Stuff in Old Books
September 25, 2014 5:57 PM   Subscribe

I like the "How to open this book" instructional manual, though it would seem to defeat the purpose of the pamphlet to place it inside of a book.
posted by Atom Eyes at 6:02 PM on September 25, 2014

This post smells good, like old books.
posted by vrakatar at 6:05 PM on September 25, 2014

Yes, inside of a book it's too dark to read.
posted by uosuaq at 6:05 PM on September 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

Neat! I found not one but two 1970 San Francisco Muni passes in a used book (purchased in Chicago, mind you) just the other day. I love my Kindle but that kind of stuff hardly ever falls out of it.
posted by theodolite at 6:21 PM on September 25, 2014

This is rad. Thank you.
posted by davidjmcgee at 6:41 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh man, that one find with the advert for the classic SF. Again Dangerous Visions (and Dangerous Visions). I'd have never gotten through that one summer in Bridgeport, CA without those books (and a few others from the great small public library in town there), but especially those, because why have I been wasting my time since Junior High chewing through Larry Niven's entire ouerve when I could have been digging through all of this?
posted by notyou at 6:42 PM on September 25, 2014

Someone should try to find the woman who was "coming of age" in 1956. She might be happy to be given something with her mother's (? just a guess) handwriting on it.
posted by Shebear at 6:42 PM on September 25, 2014

In the absence of Related Posts (unique tags), I give you Related.
posted by unliteral at 6:53 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

My best stuff-in-old books find was the author's calling card, which fell out onto my chest as a I turned a page while reading in bed. (This was a first edition of S. Foster Damon's William Blake: His Philosophy and Symbols from, I believe, 1924.) On the back of the card was written in pencil "sorry not to find you in -- will you come to tea Monday at 12".
posted by uosuaq at 7:20 PM on September 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Never found anything super-memorable, I think the best might have been a couple of US greenbacks (which I wish I had given to a panhandler in Sydney who used to go around with an American accent, who I bumped into multiple times and heard the same story from - they really missed the hell out of their flight, that's for sure), and the also-best was a Penthouse playing card which I found in a book I was leafing through at Tonnoir's as just-a-teen, and which I pocketed and later enjoyed regularly.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:13 PM on September 25, 2014

There's also Forgotten Bookmarks by a used book dealer in upstate New York.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:22 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

About a year ago, I moved houses. I donated a lot of books. I was paranoid that I would leave something of value in one of the books so I went through all of them before boxing them up. I found some cool things of my own. It was a great feeling to find cool stuff I had either thought long gone or had forgotten about. Old pictures, kids drawings, a 20 year old to-do list, and a $20 bill.
posted by 724A at 9:23 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I found a U.S. two-dollar bill with the scene on the back hand-colored so that the jackets, pants, shoes, and furniture were filled with deep, saturated colors (green, magenta, red, blue, orange), but nothing else. The bill is in a plastic sleeve obviously made to hold “collectable” U.S. bills.
posted by D.C. at 9:38 PM on September 25, 2014

Book Traces is a crowdsourced project to find stuff (and markings) in old books in circulating library collections. There's a Tumblr gallery of some of the finds, and the project lead, Andrew Stauffer, recently gave an interesting interview about the project on CBC Radio's Spark program. (Self-linkage disclosure: I was involved in the development of the Book Traces website.)
posted by Orinda at 10:05 PM on September 25, 2014

The comments on the bonus AbeBooks link are worth reading. From there, two extra links from the Cambridge Library Collection blog: Things You Find In Books and More Things Found in Books. Also:

I went into a stately home in Norfolk a long time ago in the mid 1980's to do some research and out of a 17th century scientific pamphlet on Halley's Comet with a lovely Zaehnsdorf binding, fell out a fried egg...
posted by rory at 3:37 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

In a book put out by NYU press, I found a letter addressed to a contributor to the very book I was holding, hoping they enjoyed the finished product. An intern must have picked it up from the glom table and hocked it to the Strand for food money. Same deal with review copies of books that were sent to NY Times and resold to the bookstore unopened.
posted by dr_dank at 4:58 AM on September 26, 2014

Working in public libraries for 15+ years, let's see: a condom, a tampon (both were unused) and pretty much everything you could fit between the pages of a book.
posted by marxchivist at 5:17 AM on September 26, 2014

Like many computer nerds I have a small but growing collection of very old computer books. Once in a great while I will find a punch card bookmark. This gives me an awesome feeling of connection to history.
posted by poe at 7:03 AM on September 26, 2014

The remaining books went to a local thrift shop, including a microwave cookbook which, as it turned out, contained 40 $1000 bills.

