Lost pets, ham, and creepy messages
February 22, 2019 3:29 PM   Subscribe

The University of Groningen's University Library City Centre has put all of the items left behind by patrons in 2018 on display. This prompted a Twitter user to query to the University of Winnipeg Library about lost and misplaced items, and the library shared a photo, via Twitter, of a "burrito" found in one of its books. Meanwhile, lost pets, ham, and creepy messages are just a few of the things Atlas Obscura readers have said are The Best Things Found Between the Pages of Old Books, and Things Found in Books is a self-explanatory Flickr group devoted to the topic.
posted by mandolin conspiracy (24 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I've found real treasures this way. Once, in a library book, I found an MIT punch card with an attractive midcentury modern logo (one of which you can see on this page). There were a few punches in it, but no other clues. It had clearly been used as a bookmark by someone who kept it for the purpose, since the book was from the 2000s, and I'm sure they missed it.

A while back, I bought a book of teen girls' fiction from sometime in the '60s, and I found a scrap of a magazine ad that had clearly been pressed flat since the day someone tore it out to use as a marker. It was for Tareyton cigarettes, and the text allowed me to date it to roughly 1968, meaning that I was the first person to lay eyes on it in about fifty years. If the reader never returned, I couldn't blame her. It was a pretty boring book.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:54 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]

This find (Twitter link) from Green Apple Books (my local used bookseller) is my favorite. Worth clicking if only because the old-lady handwriting makes it that much funnier, but it reads:

Dear Mr. Plaine
I want to thank you for the nice Hair Dryer that you sent me for Christmas
I am 86 years old, and have been at Laguna Honda Home for a long time, but I never owned a hair dryer. The lady in the next bed had one, but would never let me use it, well the other day she dropped her dryer and it broke in a million pieces
So now she wants to borrow my dryer
But Fuck her I will never loan her mine

Thanking you again
Mrs Carlson

posted by sunset in snow country at 3:58 PM on February 22 [26 favorites]

Damn, no sooner do I post that than I see a link in the replies to a Snopes article debunking it (I believe that they found it, since Green Apple Books would never lie to me, but it was probably put there by a jokester). Still funny though.
posted by sunset in snow country at 4:00 PM on February 22 [8 favorites]

Some things I found between the pages of books when I worked in an antiquarian bookstore about a decade ago:
- A series of nude photos (all of the same person)
- A greeting card with a Man Ray photo on the front, and a message written inside
- Some guy's certificate for having spectacular sales at the MLM Herbalife (this one was particularly weird)
- Argentine paper currency that was so crisp it looked like it had never been in circulation
- Yellowed receipts from since-forgotten mom and pop stores that had shuttered decades earlier
- Pancake syrup
posted by nightrecordings at 4:06 PM on February 22 [2 favorites]

Can someone please enlighten us as to why anyone would use bacon as a bookmark?

I cannot do so.
posted by doctornemo at 4:06 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]

Apparently a student at a university library where I worked took a bound journal volume, deficated on the front page of an article by one of the faculty, and then closed and reshelved the volume. the act of extreme criticism was discovered by odour...
posted by biggreenplant at 4:41 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]

there is a certain university library where a certain person who possibly at some point would later become a reclusive novelist may have on multiple occasions placed eighths of relatively decent weed behind the books on the shelves in particular sections. the heuristic used for determining which shelves to leave drugs in may have been based on the obscurity of the books on those shelves (the sweet spot hypothetically being "relatively obscure, though not so obscure that the eighth would go undiscovered for too many months") combined with the proto-novelist's sense of whether or not the people looking for those particular books would appreciate getting super blazed while reading them.

basically if this was done it was done on the theory that one should act in such a way as to maximize the happiness of all people everywhere, and that the eventual person finding weed behind (for example) the books on late antique neoplatonism or the biographies of alexander bogdanov would get more happiness out of that weed than the hypothetical proto-novelist would.

posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 4:54 PM on February 22 [25 favorites]

Spouse put his (ahem, technically mine) ortleib bike pannier down while browsing the UW library and left it there, and because it's one of a pair it was weeks and weeks before we realized it was gone. I hope whoever got their hands on it appreciated it (it's Seattle, they probably did...)
posted by quaking fajita at 5:10 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]

While evaluating books that hadn't circulated in some time as part of my duties as the selector of kids' nonfiction at the public library where I worked, I opened a book on insect identification to find a grasshopper neatly pressed (well, squashed, but neatly) on the book's title page.
posted by ClingClang at 5:26 PM on February 22 [4 favorites]

Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon: the books on late antique neoplatonism or the biographies of alexander bogdanov

If the library was using the Dewey decimal system, one could make hypothetical use of the English & Old English/Anglo Saxon section.

