General Question

MissAnthrope's avatar

What kinds of things have you found in used books?

Asked by MissAnthrope (21460points) September 24th, 2010

This question is meant literally. I’m an avid reader; I get lots of hand-me-down books to read and I’m a huge fan of the library. I absolutely love when I find random things inside used books, like notes or, in the case of the last library book I read, a hand-made paper flower. I don’t know what it is, I get such a thrill out of it. I find it kind of romantic that somebody and I enjoyed the same book and they left something in it, a small clue to who they are.

That paper flower was the coolest find yet. What kinds of things have you found in used books?

Edited to add a follow-up questions: When you find something, do you leave it in the book or keep it? Have you ever intentionally put something in a book for someone to find?

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46 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I’ve found old bookmarks, but I think the coolest thing I ever found was something I couldn’t remove. It was the ring of a coffee cup on a page.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I recently found someone’s notes on glaze chemistry and an excuse note from their mother for missing class! XD I wonder how old “Junior” was???

Jeruba's avatar

A boarding pass with someone’s name and flight information, situated at the place where the pages went from being thumbed to pristine. The book was a thick paperback novel I bought from an Amazon Marketplace dealer, and I thought it was worth reading all the way through, even though Janet from Texas didn’t.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
muppetish's avatar

Bookmarks, phone numbers, scraps of paper that looked like homework, a few addresses, post-it notes, and leaves. I usually keep things I find in used books. I have left notes behind in returned library books before.)

I also read all the margin notes in used textbooks I purchase. My brother has inherited my textbooks for university. I bet he’ll get a kick out of some of the things I wrote.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

In used books picked up at a yard sale: a photo, a ticket stub, names and dates, and inscriptions from the person giving the book.

In hotel Bibles: scraps of notes, money, and condoms.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I found a check once, for $45, made out to cash. I called the bank, but the account holder had died 10 years before. I tried to contact her family, just thought they would find it interesting, but no joy, there. This all predated the internet.

Aster's avatar

I found a New Testament, 3” x 4” , my grandmother gave to dad on his birthday. It is party inscribed: “Dec 1926” and has a little note to him she wrote. It is in a brass case that has a snap on it. When I was looking through it I found a photo that had been in there so long the outline of it was on the page. It is a tiny photo of my mother as a teen, her sister as a teen and my dad wearing those pants that tie right below the knees that golfers wore many years ago.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I have found 100 old horse blanket $1 bills in a 1924 edition of a dictionary when I was helping clean up my Grandmothers house after her death.

trailsillustrated's avatar

GA! there’s a little shop in glenelg sa that I go to when I am there. I am currently reading : ‘the coral island’ by r.ballantyne. It was given to some school boy in 1904 in freezing crafers for high marks. It’s a wonderful, charming book with engravings. This shop has a chest by the door, my daughter and I open it and go thru all the books, the owner doesn’t know what’s there. We found a first edition ‘lorna doone’. I have found countless odd little personal notes, book marks.

TexasDude's avatar

A magic eye (as in those things you look at cross eyed and a 3D image pops out… the image was a bunch of distorted words and what looked like a Mickey Mouse skull).

And a very old, ornate, embossed envelope in a grammar book from 1804.

iamthemob's avatar

Why do I have more books than anyone I know and yet I’ve never found anything in a used text besides highlighting?

Not even an interesting note in pencil…I’m jealous!

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

My friend recently bought used textbooks at our school store and found about $140 stuck in there. That covered the cost of the textbooks and then some. Since there was no way to find out who owned the textbook before him, the money was his to keep. So lucky!

As for me, I don’t remember ever finding interesting things in my used books besides highlights and underlining.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I’m just as excited about all of your finds as I am about mine. You guys have found some really cool stuff!

I think if I found something really special, I’d keep it, but usually I know my joy at finding things and I wouldn’t want to keep someone else from having the same pleasure.

weeveeship's avatar

Best: Found a one dollar bill in one once. :)
Worst: Found boogers stuck to one of the pages :(

Kardamom's avatar

I buy a lot of used books at the thrift store, but I’ve never found anything particularly exciting inside. I’ve mostly found store receipts and food stains, and, recently, what looked a little bit like blood spatter (yuk!) Wouldn’t it be cool to find a love letter or some type of interesting information that would give you incentive to write your own book? I always wonder what specific things did J.K. Rowling see or hear that gave her so much inspiration to write the Harry Potter books. I like to write, but mostly just short anecdotes about things that have actually happened to me or things I have seen or experienced, but I just can’t fathom how anybody could come up with such a wonderful piece of fiction, of that magnitude, that has touched so many people. I wonder if she found something in a book.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Usually slips of yellowed paper with people’s phone numbers on them. I never call them, because I’m not a creeper.


