My English literature dissertation, [written a long time ago now], contained a chapter titled "Paper and skin both burn: the Textuality of the End".
Sounds cheery no?
I won't go into all the details [you'll be relieved to hear] but, in a wider exploration of apocalyptic fiction, this chapter in particular was an in-depth look at the interesting role of literature, books and story-telling in the event of an apocalypse/nuclear war.
So what's this got to do with anything? Well I suppose it proves that - long before I collected vintage books and ephemera - an interest in the preservation of narratives- and indeed even of paper itself - has been a running theme through my life ...
|Click to learn more about this vintage school syllabus|
- blank books [notebooks, excercise books, diaries etc]
- or blank sheets of paper / postcards etc,
- or else books which began their life as blanks which have since been written in by a regular, non-famous, owner ...
Who saves empty, unused, notebooks and albums?
|Vintage stamp album [SOLD].|
Other than 'people like you and me' of course ...
It all started with a ledger, and a journal that wasn't mine ...
When I first started getting interested in art journals / creative notebooks I became aware of people working directly on to the pages of old ledger books; adding their own artistic layers on to an already intriguing background. They looked so - for want of a better word - cool that I decided there and then to keep a look out for one of my own.
And that's what got me started.
The first thing I found - upside down and poking out the top of an old tea-chest at a collectors' fair was not actually a ledger but this journal:
From time to time I mull over big plans for it, I dip into researching the owner, I wonder about contacting her descendants, I think about writing another article about it ... and if any of it ever comes to anything, I promise I will share more!
It remains one of my favourite ever vintage treasures, and this sentimental attachment I've developed for it has prevented me from using it for the purpose I initially intended; I've never used it as an art journal.
Instead it remains as it did when its original owner closed the cover for the last time. Which is certainly part of the charm; the pull; the romance of collecting vintage personal books and ephemera. They've had a life already, before they reach your hands. They're already intriguing, full of life, full of silent stories, before and even 'if' you do anything with them.
Then it became a 'collection', and I a 'collector' [and 'dealer'!] ...
Ever since that first thrill of discovery I've been scanning the shelves of the second hand books I regularly browse [and goodness knows there've been miles of those!!] for more.
I'm always on the look out for a glimpse of a spine or page that looks slightly different to those of the hoards of regular printed books that line the shelves. Hoping that there'll be another post-owner notebook, journal, diary etc just waiting to steal my heart.
But there hardly ever is. Ever.
|Vintage, handwritten, recipe notebook. [SOLD]|
How can I not? How do I know I'll get the chance again?
In fact ... I see them so rarely I'm still ruing not buying an old, blank, reporter's notebook from the vintage market in Tynemouth about two winters ago ... [maybe sharing that fact will lead me to, finally, let it go ... ].
So where is it I'm looking?
- I regularly browse charity shops,
- and occasionally car boot sales
- and also vintage shops, collectors' fairs and junk shops.
- And then, for the last couple of years, I've visited the antiques haven that is the Hemswell Antiques centres plus several other large antiques/junk centres on the same site in Lincolnshire.
But, the thing that sticks out for me is, that when most people would consider rarity in collectibles it's probably not paper goods that would spring to mind first. And yet ... while wandering around these wonderful, vast, buildings ...
... what you learn is that war medals, ceramics, paintings and spoons are ten a penny, a dime buys a dozen. But paper products? They're just not there.
After spending all day there I uncovered the grand total of four vintage items that were paper related.
And I bought three of them!
They included this 'aide memoire':
|Click to learn more about this vintage palm-sized notebook|
Meanwhile the fourth was a beautiful writing set from the first half of the 20th Century inside a fold-out desk pad, complete with its original gift box. It even had a pad of monthly 'to do' lists. And was divine. But also a bit beyond my budget.
So, I brought home those few I found and - as always - I bought them with the intention of either:
- using them in my own projects,
- keeping them for my own collection,
- or passing them on to other, welcoming, hands via my Etsy shop.
And I don't even mind selling them. I'm delighted that - somewhere down the line - they'll end up being admired by another treasure seeker ... because as long as these items are out there in the world once again I'm happy!
|Learn more about these vintage index cards|
I revel in the serendipity of stumbling across a glittering single treasure in the midst of an ocean of predictability.
I love spotting the nugget in the dirt, opening up its covers - in reverence - to flip through its pages with my dusty fingers. And then I take an additional pleasure in knowing that - right up until I handed my money over - the seller/shop assistant had probably been thinking: 'That'll never sell. Who's going to buy an old notebook / school book / index card etc?'.
|Click to learn more about these vintage menu cards|
I cringe at the thought of relatives or professional house clearance companies emptying a house and throwing away this kind of thing, the kind of thing they don't realise we'll happily pay for!! If they did see the value [a] they'd be pleasantly surprised and [b] there'd be more of it for us all to rummage through but ... [c] it might put the prices up!!
So ... I don't know ... maybe I'll just happily continue to mine shelves and boxes for this rare treasure.
|Click to learn more about these blank vintage postcards|
A mission to salvage the notes, ephemera, and collections of everyday people over the last century and to take care of them, as they did.
A mission to to ensure its legacy, to be inspired by its back-story, to give it a new lease of life.
A mission to save it from the fire and keep the story going for a little while longer ...
If you'd like to contribute to the story of preserving, enjoying and using vintage books and ephemera please do so:
- you can leave me a comment;
- you could blog your personal collection of ephemera and share the link in a comment or via my Facebook page and I'll come and visit. I'm sure you've got your favourites you'd love to share with us all.
- you could share your favourite places to browse for treasure;
- if you've purchased some of the collection from my shop I'd love to hear about its new life with you!
- OR ... you can just share any papery ponderings this post has stirred up in you!
I'll await your notes ...