Treasures within treasures


My father decided I loved books before I turned a year old and bought me Wind in the Willows and Pinocchio which he liked to read to me.

My grandmother was also a book lover and collector and I spent my school holidays at her place cataloguing her books because she was blind and couldn’t read the titles for herself. There were often newspaper and magazine cuttings inside them and Gran would tell me why she’d saved them. It started an interest in what other people left inside their books.

Years later, I inherited all of my father’s and grandmother’s books plus many other donations from the rest of the family. Inside one of Gran’s beautiful poetry books (I remember it was the one with the ceramic plate inserted into the leather of the cover), I found some love letters. In fact, there were at least seven drafts of the same letter.

My aunt was compiling the family history at the time and it turned out that they were written by my great grandfather to my great grandmother and he was asking whether she would have lunch with him somewhere in Melbourne. Of course, they had to include a chaperone and he was careful to ensure that he was behaving like a gentleman – hence so many drafts. We decided to put the letters back in the book for safekeeping.

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I recently did a quick survey of friends to find out what they’d discovered hiding in books. Apart from bookmarks and clippings, one told me she’d found a twenty dollar note marking a page, another found a recipe for lamb shanks cooked the same way her mother had and a third found lots of invitations to art exhibitions in a collection she recently purchased.

Perhaps my most exciting find was a ticket to the Australian Ballet.

I had just purchased a novel from an op shop and found the ticket marking a page. The performance was being held a couple of days later and, because I live in the country, I thought there was a good chance of being able to find out who owned it.

One of the ladies in the op shop remembered who had bought the book in, so rang her. When told about the ticket, she said “Oh that’s where it got to, I couldn’t remember where I put it. It doesn’t matter though, I won’t be going. My partner and I broke up last week and I really can’t bear the thought of meeting up with him. You use it if you like”. And I did.

Have you found a treasure hidden in a book? We’d love to hear about it.