10 of My Favorite Things to Find in Secondhand Books by Amanda Lockwood
As far as I can tell there are two main groups of book lovers. Those who prefer pristine new books and those who prefer second hand copies. I fall into the latter category. One of my favorite things is to find notes and hidden surprises in books. I’ve found a number of interesting things. Here is a list of my 10 favorite things I’ve found in second hand books –
- Pressed plants – the majority of the pressed plants I’ve found have been put there on purpose though I think the plant material found in my oldest book might be there on accident. Photographs from left to right plant matter in Dominicalia & Festivalia Evangelia, Graeco-Latina printed 1687; pressed plant found in the index of The Dispensatory by George B. Wood and Franklin Bache published 1873; pressed plant in note next to illustration in Gray’s Lessons in Botany and Vegetable Physiology published 1881
- Dedications – I love seeing the thought and care put into books given as gifts. It gives the book a history and adds to the contents within for me. Photographs from left to right dedication in book of hymns; inscription to me in a used copy of Someplace to be Flying by Charles De Lint; inscription in Green Lantern Sleepers Book Two by Christopher J. Priest and Michael Ahn.
- Notes – I have penchant for old medical and botanical textbooks. These have notes and information from those who have learned from the text before. Photographs from left to right translation notes in Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Primer Ninth Edition revised by Norman Davis; notes on illustration plate from Neill on the Arteries published 1845; note next to illustration in Gray’s Lessons in Botany and Vegetable Physiology published 1881.
- Previous owners of the book – for old books it shows who had it and kept. It can be a history of the life of the text. Photographs from left to right crossed out names and ex libris stickers/stamps in Dominicalia & Festivalia Evangelia, Graeco-Latina printed 1687; names and dates of medical students from Neill on the Arteries published 1845; name and date in a pocket bible published by William Rutter & Co.
- Newspaper clippings – to date I’ve only found one of these. I’m still very excited about it though I don’t know which side the original owner was interested in. Photographs two sides of newspaper clipping found in Dispensatory by George B. Wood and Franklin Bache published 1873.
- Recipes – these always remind me of an old cookbook my mother has. Though the ones in my library all come from the Dispensatory. Photograph personalized recipes for prescriptions found in Dispensatory by George B. Wood and Franklin Bache published 1873.
- Drawings – many of the drawings I’ve found in books have been put there on purpose instead of random doodles. As a comic reader I find it very special to see a piece of original and personal art in my copy of a comic book. The random doodles are always a puzzle when I find them. Photographs from left to right drawing by artist Steve Lieber on title page of White Out Volume II; cat drawing by artist Benjamin Dewey on title page of I Was the Cat; drawing of unknown subject on pages of Gray’s Lessons in Botany and Vegetable Physiology published 1881.
- Receipts and other mysterious papers – I’ve found all kinds of improvised bookmarks in books. Everything from cryptic notes to airline tickets. Photographs from left to right original New Hampshire purchase receipt for The Foxfire Book from a copy I purchased in Portland, OR; cryptic note in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams; grocery list and receipt in The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.
- Advertisements – advertisements are still common in books today. They are usually from the publisher about more books rather than for other products these days though. One of my favorite dictionaries was a promotion for a Nebraska store. Photographs from left to right advertisements for dictionaries and microscopes in Gray’s Lessons in Botany and Vegetable Physiology published 1881; promotional giveaway dictionary from Wolbach & Brach in Hasting Nebraska.
- Dog eared pages – dog earing books is a controversy. I don’t dog ear my books but I’m always curious about dog eared pages I find in used books. Is it a favorite page or just a place holder? Photographs from left to right dog eared page in book of hymns (title page missing, signature in front of books dated 1859); dog eared page in The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan.