Dusty Treasure (or Do You Know Where Your Book Has Been?)

I used to read Wil Wheaton’s blog all the time. I used to read a ton of other blogs more regularly. I need to start again. The world is shit so often that we forget to do the things we actually enjoy.

In this entry, Wil talks about a used book he has in possession and the emotions it stirred when he read the name of the kid who had owned it once upon a time. While I read a ton of ebooks, I still have a decent sized (but shrinking) dead tree library. Many of those books came from used book stores and yard sales. Some have names and addresses belonging to former owners.

Wil on “a stranger’s hand, reaching out through time, to touch yours“:

During last night’s Storytime With Wil, I unexpectedly noticed something pasted into the back cover of the thirty-five year old book. It was a little slip of paper, one of those ditto runoffs that they used in schools in the 80s, and it told us this book belonged to a kid named Dean, who was in Traverse City Junior High School. It was a child’s drawing of Snoopy, laying on his back, like he does on top of his dog house, only he was on the back of a book which was propped up like an open tent. Along the cover of the book long, skinny letters spelled out R. I. F.

If you look in some used book stores in Arlington and Woodbridge, VA and Jacksonville, NC, you may find my name in some old dusty books I traded in for store credit. 

I got unexpectedly emotional when I saw this little rectangle of paper, pasted into the back of this book, and I struggled to put my finger on exactly why, until someone in the chat said that it was like a time machine. It’s like someone was reaching through time, and touching my hands. It was this tactile, tangible moment, where I and the 480 or so people who were watching got to make a semi-personal connection with this kid, Dean, who owned and read this book in 1981. I wonder: did he make the same choices we made?

Over the years, I bought many out of print or past editions of books from used book stores and eBay. One of my favorite purchases is a copy of anthropologist Ashley Montagu’s “Man: His First Million Years”. I purchased it off eBay since it was a hardcover edition and fairly priced. The cover is red and has some obvious fading from exposure to sunlight. It is pronounced enough that I can tell you the height of the books that sat on either side of it on the shelf.

On the inside cover, is a short note written by hand and addressed to a married couple. It was signed by Dr. Montagu. That book might have cost me $5.00 and the autograph was not mentioned in the book listing. It may have just been included in a box of old books the seller had listed. I had no idea that the old, dusty hardback I purchased online would turn out to have once been held in the hands of one of the most important anthropologists of the 20th century.


You can read the rest of Wheaton’s blog entry here: http://wilwheaton.net/2017/03/a-strangers-hand-reaching-out-through-time-to-touch-yours/

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