Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Found In Books

AbeBooks has an interesting article about items found in books. My family (well, me and my father anyway) tend to leave boarding cards in books. They turn up some times nosing themselves above the edge of the boards. You take the book off the shelf to peak at the document and it says something like HNL - SFO or BKK - SYD. These always tend to be Pan Am boarding cards although many of my recent books have lots of BA cards - which are virtually all EWR - LHR or return. The older ones tend not to have dates; you are left to contemplate when the travel occurred and who was travelling where. I can sometimes remember but generally the circumstances remain a mystery.

The AbeBooks article is far more interesting;
Adam Tobin, owner of Unnameable Books in Brooklyn, New York, has created a display inside his bookstore dedicated to objects discovered in books. “It’s a motley assortment,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for about two years since opening the store. The display quickly took over the back wall and now it’s spreading to other places, and there’s a backlog of stuff that we haven’t put up yet. There are postcards, shopping lists, and concert tickets but my favorites are the cryptic notes. They are often deeply personal and can be very moving.” Used booksellers often take ownership of books that have been in a family or a household for decades or even generations. “It’s easy to find things in books that are very dated,” explained Adam,” Such as a newspaper advert for elastic bands from the 19th century. My personal favorite is an ad from the 1950s that reads ‘Rinsing Dacron Curtains in Milk Makes Them Crisp, Stiff, Just Like New.’

Read the whole article. If you are like me and immediately on seeing an interesting book in a second hand bookstore you thumb through it in the hope of finding something significant you will be wondering when lady luck will present herself.

I have found and lost at this game myself. As a book buyer at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston we routinely bought job lots of remainders. One day before the store opened, I picked up a photography book from the remainder pile. This book had clearly been in a store somewhere and not simply shipped out of a warehouse. As I thumbed through the pages, the book opened up and there was a like-new sheet of writing paper from The Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne Australia. Remember I am in Boston and it is 1985. If you will have read this post you will remember that I lived in that hotel as a child between 1973-77. I bought the book and I still have the paper, but how that writing paper got there remains a mystery.

On the downside, I believe I left a Manchester United signed team photo of their 1968 European Cup winning team between the pages of a book consigned to a second hand store. Worth several thousand by now and I just hope the person who found it knew what it was.

Hat tip to QuillBlog

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