Treasures Within Treasures

July 06, 2012

Have you ever opened a library or second-hand book to find a trace of a previous reader in a left-behind bookmark? I love it when I come across someone’s marker—it feels like a tiny connection made between me and another presumably like-minded reader.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. I just finished a fascinating little book, ForgottenBookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages, by Michael Popek.

Popek, who serves as manager of his family’s used-book business, loves his most important task: buying and sorting books. (Lucky!) As he wrote in the introduction, “What I found is that I loved the fact that I could come across nearly anything: a moldy copy of Ulysses, a Victorian-era scrapbook filled with trade cards, a first edition of Steinbeck. This treasure hunt still remains my favorite part of bookselling and led directly to my fascination with forgotten bookmarks.” Popek aptly terms the left-behind page markers “treasures within treasures.” Collecting this ephemera became an unlikely passion for Popek who was surprised to find how interested others were in this unusual hobby. He started his blog in 2007 and the book followed from there.

Each spread in Forgotten Bookmarks shows a picture of the marker left behind as well as the cover of the book in which it was found. Popek’s collection includes everything from four-leaf clovers to recipes, postcards, letters (some heart-breaking), drawings, ticket stubs, photos, baseball cards, unused cap gun caps, and a few more unusual items.

Collecting bookmarks is one of my simple pleasures, and though I have plenty of them, I still find myself shoving whatever is to hand into my books to mark my place until I can put in a “real” one. I also have a few books that I like to refer back to from time to time, and I’ve left markers other than bookmarks in some of them. A quick scan of my shelves and I find I’ve used the following to mark my place: a small notebook page with two web addresses I want to check out, a “Non Sequitur” comic strip, a publishing house order form, a page torn from a page-a-day calendar, and a strip of paper with a typed writing quote (“In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway”—Juno Diaz). I usually make sure I flip through any books I’m returning to the library or trading/donating for anything left behind, but now I’m reconsidering. I might just leave something in the next book I get rid of, as a way of saying hello to the next reader who picks it up.

Have you discovered any forgotten bookmarks?

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  1. This looks like a fascinating book and one my daughter-in-law would enjoy - she worked at Half Price Books as a book buyer a couple of times. I'm going to put it on my wish list - thanks!

  2. Cheryl--It was really interesting, and a pretty quick read as you would imagine. You'll have to ask your daughter-in-law if she ever found any forgotten bookmarks in the books at her job!

  3. Hello, Kathy I saw your comment on Scrappy Cat's blog. This is a lovely post & I will be searching for this book right away! Thank you, I am Rita

  4. Welcome, Rita! Glad you stopped by. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. Please come back and visit again soon!

  5. This sounds really interesting! Will have to look it up. Like you, although I know I have enough bookmarks at my disposal to use, yet I find whatever is convenient that works for the moment, too. There are also times when I wondered where some of my bookmarks have disappeared to, having forgotten the different places I left them in, considering the many books I tend to get started, and unfinished. :p
    Oh, I really like your idea of leaving something behind in your books as a way of saying hello. :)

  6. Hi Kathy! I stopped by the other day and then got interrupted before I left a comment about this post. It is fun to find surprises inside, even names and well wishes on the inside cover. Once I found a letter welcoming a woman as she joined a church.

    I have bookmarks, but these days I often use index cards, especially when I buy a lot of used books all at once and am trying to choose which one to read.

    Hope you are having a great week!

    Kathy M.

  7. I love the idea of leaving a tidbit in a book for others to find serendipitously! In the past I find mundane yet interesting things: a bit of a grocery list, a store receipt, penciled-in spelling and grammar corrections (!), coffee spatters. I haven't consciously left anything, but I think I'll start - a wonderful way to connect to the next reader!

  8. Michelle--It's always a nice surprise to come upon a book I started way back when and find one of my own forgotten treasures!

  9. Elizabeth--I think I might put something in the next book I send out to Paperback Swap--I always like it when I get a book from someone and they've taken the time to write me a quick, "Enjoy!"

  10. Kathy--I like to find books with inscriptions, but then I feel kind of sad that the book has moved on from the recipient! I also usually have index cards handy when I read, because sometimes I write down things I want to remember.