Urban Archeologist: Things Found in Books

Judge a book by what's inside.

One thing a good Urban Archeologist shouldn’t overlook is the occasional box or dusty shelf of books. They are often passed over or ignored and seem destined to be undone by technology. 

No, I don’t think e-books will cause hard and soft cover books to disappear overnight. For one thing, some of us don’t have it in us to throw out a book. Think of that unread copy of “Moby Dick” you’ve had on your shelf for years. That paperweight won’t ever leave. Sure, you wish it would, but there it sits resting on your conscience because it was a gift and, well, you can’t throw out a gift.

But that may be a good thing, because we should all know that other than their intellectual value, or their aesthetic value, books can be priceless antiques or collectibles that will only go up in $$ value.

First editions of “Gone With The Wind” are priced in the range of $9,000 to $85,000! These happen to be special copies signed by the author and add a few signatures by the film’s cast and you’ve got the top dollar copy. It’s sometimes what’s inside a book that can add to its value.

The images above are just a few of the items I have discovered while on a dig. The picture of the men outside a meeting hall looks like more than just a casual chat. Something important happened there, important enough to photograph, but the book it was tucked in gave no clue.

The images of the inside pages of the open book was another mystery. A scribbled record of a journey on board a prominent locomotive to upstate New York. Signed by the travelers, it was found inside a reference book from the 1930s, but who were they?

I purchased an old medical dictionary, simply out of curiosity for the dated medical terms, and inside was an Irish sweepstakes ticket. Unfortunately, my horse hasn’t come in yet, but finding that ticket tucked in those pages was priceless.

Finally, a simple bookmark, front and back, possibly from the late 19th century and a very prominent third generation publisher and stationer. If only I could tell which books it has been marking pages for, and who the owners were. There’s a clue or two in pencil, but no matter, it’s a gem and now it marks my current read.

It’s true that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover… you never know what might be tucked inside. Go to the blog and maybe you can tell me how famous these reporters were? Or, who was at this very important meeting?

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story. You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.

Don Carten March 01, 2012 at 04:21 PM
The Commodore Vanderbilt was a secondary train to the New York Central's famed Twentieth Century Limited. Like the Twentieth Century, it was an express that ran between New York City and Chicago. Although considered a secondary train, it ran with an all Pullman consist and would have been considered a first class train on many railroads. While having ridden the Twentieth Century I never had the privilege of riding the Commodore so I can't compare the two first hand, but I'm certain the service and food was first class on both.
Jaimie Cura March 01, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Also, Greg - I'm working my Internet-searching magic and found more info on some of those reporters - I left the comments on your blog - pretty interesting finds so far!
Greg Van Antwerp March 01, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Jaimie, Wow! Can't wait to follow those links. Thank you to Don also for sharing his experience with the 20th Century Limited and the "Commodore."
Jaimie Cura March 02, 2012 at 05:24 AM
Can you let me know the other names of the reporters and I'll search some more? I couldn't read some of the signatures.
Greg Van Antwerp March 02, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Those are not easy to make out...Henry Connors and Marty Hanlon (or Hamlon, or Haulon) the cursive "n"s in his signature don't match though Hanlon is the more common name. Thanks for digging into this. The last signature is really difficult...no guess there, I will keep trying.


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