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.

Anyway.

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.

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8 responses »

  1. I do this with used books too! … love seeing messages that people write in the front or the things they underline. That’s why I always mark up my books…. to leave a hint of a story for the next owners to read, if they choose. 🙂

    • Haha, I love seeing what other people leave behind, but I feel sacrilegious if I mark in books.

      Except for textbooks. They don’t count as real books :).

      • haha, true. I rarely mark up my novels. sometimes, though, if I like a certain passage and I know I’ll want to reference it again, I’ll draw a line in the margin. A Severe Mercy is one of those books I like to mark up. 🙂

  2. A Severe Mercy is one of those books I want to read again.

    . . .And again.

  3. Sarah says:

    For Christmas, someone gave me a book of Milton’s poems from 1917 that had once belonged to a Marian Smith. I’m guessing she is a young schoolgirl for she has written many obvious comments in the books in an extraordinarily beautiful hand. I love it.

    • From 1917?? That is reason enough to love it. My father has a Bible that was printed in 1846, and has a family tree handwritten on the inside leaf. I only regret that I can’t actually read it, since it’s written in German.

  4. Nathan Johnson says:

    Wow, I didn’t know we had a Bible with our family tree in it! That’s pretty cool. You have to show me sometime.

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