Every Book(mark) Has a Story: Messages

“A Message in a Bottle”

Unlike many other items left behind in returned library books, the first found item that sparked James Flowers’s collection was not lost at all. This note was placed in a book on purpose with the intention that it would be found some day in the distant future. It was not 2035 A.D. yet when the note was discovered, but the question posed in the note left the finder wondering what other messages might be waiting within library books.


Handwritten notes were a common find among the items in returned books. Most do not appear to be left intentionally, but rather forgotten or misplaced after the message was read. These messages embody the temporary nature of ephemera, with notes like the one written on a torn page reading “Let’s go to the 4th floor” having a specific, time-sensitive purpose. There may not be much context to these discarded notes now, but some human connection is clear in the brief text written across physical media like Post-Its, index cards, and scrap paper.


Handwritten memos, in this case more like “notes-to self,” were another type of message commonly left behind. With no clear intended audience other than the writer theirself, these notes have even less context than those written as a form of communication. Some, such as the note on poetry, contain complete thoughts while others have indecipherable meanings and remain a mystery.


Other messages were a bit more formal than the quick notes handwritten on whatever paper was available. Postcards, greeting cards, and other postal mail traveled from near and far to make their way into library books as did blank stationery and letterheads intended for written correspondence.

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