When I unwrapped my next book to catalogue for the Rochester Cathedral collection, I came across a rather surprising feature that made me feel a little nostalgic about the many years I spent working in public libraries.
I opened ‘Essays on subjects connected with the reformation in England,’by the late Samuel Roffey Maitland (printed in 1899), and I was greeted with a date label from Leeds Free Public Libraries. These were once a regular sight for me, having stamped thousands of date labels over the years. So I was genuinely surprised to see a book from this unique and rare collection with an obvious history of being lent from a public library.
The ‘return-by’ dates stamped on the label, which range from October 31st 1898 to August 21st 1925, allowed my mind to become immersed in the journey this book must have taken over the last 116 years, the homes it would have been temporarily taken to by the library borrowers of the day, and the librarians of Leeds Free Public Libraries who would have catalogued and shelved this somewhat ordinary book of its day, ready for the next customer. As this book sits comfortably upon a support cushion at my desk, next to my multi-screened computer and a wealth of other technologies, I think of the librarians before me who over a century ago, catalogued this book by writing all the information on a small card, so that the book could be easily retrieved for future lending.
Further evidence of this publications time spent as a lending library book are, the embossed stamps marked on several of the rear and front pages and a purple ink stamped accession mark emblazoned on the back of the title page (the ink so penetrating that it has bled through to the title page). For me, this all adds to the history of this book as an object. It’s that tangible sense of the journey, the history, the life of the book that so fascinates me.
Many may regard this book to be defaced because of its time spent in a public library, but to my mind, these markings make this book all the more unique and special. Unlike many of the books in this fascinating collection, these markings provide us with a very tangible sense of history and also allowed me some happy recollections of my previous life working in public libraries.
This works continues to be endlessly fascinating for me and I very much look forward to uncovering the next treasure from the collection.