Books Hidden Treasures

Slightly quirky post from me today but it’s been very Man Booker heavy and thought would pop something a bit different in today’s blog. I meant to originally do this post after I had read Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner. It was the inside of the book cover that inspired me to start thinking about writing this post which is all about something I have been collecting for ages. The random things that we can sometimes find in second hand books or the notes people have left for whomever they gave the book to. The inside of my copy of Hotel Du Lac is one of the latter.

Inside Hotel du Lac... Well the book anyway.

A lovely reminder that someone, who remains nameless, bought this ‘for Greg, Christmas 85’ and because it was ‘one of my favourites’. I used to not like books to have names written in the covers and actually avoid them in charity shops turning my nose up, now I see it as a bit of history. I do try not to think how someone bought that book for someone special and they gave it away or something as that taints it somewhat. I do have a little collection of things I have found in the last year in books.

A selection of finds

  • A Hatchard’s gift tag “Richard – (Belated) Happy Birthday! With love, Stephen xx”
  • A post-it note of Andrews ‘things to do’ including ‘envelopes for booths’… interesting.
  • Two ABC tickets for 30th September 2000 though it annoyingly doesn’t say what film or which ABC cinema.
  • A stock control card from ‘Wimbledon Books’ for ‘A Bit of Singing & Dancing’ by Susan Hill which wasn’t the book I found it in nor does that book shop exist any longer.
  • A boarding stub for a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Fiumicino on the 17th of December, which year I will never know.
  • Postcard from the V&A which has been used as a week planner and mentions ‘Thursday = Inca-Market Leather Factory”
  • Some foreign phrases cello taped together both reading “Frigo – raccordez après s’il vous plait!”
  • A postcard of ‘Old Troon Golf Course’ taken from the ‘Marine Hotel, Troon’ a place I had never heard of before.

I love all of these little things that books have carried with them over the years as well as the words that they have enclosed. In fact I have always said I would like to write a book of short stories based around just these sorts of hidden gems. I think out of all of the above the one that could instantly give you the most information is the postcard from Troon sent at 4.30pm dated 7th July 1977… 

A postcard from Troon 1977

Weather in the high 80’sand I have to sit indoors all day, terrible. Slumming it at the five star Tunbury Hotel isn’t too bad – food quite tolerable and 1961 Chateaux Brown (Claret) slips down a treat. Hope all is well in London? My love to Char. J x

I think that’s priceless and conjures so much up instantly. A slightly different post I will grant you but its book related and is something that fascinates me. Is there anyone else out there who loves finding these things? Have you ever bought a book just because it had something old as a previous book mark, or have you popped said bookmark into the book you want to buy not the one it was it? What’s the strangest thing you have found? I would love to hear back from all of you on this as it really intrigues me. Oh, or what is the sweetest or most insteresting inscription you have found in a book?


Filed under Book Thoughts

24 responses to “Books Hidden Treasures

  1. Oh Simon, me! I love finding a reader’s history in books. This is such a heartwarming post.

    My copy of The Idiot has, inscribed: “For your beautiful soul.” I wrote about it here.

    My copy of The Silmarillion says: “To mother with love.”

  2. novelinsights

    I bought two Penguin ‘poet to poet’ poetry books which must have been proofs as they had paper slips ‘to be published: 1975 please do not distribute before this date’ 🙂

    I also found one of those little cigarette cards featuring an animal in my Anna Karenina – you know the ones you used to get in the 70’s which reminded me of going through things in my mum’s attic.

    I bought a book with gorgeous picture plates ‘Journeys to the Far North’ – an education book for children – really beautiful – which was inscribed as being given as a prize at the turn of the century!

    Sometimes it makes me a little sad when I read an inscription from a loving friend and the book has been passed on though…

    • I have a mission for you, get me to like poetry, its just never seemed to click with me. If you can do that then you can do anything.

      I am sure I once got a cigarette card with droopy dog on it. I then wondered why they were putting kids cartoon cards in fags… what were they trying to do to the youth of Britain?

  3. How fascinating and intriguing! Your short stories collection idea is a fabulous one and one I would love to read.

    I agree that it is somewhat tainted in my eyes too. I NEVER give away gifts that I receive, especially not books. Then again, it could be a posthumous donation to shop, which isn’t any cheerier a thought.

    I always used to turn my nose up at inscriptions too but as I collect more and more second-hand books I’m not so fussy; saying that though, all I have ever found are names and perhaps an age or date, which doesn’t tell me much.

    The sweetest inscriptions are to be found in some of my own books, presents from my boyfriend :).