While we were on vacation in the Rocky Mountains, my family and I were staying at a nice hotel. In the drawer of the hotel room, was a Bible. My little 4 year-old flipped through its pages and out popped a condom. My wife and I were shocked. Apparently, someone had obnoxiously stuck it between the pages and left it for the “next” faithful reader.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

I once found, what looks to be a Chinese Mighty Morphin Power Rangers trading card, with just a little bit of writing on the front. No clue what it says. If I posted a picture of it, would anyone be able to translate it for me?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Off topic, so my apology in advance. There is a novel called People of the Book about a woman who is essentially an archeologist for ancient books. She tracks down the history of where its been by clues like pollen, a feather and other items in the book. Separate chapters tell a separate tale on how the objects got there. Any lover of books should read it.

Seek's avatar

Not really in a book, but in a box of books my husband found in his old attic.

It was a leather photograph album, which had pictures that appeared to be dated from around the Civil War and shortly thereafter. It was very, very nice – ornate, with gold leaf on the binding and a lock (though the lock was broken). There was a newspaper clipping – an obituary.

My hubby and I agreed that if that were our family’s album, we’d like to have it, so I took the name in the obit, tracked down the cemetery in which the fella was buried, and sent them a letter asking them to pass on a message to anyone they had on file as a relative. Shockingly, they did, and the album now rests in a family estate on an island off the coast of Massachusetts or something.

They never did pay me back shipping, even though they did offer to.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

A five dollar bill, expensive bookmark!

lillycoyote's avatar

I found pictures of an Indian man and woman. I assumed they were husband and wife. They were kind of formal but no frills, maybe passport photos. And I found a note from some very troubled and possibly psychotic teenager or young adult that was both fascinating and troubling. I don’t remember much more about it than that. It was years ago. I know there have been other things over the years but I can’t remember right now. I also once was apparently using my driver’s license as a bookmark in a library book and didn’t realize I had lost it until I got it in the mail one day with a note saying that the person had found it in the book. @Tropical_Willie I keep hoping to find money because I use bills as bookmarks, I’ll use just about anything that’s reasonably flat and isn’t nailed down as a bookmark. And I know there’s a twenty in a book somewhere around here because years ago, when the first redesigned the twenties I stuck one in a book to keep it safe. If only I knew which one.

lloydbird's avatar

One of my books recently yielded an air-mail letter from Africa to England. Posted in 1962. Complete with stamp and very interesting written content.

TexasDude's avatar

@lloydbird, oh come on now, you’ve got to fill us in on this “interesting content!”

augustlan's avatar

Post-it notes with a word or two on them, dead bugs (ugh), and lots of notes written in the books themselves, by @Jeruba. She generously sends her castoffs in my direction, and she is ever the editor. :)

I buy a lot of antique books, and I love to see inscriptions people have made or a signature and date inside the books.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@augustlan – I love finding inscriptions, too! So romantic. sigh. One book in my collection has the most fascinating, rambly, and cryptic writing filing the inside front and back cover.

lloydbird's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard The book in question is titled A Breath of the Wilds by W.Robert Foran. 1958 1st Ed. A book recounting the exploits of an English colonial hunter in Africa. Not something of which I approve , but an interesting insight into a bygone era. I bought it along with number of others, in a charity shop, I think, about a year ago, then put it to one side . Picked it up a few weeks ago and read a chapter headed “Cow-People“Who Thrash Lions.
A fascinating account about the Banyoro people of Uganda, who were known to hunt down any marauding lions that had attacked their precious cattle, sometimes in parties of a thousand strong, and using nothing more than simple staves, and thrash the offending lion to a pulp.

Anyway, the letter.
From M.F.Barrah. Nairobi,Kenya. To Mr. and Mrs. Patterson, Liverpool, England.
Dated: 23rd January,1962.

My dear Gwyne and Frank,

I feel so guilty that such a long time has elapsed since I received your letter before replying, but please forgive me. Firstly I must thank you both very much indeed for your invitation to stay if I come to England. Actually that is partly why I have been so long in writing as I have been dithering wondering whether to go or not and now I have actually made up my mind that if passages are available to fly from here about the 15th of July and return on the ‘Uganda’ sailing from England on August 24th. That will give me about 5 weeks in England and nearly three weeks travelling. The office have just written in asking for the accommodation as although I am not entitled to free passages, having been in Government for 8 years I may get a 10% reduction which is better than nothing.Now that I have made the plunge I am looking forward to it and meeting you both, and also a few friends I have in England and expect the five weeks will fly past.

