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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & collectable books

What's In A Book?

In the short time I have been adding books into stock at Rose's Books I have been amused by the obscure items you find hidden between the pages. Often the item has been used as a bookmark so I can only assume that when a reader is looking for something to mark their page, they grab the first thing that comes to hand - as you will see from the following list.

A black and white photograph of a young man and a dog.

The outer cardboard wrapper from a film cartridge. I googled the make and looks like it could be for a box camera from around the 1930s.

A Player's Cigarettes card from the 'Characters from Fiction' series No.18 out of 25 – Rob Roy. Again I googled the series and it seems these were issued in 1933.

Two religious pictures.

A book review for Banshee Castle by Rosa Mulholland.

A coal/coke receipt.

An envelope, addressed and stamped but the stamp hasn't been franked so perhaps it was never posted, it's a King George V Three Halfpence stamp.

Postcards seem to be popular, ones that have been used or blank ones. The most recent one I came across has a literary connection, it is entitled First Whisper of The Wind in the Willows and is unused. Some are scenic, others are humorous but they all have one thing in common – they make excellent book marks!

I assume other items have been placed between the pages for safe keeping as, firstly, I found four pretty feathers - but I have no idea what bird they are from. They have a slight blue/green iridescence and two have brown edges. I'm not sure that they are the right colour for a budgie, could they be perhaps a mynah bird or maybe a wild bird? Or were they brought back from a foreign holiday perhaps?

Secondly, a postal order counterfoil dated 13/11/1947. The postal order was for three shillings and sixpence and sent to Vernons Pools. I can only assume that, sadly, the purchaser did not manage to scoop the jackpot because later in the same book I found another counterfoil dated 16/12/1948 again to Vernons Pools for nine shillings! A few pages further on I came across a standard letter from Vernons Pools about Coupon order forms. The final paragraph talks about there still being a paper shortage and the need to order your coupons so that 'your interests are safeguarded for what promises to be a record season'. Scribbled on the back appears to be some sort of calculation, possibly related? Does the 13 months between the dates on the counterfoils indicate that this was someone who took their time reading, or did they hide the evidence of their gambling in a book that they thought no-one would read!?

Pressed flowers and leaves also seem to be a regular find. Some attempts were more successful than others. Two of them are obviously fuchsias but I'm not sure quite what the other flower might be. Some retain their colour, some fade until they are almost transparent, all are extremely delicate. I have to confess to being guilty of this myself, I have some four leaf clovers pressing somewhere amongst my books. I now know that this practice can cause brown stains on the pages but in my defense I did this before I started working at Rose's Books. That means my clovers have been pressing for at least eight years, I expect they are 'done' now - wherever they are!

Crumbs – assorted. I've not been able to identify any specific food yet but I would take a guess at biscuits (I may also be guilty of this).

Then there are the random objects - a hairgrip, a dead fly, grit, a paperclip etc.

In a different vein altogether, another item I find interesting in books are presentation plates as from them you can often tell who was the first owner of the book, why they received it and in which year. For those who don't know, presentation plates are labels stuck in or near the front of a book, usually from a school or Sunday school, showing that the recipient has received the book as an award or prize - often for attendance or for high marks in an exam. Some plates just say 1st prize but give no indication for what, others give details of marks received, category, school year, money collected etc. Some are ornate and colourful others very plain and basic.

Presentation plates can be useful when adding books into stock if the book does not have a printed date of publication. We can say the book is circa the date on the presentation plate as the books would almost always be new when presented.

I don't suppose presentation plates are used to any great extent these days, firstly there aren't anywhere near as many Sunday schools and they probably don't give prizes in the same way that they did, and if they do, it would probably be in the form of book tokens. My mum told me she still has the book she received as a Sunday School prize, she hasn't read it yet but she's only 78 so there is still plenty of time.

Finding these presentation plates in books sets my mind wondering did the recipient ever read it? did they enjoy it? Is the school/Sunday School/group still in existence?. How far has the book travelled since it was awarded, i.e. from where to Hay-on-Wye? All this when I should be concentrating on adding the books into stock!

Contributed by Lorna

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