Dispatches from the world of bookselling


A favourite found postcard. The text on the back reads: Now my dear, this is ‘mooning overe a mere male’! Note the pose, the thoughtful visage. I’m speaking as one who has mooned in railway stations all over England and Wales. And the funny thing is? …I rather miss it! I won’t comment on the obvious symbolism of the train entering the tunnel. So, get your mink on girl, find a suitable bench and indulge your fantasies and we’ll meet another time for coffee!

One of the pleasures of working with secondhand books (and there are many) is the ocasional discovery of unusual bookmarks. These come in many forms; we’ve had receipts, newspaper clippings, payslips and even the odd topless photo, but by far the most interesting are the postcards. The brief notes scrawled on the back of generic holiday pictures give a little glimpse of a very specific time in someone’s life. I think that there is something very un-self-conscious about the things that people write on postcards. There is so little space to fill that you don’t need plan what to write very carefully and so just scribble down what you want to say and add a name.

We once had an enormous donation of books with cards of one sort or another in every book. The postcards provided a narrative of decades. We were able to follow the owner’s excitement at a new boyfriend through to the eventual name-change indicating that she married him. Major life events were hinted at, addresses changed and friendships clearly altered. Despite the inevitable sense of voyeurism, it was a enjoyable afternoon we spent pieceing together half the life of a stranger.

This brings me to the reason I started thinking about this: postacrds are a great way to keep in touch (and keep your page) and we’ve got some for sale! We’ve had a range from Leeds Postcards for a while but I wanted to shout about it a little bit and encourage everyone reading this to come in and get one and send it to someone they haven’t spoken to for a while. Who knows, it might find it’s way into an Oxfam volunteer’s hands in many years time.


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