Monday, 15 January 2007

Bookmarks, Bacon and Notes in the Margin: The interesting things we find in books

What's the most interesting thing you've ever found lurking between the pages of a book? Perhaps the oddest the find was a piece of fossilised streaky bacon found in an old family bible by a friend of mine who is a second hand book dealer. It was being used as bookmark, it seemed, and left a clear impression of itself forever between Matthew 28 and Mark 1.

Other finds of the second handbook dealer include a multitude of bus and tram tickets (for journeys all over Britain), concert tickets (out of date), receipts (for all manner of purchases), and 2 pristine white £5 notes. The fivers were very old and quite valuable, but not as valuable as the 22 perfectly preserved Stevengraph Silk bookmarks which were distributed through the pages of yes, you guessed it, another ancient family bible!

Whilst family bibles and cookery books appear to be the most regular sources of notes and receipts, any book could potentially contain a diamond – and diamonds come in many forms. Take, for example, a post-it note left in a leather bound legal tome, and found by an actress experiencing a day as a law student for some reality tv show I caught the other day. As she complained miserably that one case kept leading to another, and another, ad infinitum, she stumbled across the note. It stated simply, "Law sucks! Don't be a solicitor."

I've always been fascinated by books because in one way or another they are treasure troves, whether or not the treasure was initially supposed to be there. Inscriptions in the fly leaf are marvellous things, a trail of ownership, of Christmases and Birthdays, of graduations and tokens of love. The carefully handwritten notes in a margin can often reveal a wealth of information about the previous owner/s of the book - and if you've ever found any, please post a comment and share it with us!

Even books in public libraries can become marked by their readers. My mother informed me that all the books she borrows from her local library have a tiny pencil ring around the number 13 wherever it occurs, but it only seems to affect Lynda La Plante, Catherine Cookson and the Liverpool Sagas. An old friend of mine loves to tell the story of a book he borrowed from his local library in the 1970s. It was about Hydroponic Gardening and before he returned it, he placed one perfectly formed and pressed leaf of Marijuana, just to show how well the techniques had worked. I still wonder who found it and what they did with it.

So I put the question to you. Have you ever found a note, or interesting object hidden in a book? A note in the margin that made you smile, or a photograph that haunted you? Please let me know!

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