Established in 1984, Black Swan Books has consistently been rated Lexington, Kentucky’s best used and rare bookstore, and quite deservedly so. For bibliophiles seeking rare, vintage, first-edition, signed, or simply high-quality used books, your search will likely lead you right to the historic building that houses this wonderful shop.
Throughout its multiple rooms packed with beautiful, tall shelves, Black Swan has amassed a rather expansive inventory, with titles ranging from the classics to poetry to travel to history to horses and more. There is also plenty of books by local and regional writers as well.
Proprietor J. Michael Courtney is friendly, chatty, and quick to offer recommendations and suggestions – or point shoppers to a valued first-edition of a paperback book he sees them eyeing. He’s also one to regale customers with anecdotes from literary life. I overheard him telling a mother and son, the latter of whom had picked out some Kurt Vonnegut, about once having drinks with the famed writer. (Before becoming a bookseller, Courtney worked as a rare books librarian.)
As a lover of old, secondhand books, Black Swan is admittedly my favorite type of shop. Multiple rooms make up the space, and the inventory is meticulously organized and well cared for. A stickler for condition, Courtney doesn’t carry books that are former library copies and keeps each hardback in a dust jacket.
Allow yourself ample time to roam through the space, smelling the old books and listening to the wooden floors creak beneath your feet. And if Lexington is simply too far for your travels to bring you there, the shop sells through the website as well.
Black Swan Books is located at 505 East Maxwell Street, Lexington, Kentucky. Open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.