Monday, June 05, 2006


Between the Pages of Books

The always interesting Patrick Kurp at Anecdotal Evidence has an especially interesting post on The Things You Find in Books!

Because almost all the books I buy are used, I sometimes find objects in them. Never any money, alas, but also never any cigarette butts. The fragrance of a previous owner's pipe tobacco perfumes the pages of some of my books. In older books I not infrequently find pressed flowers or tree leaves, which I leave undisturbed. Once in a while I find letters, including some letters to and from Ben Ames Williams (1889-1953) in a translation of Victor Hugo's book on Shakespeare, and recently a very moving billet-doux, which it would be too voyeuristic to quote.

I share Patrick's dislike for marginalia and underlining in books. I erased notes and underscores by the late Gordon Messing in my secondhand copy of Jasper Griffin's Homer on Life and Death. Despite Messing's stature as a scholar, there was nothing in the notes worth keeping. At least Messing's notes were in pencil, although they were on virtually every page.

I'm not a violent man by nature, but I could throttle the swine who disfigure library books with their inane scribbles. The inventor of yellow markers, too, deserves a place in the lowest circle of the bibliomaniac's hell.

I'm more indulgent towards the owner's name inside the front cover. My copy of J.D. Duff's commentary on Juvenal is inscribed:
Austin M. Thomas
Treborth Hall Farm
Bangor, N.W.
The rest of the book is in pristine condition.

Occasionally I make light pencil marks in the books I own, a tick in the margin next to something interesting, or a list of page numbers inside the back cover. If my books survive my death (rather than ending up in a landfill), it will be an easy matter for the next owner to get rid of my pencil marks.

I was also interested to learn that Patrick has "backup" copies of works like Tristram Shandy. I have three copies of the "little Liddell," one for the study, one for the bedroom, and one for the living room. I need only one more, for the bathroom. Even if I don't need a duplicate of a favorite book, I sometimes buy one anyway if the price is right. I figure I can give it a good home, where it will be appreciated and well cared for.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?