I love receiving books with dedications within them. I recently came across a notebook which had been given to me. I may not have remembered where it had come from as I seem to have a never ending supply of notebooks; some people would think that this is a “problem” but I know I’m not alone. However, this one had a dedication within it with a reminder to keep writing because the gift giver loved my stories. It gave me a renewed sense of belief in my writing; I can’t explain why, the same friend has always expressed interest in my work, however this dated back to a time where I was just in the first throws of my writing development. Perhaps this is why it brings a smile to my face every time I write in it now.
Which brings me to the other kind of book with dedications which I love; secondhand books with dedications to other people within them. Wayne Gooderham has just begun a series of articles for the Guardian, along the lines of his blog, which explore “the secret histories of secondhand books.” This has prompted me to take a look at the secondhand books I have brought over the years, sometimes often chosen by the inscriptions or dedications written inside them. I loved the chance of stumbling across a moment in someone else’s lives and allowing my imagination to run wild over what could have been before the inscription and the journey the book had taken to arrive in my hands. I haven’t owned many that are as descriptive as the ones that Gooderham features, however the subtlety of a name is sometimes enough for a character: The Penguin Book of Women Poets owned by Janet Fraser in 1984; the first collection of Minerva Short Stories, owned by Caroline Goddard at some point in it’s life; the collection of letter from Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville-West that has poignantly placed post-it notes from another owner and now it has a Lindt rabbit wrapper and a day calendar page in other poignant places from it’s current owner; the Diary of Virginia Woolf with a Ollon to Aigle train ticket from Switzerland from 20th February 1992; the copy of The Hunting of the Snark owned by M. Joan Whitfield in September 1976.
I found a short but intriguing dedication within The Oxford Library of English Poetry – Volume 2 & 3 were simply marked by July 1986, however Volume 1 states:
Welcome home! BK of the Power Club. July ’86
And inside there is a bookmarked poem, Edmund Spenser – The Ruines of Time
Think on that as you will!
As writers, we are always on the look out for inspiration and take it from everyday life and imagined lives, and the book dedication provides both for hungry imaginations. Visit Gooderham’s blog to find even more inspiration, and feel free to share your favourite dedications in the comments: received, given or found!