Things found in books … (apart from words)

Can you believe that March has already arrived? The year is speeding by so very quickly, I hope it gives us all a chance to catch our breath soon.

In between sleeping, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, watching movies, catching up with friends, throwing the ball for the dog, and other usual weekend activities … I spent some more time sorting through my bookshelves. Apart from revisiting some favourite words and discovering some forgotten works still waiting to be read, I also found some other lovely surprises held within a few of the books. Such little treasures as these, are what makes secondhand books so special, and it’s an experience that e-books (while I love them too) just can’t offer.

Inside the cover of a collected book of letters entitled, ‘The Gentlest Art: A choice of letters by entertaining hands’ (isn’t that title fantastic?), I found a previous owner had added a letter torn from some other text to the collection. Amongst the pages of my copy of, ‘Meditations: Living, Dying and the Good Life’ by Marcus Aurelius, I  found a miniature woven rug. The final discovery of the day was a handwritten inscription in my lovely old copy of ‘West Running Brook’ by Robert Frost.

While the rug is sweet in its own way, my favourite finds would have to be the letter and the handwritten inscription (I’m certainly not one to resist the allure of words). This is the ‘Letter to a Laundry’ that was found within my lovely book of letters (I wonder if the sender received a positive response?):

I do have a very big soft spot for hand-written inscriptions in books, though perhaps it’s something we do less often now? That is a very great shame, because there’s nothing more wonderful than chancing upon a secondhand book and seeing clear evidence of its history or prior ownership … it’s especially lovely if the book was given as a gift, as this one was back in the Christmas of 1929 (don’t you love how they each wrote their own inscriptions?). The second inscription is my favourite.

Are you a lover of secret treasures too? Perhaps you’ve found something intriguingly wonderful within the pages of a book? (apart from the words of course). Be well, dear reader.


  1. Nico

    I found a book of poetry by Robert Browning with an inscription from 1933. I wonder how it ended up in a Salvation Army store in Newcastle 68 years later?

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Nico – (I hope you’ve been keeping well? … I’ll come visit your blog again soon).
      What a lovely inscription you found in that book … poetry books often have the most wonderful (and old) inscriptions. Wouldn’t it be lovely to find out exactly how it ended up at that Salvos? 🙂

  2. Fourth Daughter

    What a coincidence – I made my sister help me go through our childhood books on the weekend so we could give the ones we don’t need to the flood appeal. It really was like visiting old friends!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Fourth Daughter – It’s funny (in a nice way) when we discover people doing the same things as ourselves … perhaps it was the weekend to sort through books?

      There’s something wonderful about old books, and even when you’re sorting them to give away or donate, it’s nice to bid them a fond farewell before they leave.

  3. Lucent Imagery

    Ok, so we’re on the same wavelength again! I’ve been doing a huge family history project and just today got to finish photographing childhood books that belong to my Mum and I. it was so fun going through her books and finding cards and pressed flowers between the pages. She will read my blog tonight and see the photos I’ve put up today of our collection of childhood books that we have. Hers and mine. Each with stories in the pages, stories between the pages and memories around them all. Such lovely times. Hope you are having a great week.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Lucent Imagery – Great minds think alike? 😉
      That would have been fascinating sorting through all your mum’s books … it’s lovely to revisit personal histories as told through the pages of books we own.
      My week has been busy, but good … I hope your own is treating you wonderfully well too! 🙂

  4. Tasha S.

    And the next generation will somehow read our notes too…

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Tasha – I certainly hope so … in any case, I’m sure paper-based books (and the notes they contain) will always remain an important part of our lives.

  5. Katie Yang

    I love the inscriptions! And I hope we all have “the wisdom to know them” when true happiness comes.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Katie – The inscriptions are lovely indeed! They make me want to continue searching through the rest of my book collection for other similar examples.

  6. lenore*

    That’s so charming!
    I found an old calendar from 1970 when i moved to my current home…
    with beautiful handwritten schedules on it…I simply couldn’t throw it away somehow!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Lenore – Isn’t it just? I think this is the first time I’ve encountered a ‘double’ inscription at the front of a book … I think it’s such a lovely idea.

      How lovely that you found an old calendar in your current home … I just wouldn’t be able to throw out such a precious piece of someone else’s personal history either.

