I’ve mentioned what we find in books, but I don’t believe I mentioned that there is a special side to really big books (known as folio in the trade. Someday I’ll tell you all about the names for book sizes, from folio to quarto and so on. Someday I’ll understand it myself. People who know these things are born, not made.) People are prone to leaving things in the biggies.
See, once upon a time, kiddies, anybody who felt they were civilized had a parlor. In this parlor were the bits of furniture nice enough to show to guests, the family photograph album, the family autograph album, the family phonograph album, the wax fruit, the wax flowers, framed needlework, and, on a big stand, the family Bible. We don’t do this any more. I put it down to the 1950s, myself. Having a room just for company was all very well until the television was invented. Why sit in the parlor and look at Grandma’s graduation picture when wrestling was on TV?
Anyway, one of the purposes of the family Bible on its stand was to be the repository of family souvenirs: birth certificates, or one rose from the wedding bouquet, or the cabinet photo of Aunt Mabel’s eldest, the one who went to Berwyn and was never heard from again. Not only was it a safe place that everyone could locate, but it was big. A Parlor Bible was a massive volume with thick gilded leather covers and massive pages: nearly useless for easy reading but very handy for keeping documents flat.
Well, we don’t DO that kind of thing now. So it’s the huge art books and atlases that I find those things you or your parents or your grandparents set there for safekeeping. Just this year, I’ve had a Junior Achievement certificate “signed” by President Clinton (see my blog on autographs), an aerial shot of somebody’s second home in the Florida Keys (so big you just barely see the Key), an original engraving by an artist no one here has heard of, an article on Grandma Moses torn out of a magazine (but why did you keep it in that big Georgia O’Keefe book?), and a flattened popcorn box on which someone has written “8-16-77”. (Did he propose in the theater, did your parents let you go to a movie by yourself for the first time, or was it just your 120th viewing of “Star Wars”?)
What do I do with these things? Well, if there’s a market for it, it goes into the Book Fair or onto our eBay pile. If not, I leave it in the book. I leave the roses and the palm leaves in the Family Bibles, too. In a book that big, what’s one more leaf?