The Wall Street Journal had a great article today about a used bookstore in New York City called the Strand. It seems that people often forget to flip through books before selling them. It talks about all the interesting things the clerks find in them.
From naughty photos, birth certificates, famous writers notes, arrest rap sheets and letters to historical documents and photos. Here's some fun excerpts:
At the Strand's main desk, Richard Lilly said, "Let this be a warning to those who don't look through books before they sell. Bored clerks see it all." He laid open a copy of "Diverse Images - Photographs From the New Orleans Museum of Art." Lodged between pages 62 and 81 was a spent bullet. "Another piece of a life that can't be tracked," said Mr. Lilly, who runs the Strand's art department. "It could be worse. At least there's no blood."
"Yesterday, I found this really cool picture of this naked wrestler guy," Ms. Thompson says. In the fiction department, Ben McFall says: "I have a collection at home, which I can't bring in, of men in negligees. How do these things get away from people?"
Easily. A letter from Mrs. Robert E. Lee once dropped out of an old novel at Main Street Fine Books in Galina, Ill., birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant. Books from the Crypt in Gaithersburg, Md., found a 1933 horse-race tip-sheet in a 1938 copy of "Astounding Stories." Christmas Every Day, a used bookstore in Dallas, acquires leftovers from Christmas dinners in leftover Christmas books.
Snippets caught in books never solve these mysteries, but a while ago, Will Bobrowski did add up some clues. He was shelving a book on the Third Reich when an envelope dropped out. Two letters were inside: one from a woman to a Dr. Muller in America; and one signed by an Albert Kesselring. There were two snapshots: one of a group of Nazi officers standing at a table, and another showing one of them leaving a building with Benito Mussolini.
"I went crazy doing research," Mr. Bobrowski says. Soon he knew that Field Marshal Kesselring led Hitler's forces in Italy, was convicted of war crimes in 1947, was pardoned in 1952 - and was the man walking out of that building with Mussolini.
Just a reminder to flip through those books before donating or selling them. You never know who'll be reading you personal papers.