the shop eight years ago, fulfilling a dream of hers.
After working there for seven years, the owner decided to move away from Zionsville.
“I stayed at the store’s new location for a little while, but I really missed Zionsville,” Roudebush says. “So it became my dream to come back to Zionsville and open a bookstore here.”
Tania began scouting buildings for her shop.
“I kept passing this building, and I patiently waited,” she says. “Then one day it finally went on the market and my husband and I bought it.”
It’s easy to see how Roudebush was so charmed by the little building at 115 S. Main Street. There’s a deep, rich history in the four walls that’s palpable when you’re inside. The building’s original owner was Colonel Benjamin Gregory. Colonel Gregory built the home in 1847, making it one of the first homesteads in the village. He went off to fight in the Civil War, and returned, becoming well-known in the Zionsville community. Besides being the head of the Masonic Lodge, Colonel Gregory was the owner of one of the largest agricultural businesses in the state.
Over the years, the building has changed hands many times.
“Old National Bank was the owner before us,” Roudebush says. “Our front counter was their teller window.”
Roudebush has taken great care to preserve all the memories.
“The front room is original to the house,” she says. In keeping with her vision, Roudebush has created a cozy feel in the front room with an alcove with chairs right by the fireplace. In that front room, she has created inviting displays like the roundtable featuring books about special events. May’s display centered around British books in honor of the Royal Wedding. Roudebush’s special feature was King Edward’s memoirs, signed by King Edward.
Another staple featured in the front room is a table featuring books about Indiana and books from local Hoosier authors. Roudebush extends her collection of Hoosier works in the Indiana room, which is filled with books on Indiana history and even volumes of historical records, where guests just might be able to find records of their ancestors.
Beyond the Indiana room is a Children’s Room. Roudebush added the room about a year ago.
“I don’t want to keep expanding and get so big that it’s unmanageable,” she says. “But, this room is in keeping with my business model of creating a cozy, family environment.”
You might think filling a store full of cool stuff would take a lot of effort. But Tania says, it came together fairly quickly.
“In the beginning, I sought out a collector of books who was getting rid of an entire library in his collection,” she says. “But since then, people seem to find me first. One lady told me I’d have no trouble filling up my store with interesting finds. She was right, it filled up fast. A lot of people bring in their rare books to sell, but I’m very selective based on the rarity of the book and its condition. The fellow book lovers that I meet are so interesting.”
As if cool, rare books aren’t reason enough to come in and check out Black Dog Books, the store hosts several events, drawing in lots of people in the community. The shop hosts book signing events, seasonal events like the Candlelight event in October, and children’s story time. The shop even hosts a book club once a month.
Stop in and check out Black Dog Books and satisfy your inner bookworm. Visit them online at blackdogbooksin.com or give them a call at 317-733-1747. Black Dog Books is located at 115 S. Main Street in Zionsville.