    • I will amdit I am not as kind as you and have given away a few books people have bought me. In fact one was only last year when my Mum got me a copy of Vanity Fair. Now before I get lynched, firstly she didnt inscribe anything and secondly the back cover had clearly been in an accident and some of the pages were torn. I found an identical pristing second hand copy and so replaced it.

      Some books I have merely just done the first bit and parted with, is that wrong?

  4. Wow! I am fascinated by all of that. I find things now and again, but nothing close to this. The best thing I ever found in a book (a library book) was a bookmark that consisted of black and white pictures of Chicago. I called the photographer on the back of the bookmark and ordered a bunch more…of San Francisco, New York, L.A., and even one of Thailand.

  5. I have an old (early 20thC) edition of Dombey & Son by Charles Dickens. On the title page is written “To Doris, To while away the long hours in the nursing home. Love, Willy xxx”. Brought a tear to my eye, I confess.

    And Troon! I spent many a summer weekend on Troon beach when I was little. It’s on the Ayrshire coast, not very far from where I grew up.

    • Oh someone knows Troon how fabulous!

      Bless Doris, my great gran was called Doris I quite like the name. What a sweet inscription… unless Willy had put her in the home and was trying to make amends.

  6. Simon,

    I too have learned to appreciate the things I find in books. I sometimes think about the person who wrote a little message in the book. Did the person to whom they gave the book appreciate the gesture? Did they read the book? Did they enjoy the book as much as the person who gave them the book did?

    Makes me think that perhaps I should make more of an effort to “leave” things in books I borrow from the library or swap with others. Perhaps a little note on a post-it reading “I enjoyed this book. Hope you do too.”

    I’ll have to look through some of the books in my TBR pile to see what treasures I find there.

    • All those questiosn you ask completely articulate what i think when I see these things or notes in books. I want to know who the people were which I suppose could be deemed as a little scary hahahaha.

      i am wondering if I should leave notes in books I give to charity, mind you those tend to be the ones I havent liked. I could put ‘didn’t work for me, you may have better luck’ but would you buy a book with that in?

  7. Strangely enough (na na na na), after posting my first comment I received a secondhand Virago in the post that had both a Christmas message from 1986 and a little “to do” list hidden within the pages – I couldn’t make out the tiny writing wonderfully well but it had buy bread and deposit cheques at branch on it. These days I use my mobile phone for tasks lists!

    • Oh I still have a notebook or six that go everywhere with me and have been known to use old ones as book marks, maybe unwittingly I have left these for someone else before. Makes you think.

  8. I too love finding things in books and over the years have found all sorts like photos, train tickets, boarding passes, shopping lists, etc.

    Recently I found a receipt in an old pulp edition of Margaret Drabble’s The Ice Age. A receipt, no big deal. But this was the original receipt for the book purchased in 1978 from a bookstore within walking distance of my home. And the bookstore is still in business. For some reason, discovering the provenance of that book, and knowing that in 30 years the book was sold used just 3 blocks from were it was sold new is fascinating to me. Almost as fascinating as finding a book from Ohio in a used bookstore in Prague. The lives books lead…

    • Thats wonderful the original receipt. I am wondering if people have ever found anything dodgy in a book, I havent as yet!

      The whole thing about the bookstore is quite spooky, but good to see its still running.

  9. You need to check out the Book Inscription Project

    You might also like The Age of Uncertainty blog, as Steerforth writes tonnes of posts about the things he finds inside books as he sorts through them for a charity.

  10. Fun post, I’ve been meaning to do something on inscriptions for a while…

    The best thing I’ve found in a book was a really, really old photograph – probably 1940s?

    • Oh wow, I am yet to find a photograph. Actually I did once find a photograph but in someones book on a bookshelf I was noseying through (this was at Novel Insights actually so can verify) and was shocked as was a polaroid of her husemate topless!!!! Shocking!

  11. justicejenniferreads

    Love this post. I don’t buy many book – and when I do, I tend to buy them new (well, I have my parents buy them for me new) so I don’t find things like this in books I’ve picked up from used book stores, ect. But I do have a knack for finding things like this in library books. Frequently, it isn’t even a book I’ve borrowed or would ever intend to read – I work at the campus library and frequently these things just kind of fall out and into my lap. I always feel like they are little treasures destined for me. So far, I’ve decided to let them reside longer in their current storage places, but I might start taking them and collecting them. I like your idea of using them to write short stories.

    • I do love a new book, but it has to be pristine no scuff marks. Older books do have a sense of history and a past with them that a new book just doesnt. I do like a mix of both on the shelves though.

      I am yet to find anything someone has left in a library book, will keep on the lookout.

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