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:56 PM on February 22 [4 favorites]

My mom is a librarian at a small town public library. She found all kinds of weird shit in books, including a raw strip of bacon that was apparently being used as a bookmark. Not even in a cookbook, either.
posted by unstrungharp at 7:32 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]

My favorite found thing inside a book was a bookmark/advertisement for a movie theater in 1924 showing "North of 36". The book I found it in was nearly as old as the bookmark, yet the bookmark itself was in pristine condition. I treasure it because its such an obsure piece of ephemera and, consequently, I could find zero trace of it through Google.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 7:39 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]

I once bought a mystery novel that had a long,wispy list in fading script of 2 & 3 letter words. I treasured it and tried to up my scrabble game. I finally tossed it after at least a decade. Sometimes at †he used bookstore I worked at, we would find currency!!
posted by slothhog at 11:18 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]

Sometimes at †he used bookstore I worked at, we would find currency!!

Is this a secret message? Am I being contacted by aliens??
posted by lollymccatburglar at 12:28 AM on February 23 [5 favorites]

Anyway, the first time I tried to read War and Peace I was 13 years old, and I found a $50 bill tucked in somewhere around page 200. I excitedly showed it to my mom who was like "Well, since that's my old book, that money clearly belongs to me" and then wouldn't even give me a finders fee. I never did finish War and Peace.

My favorite thing I've ever found in a book is a handwritten recipe for Tuna Burgers on the last blank page of a copy of Pale Horse, Pale Rider. So the story goes like this: "No more war, no more plague, only the dazed silence that follows the ceasing of heavy guns; noiseless houses with the shades drawn, empty streets, the dead cold light of tomorrow. Now there would be time for everything. Tuna Burgers 1 can tuna drained and flaked, 1 cup soft bread crumbs, 1/2 cup chop celery" etc etc.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 12:35 AM on February 23 [12 favorites]

I have a 1927 book by the Estonian Eugenics Society titled Heritage and Selection: Handbook of Breed Health. Appropriately, on page 156 someone has put a Nazi era stamp with a swastika on it.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:22 AM on February 23

> Is this a secret message? Am I being contacted by aliens??

metafilter’s been an arg for like ten years now. until this comment I didn’t realize there were still people using it as a discussion site...
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:21 AM on February 23 [2 favorites]

I've been finding neat things in books for years and I make art out of them. Some of it was from when I was a librarian, but a lot was just from reading.
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:00 PM on February 23 [3 favorites]

My uncle bought a used copy of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! with a clipping of Feynman's obituary in it.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:28 PM on February 23

Today I learned that ladies' strings means something other than strings for ladies.
posted by 41swans at 4:31 AM on February 24

At one point many years ago I started reading paperback novels I got from the library that were historical fiction set in the pre-columbian new world. They were written by a couple of people who I expect were married, Kathleen and W. Gear. And there were a lot of them. The books were well researched but also enormously formulaic. There was almost always a scene where one or more people were deliberately poisoned, which I am assuming was a personal kink, and there was the obligatory scene of "Indian Torture", which is a very common kink.

I noticed the recurring theme of "Indian Torture" at my third book because the paperback books were falling open to that page, showing that many previous readers had spent extra time on that page. Once I read a few more of the books I started finding more bookmarks. Usually they were the anonymous printed detrius that you find for bookmarks, bus transfers, and the enclosures in junk mail. But I started to feel that I should leave those bookmarks in the page I found them and even, when I found a book that didn't have a bookmark to leave one as a guide for the readers who did not appreciate good research.

However my bus transfers usually get too crumpled to use and my junk mail enclosures go straight into the trash (no paper recycling where I live, sorry.) so I used what I use for bookmarks. Paper dolls.

There started my habit of creating paper dolls specifically to be book marks to be returned to the library inside books I borrow.

When my aunt passed away I inherited a small fat envelope of money that she dug out of her home safe and gave to me. Her husband brought it from Hong Kong where it had been legal tender when he emigrated. It was paper money printed during the Japanese occupation and at that time a substantial amount of money, but decades later worth nothing at all, despite my aunt's belief and hope that it was. Between the devaluing of currency and very accurate forgeries printed in China for the benefit of collectors the crumpled transfers in the bottom of my pocket were probably worth as much. So in order to get rid of the collection I started using it for bookmarks I took back to the library as well.

Whenever I come across something small, very flat and intriguing that I feel reluctance to just throw away, but can't keep because I have way too much intriguing stuff, I simply pass it on at the library for the next person to find. I like stuff but keeping it is not as much fun as enjoying it and sharing it.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:04 AM on February 24 [5 favorites]

The University of Groningen's University Library City Centre has put all of the items left behind by patrons in 2018 on display.

Do ID's and credit cards not have names on them in Groningen?
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:14 PM on February 24

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