I walked into the wrong bookstore in Granada, Spain last February, but I’m so glad I did. I was looking for an English-language bookstore on Calle Gracia called Metro, but instead I wound up at a different shop just a few doors down. Libreria Praga shelves mostly Spanish titles, but has a small section of used English-language books. A spine with Simon Winchester’s name caught my eye, and I was soon the owner of a used copy of The Professor and the Madman. This story about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary seemed like something I’d enjoy (which I did when I read it a few months later) but I bought the book simply because of the fascinating inscription I found written in blue ink on the title page:
August 18, 2003: For darling Maggie on her one hundred and fifty-sixth birthday from him who unabashedly adores her – U. David.
Actually, there is another short word scribbled before “U. David”, probably a first name or initial, but I can’t quite make it out. But what an interesting discovery, huh? Was it an inside joke between old friends? Or did someone really live for as many years as Hong Kong was under British rule? Highly unlikely. There is surely a backstory, and one that most likely will remain untold. But for a book-lovin’ traveler, this is one of the best souvenirs around.
If you’ve come across interesting inscriptions, consider submitting them to The Book Inscription Project, a neat online effort to collect special book messages found by readers worldwide. Two recently posted travel-inspired inscriptions on the site reminded me that I have to submit my Granada discovery. Take a look at these: First, a short note to a voyager about finding his special island, inside a copy of Vonnegut’s Galapagos. Second, a Christmas gift for a nomad — a copy of On the Road, the only book that moves as incessantly as he does.
Books move and messages get carried with them, from one reader to the next. What travel treasures have you found (or left for others) inside the front cover of a book?