Last fall I pulled Mary McCarthy’s Intellectual Memoirs off the shelf for the first time in years and found two fifty-dollar bills tucked inside. Nice, but alarming enough that I can now confidently say–after an evening of on-the-ground investigation–that there is not another red cent hidden in any book in my apartment. This is not my usual notion of a savings account–my money didn’t earn a lot of interest there, needless to say–and I’m going to be very careful next time I take a box of books to the local bookstore.
A piece in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) catalogs some of the amazing items discovered in used books at New York’s Strand and a few other bookstores. These items include an activist’s rap sheet; sketches by Bosch, Michelangelo, and the unidentified; birth certificates; dirty pictures; and, natch, love letters. Some of the gaudier finds:
The Strand did buy a $15 doodled-over book of drawings by the Renaissance artist Ucello. The doodler was Salvador Dali. Fred Bass, the Strand’s owner, once opened a book titled “The Bill of Rights” to find it was hollowed out. The bottom of the inside was signed, “Boo! Abbie Hoffman.” Mr. Bass says he learned later from Mr. Hoffman that he had hidden a tape recorder in there during the Chicago Seven trial.
Mining the dusty stacks, browsers can strike gold too: a signed photo of Bette Davis; a dried four-leaf clover; a ripped-out flyleaf from a first edition with a poem scrawled on it: “A plague upon / and to perdition / the Hun who mars / a first edition…”
Harvey Frank wasn’t pleased, though, to learn that a personal note he wrote had landed in a customer’s hands at the Strand. Mr. Frank had slipped it into a copy of his own self-published book of poetry, “My Reservoir of Dreams,” before sending it to WOR Radio host Joan Hamburg. “I thought I would bring her into my life,” says Mr. Frank, who is 80. Ms. Hamburg remembers the book, vaguely. “I was sort of touched,” she says. “I put it on my desk. Or somewhere.” She says she has no idea how it ended up in a used-book bin.
Ouch, and d