Books And The People Who Used To Own Them

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time and money in used book stores. I’ve purchased books both famous and obscure – editions both common and rare.
Used books often have little markings left by their pervious owner. They often give books a little character or sometimes even mystery.
Here I’d like to display a few of these little marking that for one reason or another I found interesting.

It used to rather common for people to write their name on the inside cover of books. It’s something few people still do.

A few years ago I came across a rare English translation of Ernst Jünger’s “On The Marble Cliffs.” The novel was first published in Hamburg, Germany in 1939 and first published in English in 1947, a time when German literature was very unpopular in Britain.
This copy of the anti-authoritarian novella was originally purchased by Brenda Horsefeild in London 1948.

Although rather rare it’s not to hard to find a copy of “D’Annunzio” by Tom Antongini for a reasonable price. Despite being obscure it is considered to be one of the best biographies of D’Annunzio due to Antongini’s long service as the poets right-hand man.
In this copy a pervious owner has signed not only their name but given the place of purchase as Cairo, dating 14.26.38 (putting the month before the date suggests that the previous owner was an American). This little note has always inspired by my curiosity and imagination. I’ve not doubt that this book has a lot of untold history and has had adventures of it’s own. I’ve always wondered who it was who picked up this book all those decades ago.

Worn out, battered and falling apart by the time I’d got it this copy of 1984 was previously owned by Sarah Hughes. I assume she was an English literature student who studied this book as several sections are underlined and annotated in mostly blue ink.

At first I enjoyed reading Sarahs little insights until she gave away the ending less than half way in. I have never forgiven her.

This pre-owned copy of Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy is almost completely unmarked other than a faintly copied the Walt Disney logo in pencil on page 21.

I picked up a copy of Plato’s Symposium in an English book store in Amsterdam. The previous owner had used a boarding pass as a book mark, which they left between pages 56 & 57. They had travelled from Montreal to Brussels.

In this collection of Thomas Mann novellas the previous owners name has been blacked out with marker pen, presumably by a book store worker.

In the days before Doctor Who fans could rewatch their favourite episodes on VHS or DVD several classic series stories were novelised and published by Target books. This copy of “Death to the Daleks” was perviously owned by Robin Turner who illustrated his own little Dalek making it’s way across a blue ink landscape.

Young Robin Turner was an avid reader of Doctor Who books as he ticked off almost all the titles advertised on the inside cover.

This copy of “The Joke” by Milan Kundera was gifted to it’s previous owner by two of their travelling companions. I’ve always felt it was rather sad that this one ending up in a used book store.

One of many notes made in “Nietzsche: The Man and his Philosophy” by R.J. Hollingdale.

Inside “An Outline of the Doctorates of Thomas Carlyle” the previous owner left not only their name but also a newspaper article on Carlyle dated Friday February 8th 1952. The book however is much older, dated 1869.

I came across these three books in the winter of 2015. I was surprised to find all three had belonged to the same person, who marked how and when they got them. Two of these books were gifts from to the previous owner from their father for their Philosophy degree at the university of Hull. Like another book mentioned in this article, I think it’s a little sad to see these gifts ended in a used book shop.

I own perhaps over a dozen books that have been either stolen from or sold off by various libraries.

One favourite used book store finds was a collection of essays by Schopenhauer. J.R. Adamson purchased this book in 1911 – just a few years before the start of the first world war. I’ve always wondered if Adamson found him self involved with that conflict and what fate would he later meet?