Thursday, September 06, 2007


[Phew, first real chance to stop and take a breath today. Imagine a day when you have extensive month-end financials to prepare and your printer, computer, brain and enthusiasm all refuse to co-operate. Also, you get called into a meeting that runs for 2 hours. On the upside it's a public holiday tomorrow! Yay, thank you POTUS and the Asia Pacific Leaders! Anyhoo...]

I love old and secondhand books. Love, love, love. I especially love it when there is a name and date, or some sort of identifying comments in a book, but best of all I love an inscription! Turns out I'm not the only one.

I have quite a few old books. Whenever I pick up my wonderful old 1920s 2 volume set of Mallory's "Le Morte D'Arthur" I like to think of Percy, the previous owner, and wonder if he enjoyed it as much as I did. Or wonder if Mabel made many things from the "Anchor Book of Needlework" she first cracked open in 1959. (At least a doily, I'm thinking.)

I have a few close friends that I can rely on to buy me interesting books, come birthdays or Christmas time. And if they haven't already, they usually get handed a pen and instructed to write something in the flyleaf. Not just for me to read, but long after I'm gone maybe someone else will read it and know that I had funny, sweet and kind friends? I hope so.

[Link via things magazine.]


Cecilia said...

I knew there was a reason I liked you! :) I love old books and old book inscriptions. I have never understood friends who give books without writing in them.

Thank you for a lovely post. It was a nice way to start the long weekend. And it has counterbalanced some of my not inconsiderable bitterness and bile over APEC.

The Other Andrew said...

:) I understand why some people think it defaces the book, but I never think of them in that way. The inscription adds to the book I think.

yaniboy said...

I have to say that I'm mostly one of those people Andrew... I was always brought up that you NEVER wrote in a book, you didn't dogear or fold pages (which still makes me crazy) and suchlike...

I've done it (the inscription thing) on a couple of occasions, although I think the instance that stopped me from doing it was when I gave a friend a book at Christmas with a lovely little message in it, and it turned out she already had a copy of said book (which I think also had an inscription in the front of it too)... little hard to return things after they've been written in.

thombeau said...

I always inscribe some heartfelt sentiment in books that are gifts to others. And I LOVE old books, especially obscure and archaic ones, that have someone else's message. It's an energy thing.

The one thing I can't tolerate is a book in which someone has underlined various passages. It's maddening, I tell you! I can never figure out why those particular sentences were underlined, why were they of greater significance to someone? If it's in pencil, I'll erase it. If it's in ink, I won't buy it.

I love used bookstores. LOVE them.

jason said...

you are most definitely not alone there! I feel exactly as you do!

I have (or had before the flood) a number of old turn of the century books with inscriptions, mostly romantic notes in poetry fountain pen.

I once found a copy of Proust, with a treasure trove of old photos of what looked like two gay lovers on vacation in the early 60s.

Ur-spo said...

i hope that old books and readers of them never ever go out of fashion.
the smell of old books is one of the best smells in the world.

The Other Andrew said...

Yani, I actually cringed when I read your comment about dog ears and folded corners in books! I NEVER do that, and I see people folding the corners of lovely books and think "Are you MAD?" I think inscribing is different though, and I often do it after I have given them the book, just in case.

Thom, I'm not so keen on underlining etc either but I've flicked through some books with margin notes and they can be very interesting!

Jason, oh I would love to find something like that in a book! I once found some snapshots left behind in a cupboard by some people who lived in a house before I did. Pics of young backpackers they looked like, sunning themselves in our courtyard and drinking wine in an empty version of our living rom. Strange but interesting.

Ur-spo, I agree!

John C said...

Yes, old books can be a fascinating glimpse into other lives. I buy used books more than I buy new ones so often pick up inscribed volumes. Some are a little sad, when you see they were given as presents then sold on. Others are poignant, given as prizes to Victorian children.

And I still find odd things in some of them: a pressed leaf for a bookmark, a Greek drachma note for another bookmark, reviews of the book snipped from newspapers, and so on.