I picked up a used copy of The Silmarillion the other day. It was on a shelf of giveaway books at my library. I figured it was about time I had my own copy, since I’d been holding my dad’s copy hostage for, oh, about five years.
Flipping through my new find, I stumbled upon an old movie stub doubling as a bookmark.
Oh, I thought. I do that too. I use movie stubs–and receipts, and scraps of envelopes, and rail tickets–as bookmarks all the time.
I was liking the previous owner of my new book already. Then I looked more closely at the stub and saw that it was for Schindler’s List, a movie as old as I am.
I wondered if this marked the book’s first reading? Perhaps its last, before I picked it up? Did my new book’s previous owner read it in the theatre? Or did he stick the stub between the death of Miriel and the wedding of Indis after arriving home? There aren’t any other markers in the book, so did he stop reading at page 69? Perhaps he simply forgot the move the lone ticket after he had moved long past the tale of Feanor, or maybe he finished the rest of the book in one go.
Maybe there was another reader between the theater-goer and myself, and this person chose to leave the stub where it was, much has I have yet to remove it from where it rests. After all, it’s lived in its home between pages 68 and 69 for probably close to twenty years: why uproot it now? (Although it hasn’t necessarily been that long: the other day I noticed I was using a theater ticket from 2002 as a bookmark. Why do I still have that ticket? No idea.)
I wonder about it as it flip the pages and inhale the musty smell of old paper and black ink. And I wonder if my new book’s previous owner wondered about who would adopt his book after he cast it off. Maybe he did.
Either way, there’s a history here. I will never know the full story, but I am grateful for knowing even the snippet I do.
And this, my friends, is why I love used books.
Under the mercy, dear readers.