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Secret History of Second Hand Books

December 11, 2012

The reason why we are putting together this conference on Writers and their Libraries has become apparent (as if it needed any elucidation) from an article in The Guardian website today by freelance writer Wayne Gooderham on “The Secret Contents of Second Hand Books”.  A collector of annotated books and regular blogger on the subject, Gooderham explains how he’s got second hand booksellers in London keeping an eye out for him for whatever may be of interest.  Collecting books with personal inscription is one thing, he says, “find the buggers” another. To his delight, the manager of Skoob Books invited him along to their warehouse near Oxford, to browse around but also to look at their collection of items they had over the years found in books.  Mostly the objects are nothing extraordinary: book marks, tickets, postcards, photos, pressed flowers (a tradition that seems not quite to have disappeared), and so on. But the tantalizing presence (and preservation) of past human activity of the most ephemeral kind is what is fascinating. Equally fascinating are the (at the time of writing this) 146 responses that readers have posted in the comments section.  Finding “any old crap pleases” apparently, and it is more popular than we had imagined.  At least one other blogger, who works as a rare book cataloguer, is keeping a list of these objets trouvés.

Gooderham has put together a small exhibition with items from the Skoob warehouse in Foyles on Charing Cross Road. The exhibition ends on 13 December, so you can still catch it. Otherwise you can check out the small selection of his favourite items Foyles have made available on their website.

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