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The life of books

February 16, 2015

Have been handling books, many of them 100+ years old. Notes, scribbles, some incomprehensible, names, addresses, dedications, “gift of”, “gift to”, case notes, class notes, and years of age on the paper, binding, and the information contained therein. Dusty. If I ran the vacuum at home as much as I have at work recently, I might have a clean house.

Today I found a hand-sharpened pencil that was likely left in the text in question at least fifty years ago. The case pages had molded around the pencil, and there was no evidence by looking at the case edges that anything was enclosed in the book. I say hand sharpened because one can see the angles of the sharpener’s knife blade on the wood and lead.

They are speaking to us, these old things. Civil war-era medical and dental texts, up to WWII’s latest innovations in pathology and dentistry. It is a pleasure to see them, and to try to trace the lineage (generations of doctors and dentists) that connects the texts to present day practitioners. The life of a book does not end with that of its original owner.

Find a good book. Put your name in it, and say something about what the text meant to you. Leave it somewhere. If we are lucky, some librarian may be handling your text a hundred years from now and wonder who you were and what you did in your life. I hope what they find is a grand story.

Print is not dead, mliswilltravel.

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