Misprint? Forty bills of any denomination make up a healthy wad. Even spaced out over an entire book, that would make for a pretty obvious bulge that a lot of people would have missed. Not saying it didn't happen, but still....
posted by IndigoJones at 7:07 AM on September 26, 2014

My grandfather loved pansies, and he'd dry his favorite ones in books. He had a lot of favorite pansies, though, so there was probably at least one in every book he owned.

I've found a lot of leaves and flowers and letters and lists and tickets and things in used books, but I once bought a 19th century anatomy book at a thrift store and found a very, old likely post mortem picture of a baby inside.

Oh, and if anyone finds a bunch of handmade bookmarks made from pictures of pretty boys in tight pants cut out of magazines and "laminated" with scotch tape, those are mine. I specifically remember David Johansen and Generation X era Billy Idol. I need those back.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:09 AM on September 26, 2014

I feel like that "Fat Lambs" phrase must be a mnemonic for something, but I can't figure out what. This is going to bother me for a while now.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:56 AM on September 26, 2014

The Whiskey au go go post card is interesting. Also the Queen Street Mall postcard showing the original blue upturned useless sun shade and the original Jimmys.
posted by mattoxic at 9:11 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Things I've found going through books customers brought in (I work in a bookstore):

--polaroids of the customers--the sort they shouldn't have left in the books

--"currency" printed up by the city of River Falls, MN, in the mid 19th century--value $.25--apparently during a local money shortage, and used to facilitate local transactions

--dead insects (usually dead) dead mice (pretty common), dead leaves

--a live snake (it was a pet, and the owners were really happy to get it back)

--the scrapbook of a 1950s Minnesota State Fair "Princess Kay of the Milky Way", complete with news articles, pictures of the butter sculpture, congratulatory telegrams, etc

--a lot of birthday cards, some with money still in them )gave back to customers)

--a few really heart-rending letters, often by high school kids in pain

--a flier for the American Eugenics Society, from the 30s

and a lot more. It's one of the fascinating things about the job.
posted by librosegretti at 9:12 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

About five years ago I opened a book of mine -- which I hadn't read in ages -- and out fell a slip of paper that said "Never forget you are my friend." It was signed by my best friend (who lives a thousand miles away) and dated in 1999.

It made my goddamned week then, and when I came across it again on Wednesday it do so again. Miss you, Duds!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:29 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just last year, I had a 1947 temporary Virginia driver's license fall out of a book I got at a used book store. Tried looking up the owner, but no luck --- even the house in the address is long gone.
posted by easily confused at 11:55 AM on September 26, 2014

I bought a bunch of old books at an estate sale and left them in the backseat for a while. My boy started reading them.

"Daddy, I think I found the ransom for the boy Robert Louis Stephenson kidnapped."

He'd found some old silver certificates and was absolutely convinced that we were going to rescue that poor boy.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 11:57 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I once nearly passed on a book at the same hospital ladies' auxiliary thrift store where I'd scored a pair of duckpin balls in a neat two-tone bag for $3, only to find a folded twenty under the balls, because when I opened it, I found notes scrawled in the margins throughout and all sorts of ephemera tucked into the pages.

It was fifty cents that day, on half-price hardback day, and I'd been wanting a hardback copy of Life, The Universe, and Everything for a long time, so I shrugged off the scrawl, brought it home, and filed it neatly on my bookshelf next to The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe. Some years later, looking for something to read on the bus, I pulled it from the shelf, tucked it in my bag, and was paging through while distracted by the passing landscape outside the bus when I realized there were a bunch of old-style paper swipe-machine credit card slips and other things in the book.

Hmm, I thought, noting that the name on the slips seemed awfully familiar, and after a few more bewildered moments of brow furrowing and paging through, I felt my heart leaping around in my chest like a caffeinated frog and had a terribly hard time not screaming uncontrollably, because I'd verrrrrry slowly put together a collection of incomprehensible observations regarding things tucked into a book.

It's not merely odd that one would find a number of credit card slips imprinted with the name Douglas Adams in a book by Douglas Adams—it's as improbable as the number you'd get if you fed my telephone number and his into the infinite improbability drive and multiplied the whole mess by the ages of the ladies running the hospital ladies' auxiliary thrift store on the day I'd walked in, and right there on that bus, overcome by the fact that I'd somehow ended up with the copy of the book one of my most beloved authors had carried on a book junket in 1983 and that he wasn't around so that I could write to him and tell him what had happened, I had a brief flush of tears and I clutched that book to my bosom like it was a splinter of the true cross.

Should my house ever go up in flames, any passerby in the vicinity would see me running out of the wall of fire with a dingo, a tiny beagle, this impossible book, a flash drive containing the current edits of my manuscripts and music, an autographed photo of Geraldine Page, and a Jah Wobble album. Properly magical items are rare, but wonderful, things.
posted by sonascope at 7:59 PM on September 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

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