Between the Sheets
It was on my first day as a Junior Librarian when the realisation hit me. Some people did not think about books the way I did. Not only that they most certainly did not view them with the respect, verging on reverence that I had been taught by parents and teachers alike.
On showing a strange pinkish piece of card that had fallen out of a returned book to my senior colleague, she resignedly replied ‘Oh dear, that’ll be Mr Harris. I’ve told him not to use his streaky bacon as a bookmark. I shall have to have words when he comes in on Thursday.’
I was appalled and indignant as only a 17year old fresh from school can be, and since that day I have been on the lookout for strange items either deliberately hidden, or accidentally left, in books.
We have several bulging folders full, ranging from photographs, postcards ,bus and train tickets, pressed flowers, timetables, letters and bookmarks. As librarians , collectors and sellers of books we have had endless fun and every new box is greeted with great anticipation in more ways than one.
Bookmarks, made for the job, come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Made from an endlessly fascinating variety of materials -silk, card, silver , leather and carrying messages, advertising material, love poems, biblical texts and sometimes embroidered or painted beautifully.
At least the loss of one of these is unlikely to result in frantic searching. But what about Mrs Saundersons’ Identity card? Was she in hot water when she failed to lay her hands on it in 1947? The mind boggles at the dreadful events that could have followed.
This sad little note from Agnes to her friend Betty has me puzzled. I secretly hope she got the next train home. It doesn’t sound worth the heartache, whatever it was! Can’t help wondering what was the exam and why did she go there in the first place?
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(From Previous column)
With our modern day relaxed rules about hospital visiting, how about this 1952 Hospital Visitors Permit! Can you imagine anyone agreeing to carry one of these nowadays?
I can just hear the matron’s manly footsteps thundering down the corridors of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, stopping only to frisk and check passes of the meek, regimented visitors! Woe betide anyone who turned up on the wrong day or at an unscheduled time. With the pass hidden in a book, maybe poor Mr Craig had no more visitors ever!
A special favourite of mine is this little poem, perhaps familiar to some but not to us.
The Fatal Guess
AS Edwin sat, with Ethel Maud, and gazed into her eyes,
He had a sudden brainwave, and he planned a glad surprise
‘Tomorrow is your birthday, dear’ She shyly murmured’ Yes,
You do not know how old I am’. He answered ‘I will guess’
‘Tomorrow I shall send a gift to you, my dearest dear,
A dainty floral offering, a rose for every year.
So count them very carefully, and see if I correctly guage
The sum of all the summers in my little sweethearts’ age’
He called upon the most expensive florist in the town,
And said, ‘Send twenty roses with this card to Miss E Brown.
I want the best selected blooms, the finest that can be,
So choose them very carefully, and charge them up to me’
After he had gone the florist said, ‘That man’s a decent toff,
He’s one of my best customers, so when I send them off
I’ll shove another dozen in, for roses are now cheap’
When Edwin called around that night to see his little Miss,
He got a cold and haughty stare, and not the usual kiss
He quickly saw the reason why, and turned both green and blue,
For there , spread out before his eyes, were roses…thirty-two
He gave one wild despairing glance, then beat a swift retreat
He sought the florist and what he said,
well I’d better not repeat!!!!!!!
Perhaps not perfect poetry, perhaps a music hall song of the day, but it strikes a sympathetic chord in one’s heart. Why had someone carefully inserted it in a tiny envelope and placed it in a book -well, there-bye hangs a tale, perhaps?
Only yesterday, a letter fell out of a book - to a lady who thought her great grandfather had been involved in the initial stages of ‘making gas’ in an old castle in Scotland. The ensuing sniggering, and ribald comments , kept us amused for some time but that only goes to show what pleasure there is to be had in the most surprising aspects of this bookselling lark (or maybe it only demonstrates the puerility of our humour- not moved on much in forty years of working with books) You choose!
And, of course we regard books as peaceful things, many bookmarks reflect the interests and wishes of ordinary people, and the realisation that knowledge is power.
And what do we make of the two book marks found in the same book; one for Goethe and one for gardening?
Brenda J Brown,