Finding Small Treasures

As any regular reader of MyPorch will know, I have a particular penchant for the past. I will be the first to admit that my fascination for the “olden days” is highly romanticized and pretty darn selective. When I imagine walking the streets of pre-war London I edit out the car exhaust and cigarette smoke. When I fantasize about living in the LP days of the superstar classical conductor and packed concert halls I filter out the pre-Stonewall reality of gay oppression. And when I write myself into an Edith Wharton or E.M. Forster novel, I rarely think of the hot, scratchy clothes I would have to wear, or the fact that my socio-economic class wouldn’t really permit me a very satisfactory role in these Edwardian dramas.

One of the the manifestations of my fascination with the past is that I love finding old pieces of paper in used books. Tram tickets, photos, letters, shopping lists, business cards, prayer cards, you name it. Not only is it fun to ponder who left the item in the book but it can also give some clues as to where the book has been. Recently when I was reading The Ice Age I came across a receipt. Big deal right? What makes this receipt special is that unlike so many others I have found in used books, it is clear that the receipt is actually the original receipt for the book when it was newly purchased in 1978. Often times the receipts I find will be for something else like lunch or maybe one from the secondhand sale of the book. In this case the price and date match the price and date on the book itself. This in itself is very interesting to me. That the receipt has stayed tucked in the book since the day it was first purchased 30 years ago. But even more interesting is the fact that the book was purchased at Kramerbooks here in Washington, DC. So not only is the receipt 30 years old, the independent bookstore that sold it is still in business and is within walking distance of where I live.

Now I just wish I could remember where I got this used copy of The Ice Age. I thought I got it on our peregrinations around New England last summer, but I don’t remember. The existence of the Kramerbooks reciept inside leads me to think I got it locally…but where I don’t know.

(And for those that might not remember, Kramerbooks is the place where Monica Lewinsky bought Nicholson Baker’s Vox, a novel about phone sex, the purchase of which was part of Ken Starr’s ridiculous investigation. )