Personal dedications in secondhand books.

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Personal dedications in secondhand books.

Post  eddie on Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:26 am

This article set me thinking about dedications I've inscribed on the flyleaf of books down the decades (usually to ex-lovers). I wonder how I'd feel if I chanced upon one in a secondhand book shop. Shocked
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The secret histories of secondhand books

The personal dedications one finds in secondhand books are often as fascinating as the text. In honour of this, we're starting a new series showcasing my most intriguing finds.

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 21 December 2011 09.38 GMT


Secondhand bookshop on Charing Cross Road, London, in 1951. Photograph: John Chillingworth/Hulton-Deutsch Collection

CDs, DVDS, and e-reads are all well and good when it comes to gift-giving at Christmas, but as far as I'm concerned, for sheer emotional wallop, the old-fashioned physical book is hard to beat. After all, it's the ideal opportunity to foist a well-loved novel onto someone who is now morally obliged to read the thing (and, indeed, profess to like it). Furthermore, there is generous scope / enough rope to let a carefully-chosen book speak volumes about how you feel about the receiver. For this reason, no book-as-gift is complete without a handwritten dedication on its inside cover to further make it clear, just in case there was any doubt, that the recipient absolutely MUST READ THIS BOOK AT THE EXPENSE OF ALL OTHERS!!!

With this in mind, about a year ago I wrote a piece for the Guardian confessing my bibliophilic kink of hanging around secondhand bookshops in the hope of picking up and taking home with me one or more of these discarded gifts – and the more candid the dedication within the better. These dedications offer fascinating glimpses into their books' own secret histories, imbuing the physical objects with an emotional resonance independent of – or intriguingly linked to – the actual texts. For, often, the choice of book coupled with the message within can suggest a narrative of its own. (Such as the copy of Jean-Paul Sartre's Words, addressed to "mummy" with the instructions that she "read it all without prejudice", including, one presumes, the cover artwork with its text reading: "I loathe my childhood and all that remains of it.") In the 12 months since my original piece, my kink – driven by a combination of love of stories and plain old human curiosity (tinged with an element of voyeurism, no doubt) – has blossomed into a fully-fledged habit. It has given birth to a blog and now, a new series which will look at a different secondhand book and dedication from my collection each fortnight.

All of which raises an ethical question. It was fine when the books were kept for my own private perusal, but I did feel a twinge of conscience when it came to presenting them to the world wide web via my blog and now to (presumably) a slightly larger audience here. After all, these messages – be they the gauche outpourings of an adolescent's heart or the bitter recriminations of a jilted lover – were intended for the eyes of the dedicatees only; did I have any right to show them to the world? But my reasoning was that the fact that they are no longer in the dedicatees' possession means that – for whatever reason – they have been given away for re-sale and have therefore passed, as it were, into the public domain. Some may have been accidentally lost through no fault of the owner – but to counter this, here could be a chance to reunite said owner with the lost book. So please: if you spot a dedication you recognise, let me know. I'd love to reunite you with your book.

For now, though, since tis the season to be jolly, let's start with something heartwarming – though not entirely pathos-free. The first book appears to be a present from a child to their father, who brilliantly describes his gift as "a short letter with 300 pages attached".

This, surely, is the essence of what these books are about. As such, may any books you receive this Sunday contain a dedication just as heartfelt. And if you're doing the giving, may you choose your words just as carefully.

eddie
The Gap Minder

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Re: Personal dedications in secondhand books.

Post  eddie on Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:33 am

SAMPLE DEDICATION:

A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor: From Safei to Dad

In the first of our series of intriguing book dedications, a 'short letter with 300 pages attached' is inscribed to a father

Curated by Wayne Gooderham

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 21 December 2011 09.37 GMT


Dedicated edition of A Time of Gifts


25/4/88

Dear Dad,

According to Mum (alias the Guru of the Postal Rates) the best way to send a book is as Printed Matter, but then it can't include a letter – hence this method.

I enjoyed this book (and its sequel) a 'lot.' While I was reading them, I thought of you, and wondered what memories you have of any of the times and places he describes. Of course this world, (of central Europe as it was in 19??) vanished before I was born. The mixture of the author's experiences of it at age 18 and his reflections now (or at any rate in 1978) on a world it is impossible to re-visit, give the book an usual texture, I think.

Don't feel obliged to read it if it doesn't "grab" you. You can view this as a short letter with 300 pages attached.

Lots of love

Safei [any ideas? WG] xxx

P.S. Hungary is in the second volume.

eddie
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Re: Personal dedications in secondhand books.

Post  eddie on Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:42 am

I'm reminded irresistibly of Krapp in Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape:

"Just been listening to that stupid bastard I took myself for thirty years ago. Hard to believe I was ever as bad as that..."

eddie
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Re: Personal dedications in secondhand books.

Post  Guest on Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:47 am

http://bookdedications.wordpress.com The Secret History of Second Hand Books Compiled by Wayne Gooderham


A Book of Surrealist Games by Alastair Brotchie





For Ted

my period is 3 days late

x o.d.
____________________________________

What a combination... the title of the book and the dedication

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Re: Personal dedications in secondhand books.

Post  eddie on Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:51 am

^

eddie
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Re: Personal dedications in secondhand books.

Post  Guest on Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:52 am

Winner Take Nothing by Ernest Hemingway





NASSAU JAN 27 1988

A present, from me to me!!! The message? Its [sic] nice when you just don’t give a damn.

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Re: Personal dedications in secondhand books.

Post  eddie on Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:55 am

^

Oh Dear. Suspect

eddie
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Re: Personal dedications in secondhand books.

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