People tend to throw away the books and pages I like to collect. I call them “well rubbed” like in The Velveteen Rabbit. I don’t care if they are burned, torn, water logged, scribbled in, doodled on, used as a repository for stickers, or completely falling apart. It just makes them more interesting. I am especially interested in early readers and other books for children printed before 1944. Books in good shape are added to my collection of reference material. Those in ruins are either repaired or transformed into works of art and other treasures. I take donations.
Bookbinding tape is ridiculously expensive. I know it’s archival but it is just tape. I am tempted to improvise with some wood glue and a roll of black ribbon. The good news is that I have my hands on an entire lot of early readers, spellers, and primers from the turn of the century that were really dirt cheap. It seems like there is an abundance of them in Pennsylvania. One of these days, I’ll have to go there with a truck.
This little treasure was abandoned on a dusty shelf in a thrift shop among cheap paperbacks and magazines. There was a comical sticky note on the cover which is worn and weathered red leather. The note said “belonging to an old person who liked to cook” and the price on it was 25 cents. The pages are wonderfully browned the color of coffee with cream and stuffed with old recipes in a scrapbook style, held together with a rubber band. There are mementos and clipped advertisements pressed between the pages which reveal that it was maintained sometime between the turn of the century and 1920. There is also a detached section inside made from an Excelsior exercise book dated 1901. The edges were once gilded in gold.
I wonder about the person who created it and kept it much like I keep paper journals of collage and personal notes never thinking anyone will see them. It probably never occurred to her that almost one hundred years later, someone else would find it and look at it with fascination as though a work of art.
It amazes me that a delicate personal thing like this survives for so long and finds a new audience and a purpose when many deliberate works of art from that time are long gone and forgotten. I enjoy the fanciful idea that it was a sheer act of will or a guided serendipity. It is at least a reminder that even the most ordinary and casual seeming of objects may have a path and purpose that is beyond us and surpasses our best laid plans. We do not decide what will be remembered and cherished. It’s no wonder that I find dusty old antique shops and flea markets far more interesting than museums and art galleries.