Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Forgotten Bookmarks": the traces of readers, left behind in books

The website of a used-book seller, Forgotten Bookmarks, posts the ephemera left behind in used books. What gets left behind between pages is probably just as good as any human time capsule encased in stone, and much easier to retrieve at will, too, before a hundred years have passed.

These are books bought for a thousand occasions: novels to pass the time on vacation, books as gifts, textbooks as schoolroom drudgery, library books never returned. In each case the variety of forgotten and left behind items posted here shows readers in a hurry to part with the printed page. These can be tantalizing and incomplete clues to the reading life: advertising counts for a surprising amount of book-mark material, as do reminders about doctor's appointments, scenic post-cards, and a wide variety of notes (sometimes of the bank kind).

For some readers it must be easier to tell a dream, a personal story, and tuck it away in a book, with no one to know. Here's an example of one remarkable retrieved night, found in a copy of Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief by Dorothy Gilman (1993). The Forgotten Bookmarks note and transcription: looks like a page from a journal or dream notebook.
Saturday, July 26, 2008

2nd AM of 2 powerful dreams.
Yesterday: woke up from maybe couple hours of progressive dreams: me from younger to older. 1st really erotic dream I can remember having. Bill was downstairs, though; Murphy's whining at door brought me to consciousness. (the same Murphy who needed to go out and 
is not getting tummy rubs to my left)
This AM: vivid regressive dreams - born though (what?) maybe seven lifetimes. Part-way through I knew in dream that I'd been through "older lives." Two brothers, a sister? Boys had different fathers. Smarter one aged more quickly than less gifted, but sweeter, brother. A sort of Lex Luthor/Marvel Comics/radiation thing I was "burned?" at some point in my life?
Woke up just b-4 6 AM. Bill facing me - my reality touchstone. Ernie was slightly erect, became more so with (rather insistent on my part) stroking. Lower back/pelvis killing me; remembered stomach/ab contraction can ease pain, so did that. Realized dream sequence and got conscious enough to realize that waking Bill wasn't fair. Left Ernie to rest, kissed my beloved, patted/scratched Murphy with my foot while reaching for journal and pen, Had to pee, so did that, then got book's (??) dog to go downstairs. He had to pee - long night for him - and now we are on couch w/Murphy properly curled up to my left my R wrist properly braced, and me pondering the powerful dreams showing me that I am coming into the kairostic moment of being not in my past nor in my future, but the true present. And I can get my life in order, my finances - my heart, soul, body - and not only God but also life is good - all the time.
Thank you.
That closing remark -- "thank you" -- is the mystifying piece, as if the note was addressed to the dream self. Many of the notes have no such narrative to frame them. Here is another, with helpful but intriguing notes from the blog's curator: Found in "Apollo: An Illustrated Manual of the History of Art Throughout The Ages" by S. Reinach. Published by Charles Scribner's Sons, 1935. Short note, looks like the start of a story. Most of the page is missing:
March 31st - '36
Written Feb. 21 '37
Sun. Eve.

Twilight had settled over the small city.

A girl came out of a hotel ...

stepped into a car at the...(other side)

caused it to glide so easily over the ground and then too, there was the dip in the road just ahead, so the girl said "Let it go."

The machine leaped forward but so did...

dog, from the side of the road, at the...

The site's past posts indicate a new years' tragedy of burst water pipes, a paper-trader's nightmare. It might be worth a browse to offer condolences. If you're in the mood you might contact the bookseller and offer your own scans of lost-and-found used book items. Here's a recent post, with photos.
... I wanted to get an early start this morning, as with yesterday's holiday, we would have twice the orders to wrap up and get out. I was in by 7:30 or so, and the first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was that there was a big puddle. At first I thought some snow might have drifted under the door and melted, as the winds were high last night. Then I heard the sound. The great hissing of the beast.

It took me a second to realize what had happened and what I had to do. I sloshed though the water and over to the main shut-off. The hissing quieted, then stopped. I got up off the floor and took a good look; it was still mostly dark outside, and the only light was from the EXIT sign above the door. I noticed the reflection on the floor, rippling. This wasn't just a little water. It's a good thing I wore my boots.

Thank you for indulging me a bit. I'm a little overwhelmed. And sad. And angry... but I wanted to let you know where I've been this morning. For a moment, I wondered what I was doing here on Blogger in the middle of this emergency, but I realized that you all are my friends, and I'm here to share news with you, good or bad. Today is not good, but we're all alive and it appears that we have only lost about $10,000 in books or so. It could have been a lot worse...
The pipe burst right behind my desk, where we keep a lot of the expensive books, and where I keep all the forgotten bookmarks. I lost most of them. 

A loss of "about $10,000" in used books is sad news indeed, though the lost volumes will undoubtedly be replaced with more used books. But the bookmarks and other ephemera of the individual reading life are irreplaceable.

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