Traces of former use

Currently on my shelf of library books is Leopold Damrosch, Jr.’s Symbol and Truth in Blake’s Myth (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981). There’s not much by way of annotations in this copy, but I was interested by two traces of bygone library borrowing practices.


Hidden between pages 280 and 281 (left there for the next reader to find) was a torn piece of paper, presumably used as a bookmark. Nothing unusual in that of course, but it was the dated text reading “SELF RENEWALS” that signals that this particular insertion pre-dates online renewals.



Flipping back to the front fly-leaf, I was also struck by the borrowing slip – the last date is 2005. It is conceivable that this is actually the last time the book was taken out, but I have no way of knowing. Nowadays books are rarely stamped when they leave the library because nearly everything goes through self-issue machines (thus the new barcode stuck over an old one here), so the borrowing history of a book is no longer recorded in the book itself and remains the preserve of the librarians. This particular book has also lost the physical traces of some of its earlier borrowing history – evident from the sections of “Cancelled” stamps which tell of a former borrowing slip. Those stamped dates are one kind of marks in library books I do miss.



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