I ran across a really interesting book/website yesterday when a customer asked for it (we didn’t have a copy, sadly).
Forgotten Bookmarks is a collection of things found or used as pagemarkers in old and used books. The author is a bookseller, and I can definitely relate to the sheer curiosity of things found in old books. Sometimes it’s a little bit like looking into someone’s life (especially if the bookmark is a card, letter, or plane ticket stub). While I haven’t seen the actual book yet, I’ve wasted a good bit of time poking through the website and looking at all the ephemera that Michael Popek has collected.
It’s kind of voyeuristic, in a way that Post Secret used to be, in that you’re looking at these little tidbits of people’s lives.
I know I’ve seen things at the buy counter that have made me wonder where the person was from and what they were like – both in the collection of books they bring and in the odds and ends that get left behind when people clean house. The most poignant was someone’s collection of refrigerator magnets, a whole life in pictures and souvenir magnets all tossed in a plastic grocery sack. (Those didn’t get thrown out, thankfully) The books with inscriptions, especially meaningful ones, I usually try to point out to the seller – often they don’t care, if their items are just from someone’s storage unit or from a distant relative, but sometimes they choose to keep them.
This is probably the hardest part about buying books from the public. I’m essentially putting a value on someone’s memories, and I have to help them see that those memories don’t really go along with the books. Two copies of a novel, one which sat on a shelf and one that was carefully read by someone’s favorite aunt are still just two copies of a novel to the store.
On the other hand, things like forgotten bookmarks can be really interesting ties to the past – receipts from college bookstores in the 50’s, a notecard with a list of books on it. These things aren’t really personal memories, but they’re interesting tidbits none the less.
As such, I can’t decide if I should order Forgotten Bookmarks… or just wait for it to come into the store, used, and see if there’s anything fun left inside it.