Friday, September 17, 2010

On things found inside old books

There was a small article in The Guardian talking about marginalia and the fact that it will likely be lost in e-books. It is not just marginalia, those small and sometimes quirky bits of writing that readers leave behind in books. If you are famous, your marginalia in a book could make that book a lot more valuable. In my case, if wrote in my books margins, they would probably discard the book because it would actually lower the value. At any rate, I don't like writing in books overall. I had to do it in college for a couple of literature classes (the professor would literally tell us mark this or that and make this or that note on the margin). I tend to prefer making any reading notes in my personal journal.

Anyhow, the article also mentions objects you may find in books years later left behind by a reader; it could be a bus ticket, a restaurant receipt, so on. The one item I thought about was a receipt from the Club de Lectores de Puerto Rico (PR Readers' Club, kind of a local version of the Book of the Month Club). The CLPR folded years ago, but what is interesting to me is that it was a handwritten receipt. This was long before personal computers were more than somebody's imagination figment. The receipt currently resides in my mother's tattered copy of Cien aƱos de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) that I know possess. I can imagine her looking over some catalog that came in the mail, making her selection, filling out the form and sending it out. Then, some guys in some warehouse would receive the order, go find the books, fill out the receipt order form, and send it with the book to my mother. She likely used the receipt as her bookmark. I usually use a "proper" bookmark when I read books (I only use scraps of paper or other things when a bookmark is not handy), but the receipt has stayed there. It's just another small connection to her and the past much as reading a book that belonged to her connects me to her and what she read. And it reminds me of a simpler time perhaps.

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