The Kenyon College Bookstore is reported to be the nation's longest continuously-operating college bookstore, and the third-oldest bookstore of any kind in America. Kenyon's founder, Philander Chase, outlined the rationale for the store in a letter in 1825, and described the particulars of the store's operations. The text of the letter is transcribed below. (We have not been able to make out one word towards the end of the document.)
I must beg your patience with me while I obtrude some of the secular affairs of the seminary upon you and request your kind interference
Having few means of organizing a classical education in this wilderness country our young men are generally quite unprepared for pursuit of theology according to our canons without some years previous and laborious study. This has driven us to initiate academic and collegiate courses and these require many school-books & these school books cannot be had in our poor country " bookstores. "
Now what in this case is to be done? Is every young man to send hither and thither for a book and perhaps be obliged after all to send to the East before he can be accommodated? Surely not--
We must have a bookstore belonging to the Institution and the profits if any be applied to the education of pious young men for the ministry. The Trustees have not as yet authorized such a thing. It was not thought of when we met at the convention till the demand for books has shewn it necessary. I must, myself become personally responsible for this as for all other things at the commencement of this business.
In asking myself what Book-Seller of the East would be the most liberal, intelligent & obliging, I thought of Mr. Potter of Philadelphia. If he would prove our friend in this matter I have no doubt it would eventuate greatly to his advantage. We shall become printers ourselves. A donation to carry our plan in this respect to effect has been made (separate from the general fund in Eng'd) to the amt of 300 L sterling a part of which having been remitted to me The press has been purchased and the types from "Old England" are daily expected. Besides them we have the stereotypes for our Prayer Book on the way.
If rightly conducted this plan will put our institution in possession of considerable means & those who by mutual exchange are connected with us will find a benefit.
I tell this plain story that Mr. Potter may see what is before him. Ask him if he will send us from time to time what classical books we want to sell to our students on commission at the usual discount of 33 1/2 percent it being understood that he befriend us by receiving the works which we finish at the same rate. For the present I shall hold myself responsible according to this proposal to pay Mr. Potter or return the books to his order. The freight hither I shall pay: that in returning the books if any be returned is to be borne by him.
In accounting with the Missionary Society of this Diocese I made myself XXXX for the money contributed by the Ladies in Charleston S. Carolina. I have no minute that I ever drew on you for it or that I ever rec'd. Pray, have the goodness to certify my mind on this head as soon as may be and much oblige again
Your most faithful and Humble Friend & Brother in Christ Jesus our Lord
Augt. 3 1825
To the Reverend George Boyd
P.S. Send the books by the Lake Erie Canal to Portland commonly called Sandusky City care of D.B. & C. Burke of that place with orders to forward the same to me