A discussion on Abebooks about "items tucked into books" got into "notes written in the margins," which prompted me to post this:
As far as personal meaning, sometimes it helps if items are actually a little less anonymous. To this point, I have two true stories, both of which intertwine my family and my favorite author, Ray Bradbury.
The first concerns not "items tucked into a book" but "items into which a book was tucked." Googling the names of some of my ancestors, I learned of the existence of a history book on my grandmother's family going back to almost Adam--certainly to their first days in America. I found only ONE copy for sale ANYWHERE--a $200 book, but we had to have it.
I am so avid a Ray Bradbury fan I moderate the message board on his official website. At that time a newspaper article was printed on him I really wanted to send to his #1 collector fan (before Philnic, who has a website on the subject) who has EVERYTHING by or about him, but I had only ONE copy--the one that came in our paper--published in a community 70 miles away, so I couldn't just go to the office for another copy, nor could I find any local subscribers who'd saved theirs. Well, when the package containing this history book (WELL worth the money!) arrived, what should have been used for packing material but a section of a newspaper, from Maine, I believe, with this same article on Bradbury!
Shortly thereafter, I was on one of my regular scavenging rounds in a local vacant lot, and found another copy of the article, in a newspaper which had blown up against the fence of one of the local looney bins! (Yes, our community proudly boasts several.) In light of "A Graveyard for Lunatics" and some of Bradbury's other works, that was WAY appropriate, so of course that was the copy I saved for myself, and was able to send TWO copies, from opposite ends of the country, to the collector! Perhaps the biggest surprise was that he didn't act more surprised.
In the second event, a seldom-seen cousin arrived at the house, just at the time I was needing a picture of a blond, blue-eyed girl under the age of seven, taken around 1862, for an illustration I planned for the Bradbury story "Season of Disbelief." Almost the first thing my cousin asked was for "old photo albums." I told her I knew I didn't have any "old photo albums" from the 19th century. I had boxes of loose photos from the early-mid 20th century, "and I keep them there," I said, pointing to a high shelf where there were several boxes I'd labeled "Family Photos," some of which my cousin's father sent us for safekeeping before he died, some of which I saved from my grandmother's possessions. Well, my cousin isn't any taller than I am, so I guess she must have stood on something, but before I scarce had time to notice she had reached up and snatched, seemingly at random, one of the boxes.
She opened the box to reveal the OLDEST damn photo albums I had ever SEEN! I would judge the pictures to be taken between 1850-1880! I was floored enough at this, not to mention there were several little girls to choose from, including one who was a near-perfect match for what I needed! (Unidentified, alas, but for my purposes I didn't need her name.)
Another fantastic surprise was finding a lot of pictures of a little girl identified as Cornelia. This was the Cornelia my grandmother was named for, who in turn I was named for. She died of consumption, I always thought, as a child, but the pictures were from about age 2-22 or so, showing she'd lived longer than I thought. The VERY FIRST PICTURE (that is, earliest taken) showed Cornelia with this chair which my cousin has! Grandmother was named after her father's sister who died young, and my cousin was named after Grandmother's first daughter who died young, so Grandmother said "she should have the chair," and here was a picture of it that old! So I said "she should have the picture" and we got it out of the album with tweezers.
My cousin had just done me two huge favors: for one, found the "Bradbury" picture I needed, and for another, identified a picture my mother had framed. She had three small frames, not matching, but similar enough to make a nice set, in which she put a baby picture of my grandmother, one of me, and one of this unknown little girl, which captions in the album identified as Cornelia! So without knowing it, my mother had "Cornelia-Cornelia-Cornelia" in the frames!
Also in the box was a VERY OLD Sunday School book--I believe the copyright was 1861--and here the "notes in the margin" part comes in. My cousin studied it with great interest, as she teaches Sunday School. Without going into denominationalism, I'll just say we belong to a religion with a very different theology than conventional Christianity. My cousin spotted that someone of our faith (probably my grandmother's parents, or even grandparents!) had owned the book, because they had filled the margins with notes such as "we know that the Bible is true, but some people make mistakes in interpreting it, so--". This elevated something from being simply "an old book" to something very personal from one generation of a family to another! Well, since my cousin was the Sunday School teacher and the box came from her father, I said she should have the book, too, and she tucked the picture in it. She just couldn't have been more delighted. It was a truly cosmic experience proving scribbling in the margin is not ALWAYS a bad thing!
Posts: 7101 | Location: Dayton, Washington, USA | Registered: 03 December 2001
What an interesting story! Thank you for sharing it and I am sure that Ray would find it interesting as well.
I, too, have an interesting story but I am not sure if this web site would be appropriate to tell it, although Ray and I and my real father share the name Douglas, although my real father's spelling was Douglass.
Posts: 1525 | Location: Sunrise, FL, USA | Registered: 28 June 2004
My two favorite people on the planet: Ray Douglas Bradbury Raymond Douglas Davies (of THE KINKS)
It blew me away to find out they had the same first and middle names. Everyday I see, hear, or feel something that reminds me of something written by Bradbury or sang by THE KINKS. They both share an ability to comfort me with nostalgia.
I have trouble navigating their site using the search catagories available. For instance, I have the first several issues (not reprints) of Rolling Stone magazine (back when it was more of a newspaper, really); and I've not yet found the right combination of words that will search this sort of thing.
Posts: 3163 | Location: Box in Braling I's cellar | Registered: 02 July 2004