Thursday, March 20, 2014

Things You Find in Books

     I’ve been busy cataloging a large donation of medical books for the museum.  Cataloging is an essential part of keeping proper records of the museum’s artifacts.  Cataloging can also be a rather tedious task!  However, I’ve been kept entertained by some of the things I’ve found in these books.  Today I thought I’d share a few of these finds with you.

     Even without the “surprise” finds, there are plenty of interesting features to old books.

Some old books have beautifully embossed leather covers. 

Even the book spines can be pretty.  Many times older books have very long titles such as this.

There are sometimes bookplates inside the books as well.  They often list the former owner’s name, and sometimes give clues about his or her interests.  I thought the design of this one was a bit strange, until I looked up the doctor’s name and discovered that he had been a pediatrician!

Of course, at my museum it’s always exciting to find a book which belonged to a Civil War Surgeon!

Many times in older books there is an illustration or photograph of the author or subject of the book, along with a reproduction of their signature.

This book photo highlights the uniform as well as the doctor.

Some images are more flattering than others!  

You can occasionally find messages left by previous readers.

Little sketches on the end pages are common finds as well!

     Leafing further through the books you can find interesting things such as:

A battle map

Class notes in a medical textbook

A cartoon

A photo of a plane crash

A poem about a gas mask!

     With medical books, you also have to be prepared to find images such as:

Nude bodies

A surgical diagram

A diseased ileum

     Sometimes there are advertisements included as well.  The old ones can give a peek into the items and stereotypes from the past.

Once upon a time, this was a state-of-the-art vehicle.

For obvious reasons, this prosthetic leg ad caught my eye!

Some of the old ads simply make you shake your head.

And some ads are shameless self-promotions by the author of the book!

     Not all of my book discoveries are pleasant.

This is what happens when a piece of acidic newspaper is left inside a book.

This was not meant to be a sketch book!  At least these scribbles are in pencil though.

     I have also found some items which have been left inside of books.

I’ve found pressed flowers, leaves, and even this four-leaf clover.  They tend to discolor the pages and to attract insects, so I take them out of the books.


Letters and notes are fairly common finds.  A doctor left this list of itemized hospital admissions inside one of his books.

I even found this knotted lock of hair inside a book.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t any sort of identification with it.

     I will leave you with the most bizarre image I found inside a book:

I’m not sure if they were trying to promote their product, or to scare people with this image!

     Now I'd better get back to cataloging!

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

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