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Things found in books

Besides marking and underlining text and writing and making doodles in the margins of books, people stick all sorts of things into them as bookmarks or for safekeeping and then forget about them. As a lifelong library patron and buyer of used books I have had the opportunity to study this phenomenon up close. The most common item I find, perhaps not surprisingly, is sales and library receipts, followed by libray bookmarks, advertising bookmarks from bookshops and publishers and sticky notes (especially inside academic books). But I have also found postcards, both blank and written, art bookmarks, boarding passes, money, stamps, dried flowers, assorted scraps of paper (with and without writing) and photographs. Also included is one fast-food menu and a beer label that had been carefully peeled off the bottle and stuck inside the cover of a book.
The saddest find was a child's drawing. It made me wonder if a parent had not cared what happened to the picture, or whether was it so precious to them that they used it as a bookmark so they could look at it every time they opened the book. The most disgusting find (apart from various mystery stains and squashed bugs) was a used hormone patch.

I myself have stuck things inside books and then forgotten about them. The only really important thing I have lost in a book was my I.D. card. I was about 12 when I absentmindedly stuck it into a Desmond Bagely thriller to mark my place. I then stopped reading the book for some reason and put it back on the shelf where it remained unread for several years. I couldn't for the life of me remember what I had done with the I.D. card. Fortunately I didn't need it much. By the time the old one was rediscovered I had both a driver's licence and a passport and didn't need it any more. But this did teach me never to use anything as a bookmark that I didn't want to lose.

A recent discovery I made was inside a dictionary I haven't used much since I left middle-school. It was a lock of my own hair that I suddenly remembered putting in there shortly after I got the book, that showed unmistakably that while I am now a brunette, in my childhood and into my teens my hair was dark blonde. I think I will remove it, as I now know that the oils in hair are not kind to paper, but I need to find a place to keep it where it will not be lost, perhaps a memory box.

I have usually stuck the more personal items I find, like photos of people and written postcards, back in the book I found them in, but I have kept the unwritten postcards, bookmarks, stamps and money (mind you, if it was a large denomination note in a library book, I would check at the library if anyone had reported it missing, but I have never found high value money). Now, however, I think maybe I will follow the lead of the editors of Found Magazine and keep all of them. They may make an interesting art project some day.


Maxine Clarke said…
That's a lovely post. The part about the child's drawing was poignant.
I often buy used library books but I don't think I have found anything other than scribblings (eg corrected typos) and turned down corners (a pet hate of mine).

However, as I am an avid reader I am always being given bookmarks, but where do they all go? After pens, they are the one thing that seem to disassociated into thin air after a few days of me owning them.

It was your posting about bookmarks that made me find your blog in the first place, I now recall!
Bibliophile said…
The child's drawing was special. I left it in the book, and now I can't remember what book it was, so I may never find it again.

You seem to have the same problem as my mother: her bookmarks also keep disappearing. I think it's like socks and clothes-dryers. I'm sure you have heard the theory that there are wormholes inside dryers that only eat one half of any given pair of socks? Well, I think the same thing happens with booksmarks: you put them in books and sometimes the books eat them.
user24 said…
heh, I find stuff like this fascinating - I used to find so many things when I was at university that I actually created a whole website dedicated to things found in books - I'd love you to share the things you've found!
Bibliophile said…
User24, you are welcome to. You can either copy the post or link back to it. Just remember to give me credit.

I may be posting some more found things before long.

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