Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Maxine 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.

Popular posts from this blog

Reading report for January 2014

Here it is, finally: the reading report for January. (February‘s report is in the works: I have it entered into Excel and I just need to transfer it into Word, edit the layout and write the preface. It will either take a couple of days or a couple of months).

I finished 26 books in January, although admittedly a number of them were novellas. As I mentioned in my previous post, I delved into a new(ish) type of genre: gay (or M/M) romance. I found everything from genuinely sweet romance to hardcore BDSM, in sub-genres like fantasy, suspense and mystery and even a quartet of entertaining (and unlikely) rock star romances. Other books I read in January include the highly enjoyable memoir of cooking doyenne Julia Child, two straight romances, and Jennifer Worth‘s trilogy of memoirs about her experiences as a midwife in a London slum in the 1950s. I also watched the first season of the TV series based on these books and may (I say 'may') write something about this when I have finis…

Stiff – The curious lives of human cadavers

Originally published in November and December 2004, in 4 parts. Book 42 in my first 52 books challenge.

Author: Mary Roach
Year published: 2003
Pages: 303
Genre: Popular science, biology
Where got: amazon.co.uk

Mom, Dad, what happens after we die?

This is a classic question most parents dread having to answer. While this book doesn’t answer the philosophical/theological part of the question – what happens to the soul? - it does claim to contain answers to the biological part, namely: what happens to the body?



Reading progress for Stiff:
Stiff is proving to be an interesting read. Roach writes in a matter-of-fact journalistic style that makes the subject seem less grim than it really is, but she does on occasion become a bit too flippant about it, I guess in an attempt to distance herself. Although she uses humour to ease the grimness, the jokes – which, by the way, are never about the dead, only the living, especially Roach herself – often fall flat. Perhaps it’s just me, but this is a serio…

How to make a simple origami bookmark

Here are some instructions on how to make a simple origami (paper folding) bookmark:

Take a square of paper. It can be patterned origami paper, gift paper or even office paper, just as long as it’s easy to fold. The square should not be much bigger than 10 cm/4 inches across, unless you intend to use the mark for a big book. The images show what the paper should look like after you follow each step of the instructions. The two sides of the paper are shown in different colours to make things easier, and the edges and fold lines are shown as black lines.


Fold the paper in half diagonally (corner to corner), and then unfold. Repeat with the other two corners. This is to find the middle and to make the rest of the folding easier. If the paper is thick or stiff it can help to reverse the folds.



Fold three of the corners in so that they meet in the middle. You now have a piece of paper resembling an open envelope. For the next two steps, ignore the flap.



Fold the square diagonally in two. You…