I opened an old book at a used-book store and a hotel
cocktail napkin with a room number printed on it fell out from between its
pages. I imagined someone reading a book, being interrupted, and reaching for
the nearest thing at hand to mark their place. What story did the napkin tell? I
purchased the book solely on the basis of this forgotten bookmark.
Michael Popek runs a used and rare book store in New York. He
began to collect the odd things left behind between the pages of the books he
bought and sold. He describes them as treasures within treasures, like bits of
random ephemera left inside books, often untouched for decades, which leave him
with a misplaced sense of nostalgia.
He is the voyeuristic force behind a fascinating book, Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s
Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages. In it and on his website, he shares his collection,
offering a glimpse into other readers’ lives that they never intended for us to
see, while withholding the full stories they tell.
I adore finding left-behind mementos in books. And to those who have ever left something behind in one, as well as to Mr. Popek for sharing with us his finds, I am indebted.