|The forty five cent paperback version published in 1967.|
I still have it intact!
Earlier this week on my blog Tossing It Out I mentioned about how I had pulled an old paperback book off of one of my bookshelves in order to read at the auto dealership as I waited for some work to be done on my van. This copy of The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder was one that I had purchased in 1967 for forty five cents. It had been required reading for my junior year of English and rather than borrow a copy from the library I chose to purchase a copy of my own.
Coincidentally as well as ironically I had read a Los Angeles Times review of a book called Letter to a Future Lover by Ander Monson the day previous to having pulled my old high school paperback off the shelf to read at the car dealer. Monson's book consists of essays regarding the things found tucked away in and written on the pages of library books.
|A corner torn from an English class vocabulary quiz. |
I doodled my strange little drawing after the
paper had been returned to me
Opening my book I discovered that the bookmark that still remained hidden within was a bit of paper torn from a vocabulary quiz. In my own cursive handwriting (which was not too bad I think) I had written my name, the class, and the date of December 20th of 1967. On the outer margins of the book pages I had drawn in pencil sequences that when the pages were flipped through depicted animated scenes of cars and a person running. Throughout the pages I had circled (or more accurately "rectangled") vocabulary words selected by Mrs. Vincent, my English teacher.
|One of over 100 tiny drawings on the outer margin of the|
book. When the pages are flipped animated sequences
are depicted. As you might see, art was never my forte.
I was never one to mark up my textbooks for fear of being charged for the damage at the end of the school year, however I did occasionally deface my own books. Thankfully I did not treat too many of my books with disrespect so most that I still own are in decent condition despite their age. In fact, I have rarely marked books with notes, underlining, or highlighting. Most of the time I considered my books my treasures unless I happened to be using them at school where boredom frequently set in. Mindless scribbling was often my act of defying the tedium of school.
Looking through my current personal library I would undoubtedly find odd scraps of paper--receipts, religious tracts, newspaper clippings, candy wrappers, and any other number of bits that would have served as the makeshift bookmark for the moment. If there are books with penciled in marginalia, those written words or drawings were probably because the book had belonged to someone else and the markings were not done by me.
All of the doodlings, notes, and detritus to be found within the pages of books are artifacts of history in a sense. Those that are mine represent some part of my past that I might immediately recognize while other findings might be more puzzling and require some deciphering of my past. When such ephemera comes from a book that has been acquired from a friend, a family member, a spouse, or even a second hand acquisition from some unknown past book owner then the artifacts become more of a mystery that might be solved or more often might remain something upon which to speculate.
My rereading of The Bridge of San Luis Rey was worth the time spent though no specific memories were roused from the book itself. However it was interesting to see the tiny drawings and the writings done by my own hand. Some memories were revived. I don't plan to be riffling through the pages of all the books in my home library, but I will now have a heightened awareness when I do happen to look within one on those old books.
Our books are often a storehouse of small hidden treasures that can stir up the dusty hallways tucked away in the recesses of our minds. A note scrawled on the page of a book can revive a forgotten memory as well as present a puzzler on which to ponder. That odd scrap grabbed in haste for a bookmark might be a relic that awakens the past. If you have old books from high school or college or just from a younger day, flip through a few. You might be surprised by what you might find.
Do you write on the pages on the books you own? Have you ever made an exciting discovery within the pages of an older book? What is the oddest thing you've ever used for a bookmark?