Monday, August 08, 2011

Found Ten

Ten Things I've Found in Old Books

1. Love Letter: back in 1978 a new wife gave a handyman book to her husband after they bought their first home, and wrote a funny, beautiful note to him on the inside of the front cover. Thirty years later I bought the same book from a UBS for my guy, and didn't discover the letter until I got home.

2. Seed Packet: This fell out of a newer landscaping book I bought at a flea market. It was never opened so the seeds are still inside. I should plant them somewhere.

3. Old Photo: in 1917 a lady named Eloise Barto visited the Lackawanna Botanical Gardens in New York and had her picture taken by some flowers. How do I know this? Someone took a photo of her and wrote her name, the date and the location on the back of it, and ninety years later I found the photo tucked into a collection of Spenser's poetry. Btw, Eloise's eyes and expression were what first inspired my character Jessa in Shadowlight.

4. Book Spine: The actual spine cover of a nineteenth century edition of Byron's complete works, found inside the same book (I think the bookseller probably tucked it inside so it wouldn't be lost.)

5. Bookplates: Many of the older books I buy come with bookplates, as that was the custom in the old days, but this one was particularly charming, as it features a Pegasus flying through a starry night sky and the names Henry & Roberta inscribed on it. Found in a 1956 edition of Helen Ashton's The Half-Crown House. One of these days I have to use those names in a story.

6. Hair Pick Directions: Someone used as a bookmark the cardboard insert for a hairpick, which has illustrations on how to use it. I found it in a used copy of Kahlil Gibran's collected works.

7. Silk Ribbon: This cream-colored, completely unmarked ribbon had darkened at the bottom from where it protruded from the old King James Bible where it was left and that I bought about fifty years later from a church rummage sale.

8. A-B Honor Roll Award: A red ribbon from a nearby elementary school left in a romance novel. I always feel bad about having this one, as the mom probably meant to keep it, but there were no clues as to who the book belonged to before I bought it from a UBS.

9. Multi-colored paper ribbon: This looks like a remnant from some gift-wrapping ribbon. I found it literally wound around a section of a pocket thesaurus.

10. Button Bag: a small plastic zip-lock bag with two buttons in it; the kind that is sold attached to a nice blouse as spares. Found tucked in the center of a newer hardcover I bought from a library sale.


  1. DeeCee12:47 AM

    I work in a USB, and find the weirdest things. I've found a pilot flight log, a marriage decree, divorce settlement and naked pictures of people. But I think the saddest was in a donation that featured a birth certificate and an obituary in a bible of a little boy who was only 4. Terribly weird things people leave in books though. Never have found money or a winning lottery ticket.

  2. Those are amazing finds! Especially that photo. I usually find bookmarks, though once I found an index card with notes on how to plot a novel. The handwriting was beautiful and the notes were useful. I imagine someone must've been taking down notes from a how-to writing book, or perhaps from a blog and then used it as a bookmark.

    Do you know the blog Forgotten Bookmarks? Check it out: The blogger works in a used bookstore and posts all the wonderful items he finds in books.

  3. Anonymous1:58 AM

    Hee! I've used the bags with buttons as bookmarks as well.

  4. I found a piece of notepaper from a hotel in Los Angeles in a library book that I took out here in Ireland and that (I checked) was manufactured in the UK. I also found a train ticket from London in a library book. I guess people often use whatever is closest for a bookmark!

  5. I have a 1956 first edition SF novel by William F. Temple. Pasted in the front there's a bookplate for a school award, and tucked inside there's an old bill for motorbike parts in pounds, shillings and pence.

    I've never seen another copy of this book, either on ebay or AbeBooks (I had notifications set up for 4 or 5 years before I finally scored this one.)

    The bits and pieces inside just make it that much more special.

    Here's an article I wrote on the series, and finding the last book:

    Since posting it five or six years ago I've been emailed by the author's widow, a grandson, and a daughter.

  6. It makes me sad that in these days of Kindles, eBooks and the suchlike, finds like these are a dying thing. If I physically buy a book for a person, rather than ordering it online, I'll scribble a note in the front for posterity. I used to write notes further into books that I bought my wife.

    I have never been lucky enough to find anything inside an old book - yet.

  7. I once found a card with the opening schedule for the night emergency pharmacy service in a nearby town in 1976 in a paperback of Daphne Du Maurier's House on the Strand. At the time, the local pharmacies had a rotating schedule which one would keep open at night in case of emergencies.

    In a paperback edition of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own I found the ticket for a theater play based on the essay as well as a newspaper clipping of a review of the same play, both dating from the early 1990s.

    I also once opened a paperback edition of Looks and Smiles by British author Barry Hines to find that it was signed by the author.

  8. Nice finds Lynn! I once found a pen that I used during my childhood. The brand doesnt sell anymore. Its almost like antique.


  9. I have found several bookmarks, many boarding cards, postcards, movie and theatre ticket stubs, a few photographs, some money, and on one occasion a letter. Also stamps and any number of dried flowers and four-leaf clovers. The sweetest was a child's drawing, and the ickiest was a used hormone patch - ugh!
    The letter, photographs and money I found inside library books, which is why I always check inside the books I check out before I return them.

  10. Anonymous8:00 PM


  11. Anonymous wrote: USB?????

    Oops, my bad. That should be UBS (used book store).

  12. I love finding items in used books also. It is the bonus prize after buying a used book. I've never found money...yet!

  13. I stumbled upon your wonderful blog. I am intrigued by #1 - what did the letter say?


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