  7. Camila F.

    Such sweet finds. I’d love to write more often in books, that’s a lovely idea.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Camila – It’s always lovely to find sweet little treasures like this within preloved books … it makes me wonder on the book’s travels before it came to live with me.

      I should write in books more often too … my parents used to tell me that it’s always appropriate when giving a book as a gift to do just that.

  8. Krystal/Village

    I love the idea of treasures in old books 🙂 I once bought a purse from a second hand store and found a list of things to do still in it – i thought that was interesting to get a glimpse in to someone else’s life

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Krystal – It’s wonderful that old books have the potential to offer more loveliness than just their words … I love coming across people’s handwritten notes or inscriptions.

      Lucky you finding a purse with someone’s list in it … I love finding lists about the place (some people’s discarded shopping lists contain the most random and fascinating items). You’re right, it’s that little peak into someone else’s world that is so very intriguing.

  9. Gabrielle Bryden

    Who are Betty and Marion? These are the questions!!! I bet they have a few stories to tell – that is so cute how they have inscribed to each other with each others names in both (wierd but cute!). I love the treasures found in second hand book stores (and shops that sell collectibles).

    1. tracey (Post author)

      HI Gabrielle – I know, I want to know who they are too! I’d love to know how old they were and what possessed them to inscribe the book in this way … I wonder if they did this ‘double entry’ in all their books?

      I think it’s very odd, but endearingly charming too … I agree with you, I bet they were the kind of people with lots of interesting stories to tell.

      Secondhand books are amazing – I can spend hours and hours poking about the place and I never fail to come away with a few bits and pieces. It would be lovely if the budget (and the household space) would allow me to indulge in such activities more often! 😉

  10. Gabrielle Bryden

    ps. that is the most polite letter of complaint (letter to a laundry) ever – haha – and ever so rational.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Gabrielle – Haha, it surely has to be the most polite laundry complaint letter … I can’t imagine we’d find a modern day example quite like this one! 😉

  11. Narnie

    I only buy second hand books… mostly because they’ve been discarded somewhere along the line which seems kinda sad. I remember telling Paul that I wanted to jot things and make notes and doodle on his, to which I got a fierce telling off, haha. But then I know that when he was a child he did the same and I now have his doodles to look at. That makes me immensely happy. My other favourite is one of my own oldest books, which I studied at school. It’s a Tennyson collection and all my O-level revisions are on there along with diagrams of the Lady of Shallots Castle… all in pink ink pen. Hopefully one day, one of my girls will hold on to it and feel like she has kept a little bit of me.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Kiersty – (Firstly, eep! … an email to you is next on my list to do … apologies for my slack response).
      Secondhand books are wonderful things indeed … when I was a kid I used to love buying brand new books, but now I crave that sense of history that comes from the preloved versions. And in any case, most things like clothes and books are better when they’ve been ‘worn in’ by someone else.

      Haha, that’s a great story about Paul … making a personal mark in books we love is such a nice way of carrying ourselves forward with that book’s journey. I completely understand the happiness that comes from doing that, and seeing the notes and doodles of others.

      How lovely that you have a book that you’ve marked up yourself with notes and pictures (and I love that you used pink pen). I’m sure your daughters will consider that book a precious treasure indeed. Now I must look through my childhood and young adult book collections and see if I’ve kept any with my scribbles in them … 😀

  12. charmaine

    Secondhand books always make me wonder about their prior life. We look forward to the month of May when we spend a weekend at Clunes Victoria for a weekend of books. All the old buildings open up and sell new and secondhand books, just magical.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Charmaine – Secondhand books are one of the true pleasures of life I think. Even if I’m not buying any, sometimes it’s wonderful to just browse amongst them (they smell amazing too, don’t they?).

      Spending a weekend at Clunes in the company of books sounds amazing Charmaine – what a wonderful event to be a part of. There needs to be more such celebrations for books.

      Take care,

  13. Hayley Cafarella

    What a strange inscription! They are both for Betty and Marion and both from Betty and Marion! Intriguing…

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Hayley – I know, right! It’s wonderful and yet wonderfully strange that the two of them both inscribed the book to eachother … I’d love to know more about them! 🙂

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