As I scour used book stores and yard sales for first editions to add to my collection, I often find papers tucked inside by their previous owners: Old bookmarks, of course, tickets, receipts, photos, and clippings of reviews.
I once found a photo of a woman posing beside a grand piano. It was a glam shot, and rather surprising since I knew the woman when she was a lot older than she was in this photo. I would describe her as one of the town’s busy bodies, but this photo gave me a different opinion of the woman.
I had an interesting find when I bought the novel, Jewel, in a Western Massachusetts book store years ago. The store owner wrote “inscribed” in pencil beside the price I paid for the first edition. The inscription by the author, Bret Lott, was to author, Eric Carle and his wife. “With great admiration and with hopes you’ll enjoy this.” It was dated 9/21/91, before it became one of Oprah’s books.
Carle is, of course, a noted children’s book author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar fame. When my kids were little and he wasn’t so famous, he came to their school to do drawings. Now he has a museum — the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art — in Amherst, Mass.
Then, there was the letter on yellow, lined paper I found inside. “Dear Mr. Carle, Thanks again + I hope I didn’t bully you in to accepting these.” There’s more but I’ll stop there.
When I am going through my shelves, looking to make space for other books I want, I always stop at Jewel. I liked it, but I enjoy it more because it has an inscription — and a fan letter — from one author to another who decided not to hold onto it. There’s a lesson there.