Monday, 9 January 2012

How do you feel about inscriptions, colouring and other marks in books?

The Laughing hour is a sweet little book in less than perfect condition. This is a short précis from my website;

A collection of beautifully illustrated stories and poems. Covers rubbed and chipped at edges, spine frayed at ends. Lots of finger marks, previous owner’s name, several black-and-white drawings have been neatly coloured. A very pretty book that has been well loved.

So, if you were me would you offer it for sale?  What about the finger marks, the colouring and the previous owner’s name?

I love finding previous ownership marks and don’t mind the odd bit of colouring, if it’s done neatly (as this is), but lots of collectors wouldn’t dream of adding a book in this condition to their collection.

As far as I’m concerned inscriptions, notes and drawings show that a book has a story of its own, it shows how books are given, passed on or discarded and then perhaps loved by someone else.

If the The laughing hour could speak I think it would say something like this;

I used to belong to a little boy called Paddy McAlpine, Paddy spent hours with his pens and pencils carefully colouring my pages. He liked two of my poems very much - one was about a beetle and the other about a robin. Paddy read me over and over again but when he grew up his mummy gave me away, and now I'm looking for a new home.

I know the little boys name was Paddy McAlpine because he wrote it in the front of his book, I assume he liked colouring (although it could have been done by his mummy or someone else).  My reason for thinking Paddy liked the two poems is because those two pages are heavily finger marked and the binding is pulled, suggesting the book was repeatedly opened at the same pages. This is a well-loved book in need of a new home -a case of recycling at its best!

Do you keep books that belonged to your parents, grandparents or grown-up children so that you can pass them on to the next generation? Would you still keep them if they were in poor condition?

How do you feel about previous ownership marks - love them or hate them?

The laughing hour is now sold. I'm so happy this sweet little book has a nice new home where it will be loved. 


  1. I'm with you on this one Barbara - I love books that have been loved and lived to tell about it! I still have all my books from early childhood (I'm 53 this year) and they are amongst my most treasured possessions. They are well used - many no longer have spines - but all have been enjoyed, not just as decorations on a shelf. I think it depends on why people buy books - the one you have included here looks so lovely I'm sure someone will appeciate it marks and all! (I also think the longer a book has managed to survive the more ownership marks become acceptable - they take on a historical significance we don't attribute to a newer book.)

  2. To me, a book is a book. and having the personal colors and markings of the previous owner just make it even better. Knowing who it belonged to - now that's precious.

  3. I don't mind books with names or short messages scribbled on their first pages at all: could be a gift from a child to another child; or a grandma to a toddler. In fact, I've kept one that a girl, about 10(?), had sent to another girl as a Christmas gift.

    But if it's been coloured on, and the colouring done messily, then I'd be likely to give it a miss. :)

  4. barbaraannefisher10 January 2012 at 19:04

    That’s exactly how I feel. Well done for hanging on to your books, most of mine were given away or sold at car boots, but I’m gradually finding replacements. I don’t really mind if this little book doesn’t sell I will be quite happy adding it to my collection.

  5. barbaraannefisher10 January 2012 at 19:07

    I don’t like to see messy colouring but I don’t mind too much if it’s nice and neat. It is always much harder to sell books if they are coloured in because most collectors just don’t want them. I love messages in books and will be featuring some on my blog over the next few weeks.

  6. barbaraannefisher10 January 2012 at 19:23

    Absolutely. Well said, Donna.

  7. When I was a small child I would sometimes colour my books very unneatly! Shockingly so, lol. I'd keep my own, but I wouldn't buy a book like this unless it was heavily discounted. Having names in the front of the book or neat colouring is fine, though.

  8. barbaraannefisher11 January 2012 at 22:40

    Naughty girl! OK I did it too! Most collectors want books in pristine condition but with children’s books it’s often hard to find them like that.

  9. Books that I have from my family have added interest when they have writing, drawings, or inscriptions. I feel like the book has more of a personality then. As for buying one that isn't in the best of shape- it would have to be a book I was really looking for and wanting. Or it could be discounted. I love your story about where the book has been!


  10. barbaraannefisher12 January 2012 at 18:48

    I have a couple of books that belonged to my dad they are not valuable in any way but they are very precious to me.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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