Doubtless you are counting the days to having Pat and Caroline with you. Caroline is lovely, a lovely cuddly fat little girl. I don’t know when I shall be seeing them again as Jack did not think he would be down for awhile, but I did have them a few days when he had that growth taken out of his foot. Anyway if not before, shall be with them at Easter.

Once more our spirits are down with the news about Tanganyika and all the nonsense that is going on down there. Nyerere and his Government have been held up as such models of a peaceful handover to Independence and now in less than two months they are banishing Europeans for nothing and their Government re-shuffled. Our Ministers are no better and cannot make up their minds so wonder what will happen at the Constitutional talks in London next month.

My husband’s niece from Australia has just arrived in England and taken a job in London, her first stepping stone before going on to other parts of the world working her way round so I am looking forward to seeing her too as she was just 16 when we were in Australia last 10 years ago.

You appear to have had a very drastic winter and hope you stood up to it alright. We have rain galore and thought it had stopped after a couple of dry days, but yesterday down it came again in buckets.

Ted Williams, who took the wedding cake to you, goes home on leave again in May. He sent his daughter about 6 months ago to a convent, I think in Wales, so he is looking forward to seeing her again.

Sir Richard and Joy Woodley are also going to England in March for a couple of months – doing the reverse to me by going by ship and returning by air.

Tom Mboya had a terrific wedding here on Saturday which you will probably see on television. My friend and I decided to go and have a look at their new house which is being built near me and we just drove in as the bridal couple drove out. Thank goodness we were not in at the same time and got entangled with the photographers!

Don’t think I have any news of interest so will end with all good wishes for 1962, and many thanks for your Christmas card.



Sorry, but I can’t make out the signature.
And I’ve held back the details of the addresses.
Hope you find it of interest.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@lloydbird – Thanks for sharing! That’s a great find. :)

JilltheTooth's avatar

@lloydbird : That is truly fascinating! Thanks for sharing it with us.

TexasDude's avatar

@lloydbird, that’s awesome! Thanks a lot!

lloydbird's avatar

Glad you like it guys. I hadn’t really thought of the obvious American connection before, but there is one here. History is great, isn’t it?

aprilsimnel's avatar

Wow. That’s a historic letter!

augustlan's avatar

@lloydbird Very, very cool. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Jeruba's avatar

@lloydbird, I want to know how the Banyoro vigilantes knew which lion was guilty.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Jeruba; He was the one with the cheezy defense lawyer standing next to him. ;-)

lloydbird's avatar

@Jeruba I think that it was due to their ability to body-read, combined with looking out for subtle signs. Like the tip of a cow’s tail sticking out of the side of its mouth, for instance.
If I remember correctly.

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Blueroses's avatar

If anyone finds “The Rape of the A*P*E” by Allan Sherman, please contact me.
I found it in a used book bin in Durango, CO on a road trip… read it and passed it on. It seems there is only one copy in the world because everyone has the same story and we all wish we had the book again.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

I’ve never found anything really interesting in any books, though I’ve heard of people finding cool stuff so I always look through interesting books hoping for something cool.

Not exactly along the same lines, but I got a purse from a garage sale, and, upon opening it to put something in it, I found a couple notes from a guy to his girlfriend…He was breaking up with her. It was really sad and I felt really sorry for her.

Blueroses's avatar

@ChocolateReigns that sounds sadly fascinating. You should make up a backstory.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I agree.. sadly fascinating.

Berserker's avatar

Haha what an awesome question. Unfortunately though, I’ve never found much in a used book (Book store/library) that wasn’t a coffee ring or damaged pages.
(Or notes scribbled in the pages, but nothing ever interesting much, aside from For a good time, call Sym. Shit. What’d I say?)
Such prominent finds however, have actually often made me sad to see the way people treat books sometimes.
As you mentioned though, anything more than that which I’ve discovered in used books are, indeed, flattened out flowers, or ones made out of paper or soft material. Why did they leave them in there? Bookmarks? I don’t know. I find it hard to believe that someone reading a copy of Slugs would use a flower as a marker. But eh, it happened. I just left it in there for the next person to find.

talljasperman's avatar

someones calling card with password…I never used it

AmWiser's avatar

I once found a winning lottery ticket (scratch off) for $30.00 inside a book from the Goodwill. Unfortunately the prizes must be claimed by date had passed a year earlier.
Great question. Sorry I missed it:(

MissAnthrope's avatar

@Symbeline – So, the paper flower thing is a “thing”?? That is kind of nifty..

@AmWiser – Awww, damn. I read your first sentence and was ready to celebrate for you!

@talljasperman – Why not?

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