Micanopy book dealer amasses history, heritage
Published: Thursday, January 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 at 11:14 p.m.
Micanopy - If you have been looking for a book published years ago, you might try O. Brisky Books.
While there is not a lot of fiction on the shelves of O.J. Brisky's meandering store, there are thousands of other books, some rare, some old and some just unusual.
Recently, for example, there was a copy of the Koran sitting on a table not too far from a pile of Polish, Russian and Arabic language books small enough to slip into a pocket. They originally were classified documents put out by the War Department in the early 1940s.
At some point the classified designation on the front cover was crossed out and former military personnel were allowed to take them home.
In one corner of the store are books about antiques, some of which are probably antiques themselves. There also are numerous books on European history and art, and all kinds of books about Florida, including James Denham's "A Rogue's Paradise."
Denham describes his books as looking into "crime and punishment in antebellum Florida during the years 1821 to 1861," shedding light on "justice and mayhem along a southern frontier that stretched beyond Florida's border to Galveston Bay."
Nearby are books about the artists known as the Florida Highwaymen, books on gardening in Florida and history books that read like a Who's Who of early educators in Central Florida.
"I know a little about old books in Florida," said Jean Tullis, owner of Our Florida Books & Art Gallery in Dunnellon. "But it's common knowledge in our trade that O.J. Brisky knows a lot."
Tullis, who purchased a number of books from Brisky when she opened her store, said there is even a list of books Brisky had published.
"He's been careful over the years in what he has picked to publish. They pick and choose selectively," Tullis said. "O.J. Brisky is just a gem. He has a one-of-a-kind bookstore across the entire country."
Briskey's current shop is actually his second in Micanopy.
"I found my first store up here sort of by accident," Brisky said. "I had a bookstore down in Tarpon Springs, and rents were going up and the roof was leaking. I was taking a trip and happened to stop here and saw the store I was in down the street from here, so I decided to move up here.
"I think that was in 1986. For a while it was just a weekend store, because I continued to live in New Port Richey. But it seemed to work, and so finally I moved up here permanently."
About 15 years ago he moved into his present location. The last years have been "sleepy," he said. But during the 1990s, it was something else.
"Those years were very good," Brisky said.
Of the thousands of books on shelves and stacked on the floor in the store on Cholokka Boulevard, Brisky said he used to seek them, but now they just arrive at his store in the hands of customers or their friends who have heard he likes unusual books.
"I've always had books at the house, my own stuff," he said. "I've seen a lot of unusual books come across my counter here, during all my years in business."
Brisky, who was born in Hungary and lived there until he was about 3 years old, said he had to take lessons in English before attending school in this country. His father was in the U.S. military. Although he spoke Hungarian before he moved to the states, he doesn't remember any.
"I've been to Hungary since then and understood nothing," Brisky said.
His parents moved to Louisiana in 1953, and then later he moved to Florida. He worked during the early 1980s for a newspaper in Clearwater before going into the second-hand book business.
Georgia author Bailey White, who wrote "Mama Makes Up Her Mind," a book of sketches that came out in 1993, described Brisky's first Micanopy store in the chapter she did on the small town.
"Even before you go inside, you can smell the old, used and rare books," White wrote. "On sunny days, Mr. Brisky arranges a collection of books on a table on the sidewalk ... From an open back door, the misty, green light of Micanopy shines into the dust. Tendrils of wisteria have crept in through the doorway and are making their way toward the religion and philosophy sections."
"Bailey White used to come down here every year and stop by that bookstore because the store is so unique," Tullis said.
Listed on the Internet on the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association Web site, Brisky notes that he has 40,000 books and 2,000 paperbacks with general stock, nautical, Civil War, Florida books and books on music. To learn more, call 466-3910.
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