Do you ever walk into a second hand book shop and discover a novel with limp brown stained pages, squished into awkward angles due to damp; maybe from a spilled cup of coffee or an over enthusiastic splash from the pool, and wonder curiously where it has come from?
I do, sometimes.
A few months ago I was wandering around my favourite second hand book shop with a friend and came across a copy of The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett. I read some of it when I was younger and found it engrossing, but remembered regretfully that 10/11 year old me had returned it to the library before I could finish it (I don’t think I realised you could renew books back then).
So as I usually do when I am interested in a book, I picked it up inspecting it (quite battered) tested the weight of it in my hand (heavy, hardback) read the blurb (intriguing) and flicked through the pages getting a nice whiff of book mustyness (MMMMMMM :P) when I saw something odd.
Bright colours caught my eye, so I flicked back through the pages to see what it was. It seemed to be a photograph, but inspecting it closer I realised it was more like a postcard, the edges so worn they had become rounded and cracks so embedded that they looked like part of the design. The picture was of a book store and had an address along with a distinctive logo showing a decorative letter ‘P’ in the corner. Turning it over in my hands led to more mysteries still, there were no markings on the back at all like you would get with a normal postcard, so perhaps it was just a curious piece of advertising you sometimes get in bookshops?
After some hardcore research Googling I discovered the shop’s name had changes slightly from when the postcard was made, to Prospero’s Bookstore & Caliban’s Coffeehouse (click name for website) to incorporate more of the characters from Shakespeare’s work The Tempest. Even so, it wasn’t too hard to trace due to the easily recognisable logo!
Turns out the postcard/memorabilia thingy (what an eloquent name) comes all the way from the capital of Tbilisi, Georgia! 🙂 That’s the Georgia formerly part of the Soviet Union as opposed to the USA Georgia. It would take me somewhere between 8-12 and a half hours to get there from little old England, this postcard has had quite a journey, and possibly the book as well.
It makes me wonder about the story behind it. How did it get here? Why was it left forgotten in the book? Why specifically was it nestled between page 174-175?
I love the idea that a book can have more than one story, the one the author has consciously crafted for the reader, and the other the physical story of the book itself, the hands it has passed through, the literary thumb prints that have been left on it.
In my attempt to come up with a little story, I imagined a 21 year old female who had just come out of a long term turbulent relationship that ended badly:
Feeling the need for change she heads to Georgia’s main airport deciding she wanted to see more of the world. On her way she stops at Prospero’s Bookstore & Caliban’s Coffeehouse looking for a book to take with her on the flight. While in there she notices a postcard and picks it up on a whim with the thought that even though she has broken up with her boyfriend, she may write letting him know she has left the country. She decides she will go to England and makes her way through airport security. Her flight is delayed and she wishes she had bought a book at Prospero’s after all.
Along from her she see’s a family leave for their flight, forgetting to take the book they were reading to their children. She calls after them but they are too far away. Curious, she picks up the book by Terry Pratchett and starts reading. On the flight she mulls over what to write to her ex-boyfriend, but she cannot put anything into words so she continues reading to page 174 and bookmarks it with her postcard. She notices a crying child upset by the turbulence. She consoles him and offers the child the book to distract him. The child takes it for the rest of the flight. The book ends up on the child’s bookshelf where he soon forgets about it because reading is ‘uncool’. Eventually, his mother donates it to a second hand bookshop where an unsuspecting blogger picks it up months later.
Of course, the real story is probably just that someone used it as a bookmark, didn’t enjoy the read and gave up at page 174 giving it away without a moments thought for either. But that’s much less interesting, isn’t it? 😛
Have you ever found something random in a second hand book?
How do you think the mysterious postcard ended up in a Terry Pratchett novel in England? Why not make up a story, I would love to hear what you come up with! 😀
P.S. My friend over at Books on the Tube also blogged recently about an unusual second hand book which you should definitely check out!
P.P.S. On the 20th of June (tomorrow) The Book Depository who offer worldwide delivery (free) are doing a massive sale of ‘100 books and 100 offers’ which supposedly boasts a new deal every 15 minutes!!! It sounds amazing, for any bookworm it’s definitely worth checking out! More details here.
All my own, please do not reuse.