The “Private Lives” of Gleeson Library’s Books

The National Library of Scotland’s “The Private Lives of Books” website notes that “Books can tell all kinds of surprising stories through inscriptions people wrote in them, through the signatures of their owners, special bookplates and bindings.” Did you know that many of Gleeson Library’s books had “private lives” before they reached our stacks? Peruse the “P” section (or Library of Congress code for Language and Literature books) of the library, for example, and you may find inscriptions hinting of the adventures our books took prior to arriving at their current home!

The inscription in this 1924 printing of Carl Van Vechten’s The Tiger in the House (Gleeson Library Call Number PS3543.A653 T5) reads “for the Lady Nora (Gros) with a smile on the face of the Tiger Albert — Christmas 1924 with an affection that takes no note of the Atlantic Ocean.” The author of this poetic note is unknown, but look where this book was probably purchased…..Paris!


Let us know if you happen to uncover a library book in our stacks that appears as though it has had an interesting past; we’ll post a picture of it on this blog and reward the best “find.” Please remember, though, inscriptions are a charm of our books’ pasts. Writing in library books is prohibited.

6 thoughts on “The “Private Lives” of Gleeson Library’s Books”

  1. “Private lives” is appropriate too, because we can’t see who checked out the books like we could in the old days, when each book had a card in the pocket with the names signed every time it was checked out.

    Library staff are very conscious of privacy rights, and library systems like ours today don’t even let the staff know who borrowed the book before. But [cue fogey music] I kind of miss being able to see who checked out a book before me.

    At Gleeson people used to write their addresses on the check-out cards, and some of those old cards are still in the books. Once I read a novel by Upton Sinclair that had been checked out by someone who lived in my building, 50 years before. Just think, a fellow traveler!

  2. go colette! what a great post. of course you didn’t need my help 🙂 one time i found a photo of keats’ grave from probably around the 1920s in a collection of keats’ poetry donated from the personal library of alfred sutro. that was awesome!

  3. Thanks Kelci!!! I was inspired by your posts! Ok, that picture and book sound intriguing! Is the book on our shelves?

  4. Saw this today on the Chronicle of Higher Ed. blog… “If only the metadata accompanying e-texts were as interesting as that found in used books!

    Online bookseller recently asked its vendors about the strangest things they’ve found in used books. The list will surprise you: a Christmas card from L. Frank Baum, a Mickey Mantle rookie card, a diamond ring, a strip of bacon, $40,000, a World War II U.S. ration book, and even “a holographic image of a lady who sheds her clothing,” among other items. ”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s