One bookshop has collected some of the odd, intriguing personal treasures left within the pages of 'pre-loved' volumes
It was while I was collecting my latest find from Skoob Books that the manager, Chris, asked if I was interested in visiting their warehouse in Oxford and having a look at some of the items they've found inside secondhand books over the years. Now, Skoob's warehouse is home to more than a million volumes – one of the largest private collections in the UK, with each insertion and inscription dutifully collated – so needless to say I jumped at the chance. (It's probably worth mentioning here that this is not a storehouse of remainders or pallets of books that nobody wants. Rather, each volume is a previously-read book, bought with the commitment to "find another reader if at all possible", the admirable mission being to resist the shredder and the digitiser and preserve the context, as well as the content, of the printed word.) And so it was that, one bright and balmy day, Chris drove me to an industrial estate just outside the city. Here, I was allowed to wander the musty aisles, before being taken into one of the offices to gaze upon the fabled Wall of Found: a series of noticeboards that I was given permission to partially dismantle for the purpose of this piece.
Pressed flowersDo people still press flowers and leaves between the pages of books? Or has this practice gone the way of making one's own perfume out of petals, playing penny-up-against-the-wall and buying imitation-leather bookmarks?
Bookmarks (see above for picture)Not surprisingly, bookmarks are a common find in secondhand books. And here is a rather nice selection. Personally, my favourite is the black imitation-leather RSC bookmark. Which made me wonder: whatever did happen to imitation-leather bookmarks? Once upon a time, no family outing to a museum or zoo was complete without coming away with a souvenir imitation-leather bookmark. Now, they're like hens' teeth. I assume there's some perfectly reasonable, environmentally sound explanation for their disappearance, but the world does seem a slightly less civilised place without them… (anyone?)
Dog-photo, tickets, etcA business card, an inspirational poem-cum-bookplate, a blurred photograph of an inquisitive chocolate-brown dog, a child's handmade card, an ad for Spokes & Son's Motor Cycle Service, and an itemised bill for rooms 10-11, of the Caledonian Hotel, Callander, circa 1953. Surely, we have all the necessary ingredients for a good William Trevor short story right here…
Or perhaps a novella by Graham Greene ...