Material history between the pages.

One thing I love about used books is that their physical selves, regardless of the subject or literary content or the reason I want them, have history. I’m always pleased if I find even the name of a person (or a library) and possibly an inscription, giving evidence of its life before coming into my possession. I have discovered a few other little items, like a theater ticket or a clipped newspaper review of the book . But no money, or bacon, and no love letters.

Pippin just sent me this picture of a tortilla that was found in a library book; it looks like the tortilla came with salsa and cheese, too. She remembered an article I’d passed on years ago from the Abe Books Community page: “Things Found in Books.” I thought I’d blogged on this subject, but I can’t find that I did. So I’m passing on that link, plus this one:

From Atlas Obscura: “Best Things Found Between the Pages of Old Books,” including the story of a woman who found a small negative in a book she bought at a used bookstore, developed it, and found it was a photo of her as a child.

You can probably find more such lists online, and maybe have already. I’d be more interested in things that you, my own readers, have found in books, even if it’s only inscriptions. Let me know in the comments, and possibly I will write an update post.

11 thoughts on “Material history between the pages.

  1. At the library, when a book is returned we are supposed to flip through the pages, looking for stains or pen marks, water damage, etc. If it’s bad enough, the patron is contacted and may need to pay for a replacement.

    Over thirty years working there and there is only one thing which sticks in my mind. (and, isn’t it strange, but now that I look at my blog post about it, it was three years ago TODAY! How odd.) Anyway, I found a photo of Paul Newman in a book of ours which had gone out to another library. https://searchingforabalance.blogspot.com/2016/09/so-young-so-cute.html

    It is thumb-tacked at my work station, just because.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My husband and I were used book sellers. Once we found a Louisiana State Bank $50 bill from 1857. We gave it back to the thrift store we had purchased the book from to do with what they would. We also found $240 once. We found a letter from the Chicago poet Carl Sandberg to the editor of the Boston Globe (they were friends). We found a 1920’s valentine. We found a little note card from Casa Contenta restaurant in Bolivia and tickets and souvenirs from the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. We found a signed photograph of the stealth bomber which was supposed to be top secret and not photographed, signed by General Norman Schwarzkopf (Stormin’ Norman) who was the general leading the first Gulf War.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. GJ, I can’t recall that I’ve ever found anything interesting in one of my books. But Adam and I have very different attitudes toward our books. He prefers his disorganized; I shelve mine according to genre and region, etc. He enjoys having to search for the book he needs because it causes him to look at ones he’s forgotten about, and flip through them, and then find things. He loves to leave things in books: photographs (often of me), theater tickets, hall passes from school, old notes from friends, old bookstore bookmarks, and such. Once he put $60 in one of his books, assuming he would remember which book. This was 25 years ago. We’ve never found the money.
    I put things in my books too, usually as impromptu bookmarks, and I enjoy finding them again and again as I reread my favorite volumes. it adds to the joy to find a hall pass from a school I worked at 22 years ago, written in the familiar hand of a colleague who’s now gone on to heaven. Finding it again tends to tie a couple of the loose strands of life together again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Back when I had my High Desert Home blog, I wrote a post about things I found in the books on my shelves. I can’t remember it all now, but there were dollar bills, grocery lists, to-do lists from years before, receipts, photos, bandaids (unused), tissues, and a whole lot more. I was once lucky enough to happen upon an old set of Gladys Taber books (20 of them for $1 each), all owned by one previous owner who loved to cut up the book jacket and paste bits of it throughout the book. She commented profusely in the margins, too, and the books often had the receipt of purchase tucked inside. I felt I got to know this southern Californian woman through the books she owned.

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