Different Kind of Throwback.

When I was in The Strand a few weeks ago, I was browsing the rare book collection on the third floor. It’s like being in a mini-museum of treasured books. Well, I’d say the whole building is a treasure chest of books, but the third floor? It’s ornate. There are dark wooden beautiful bookshelves from floor to ceiling lining all of the walls. Throughout the room there are gems enclosed in glass cases. It’s a place where people still appreciate  yellowed pages, and the scent that reaches your nose when you crack the spine of dusty old covers. Wandering this room, gazing carefully at the neat lines of books on shelves, and circling the tables with so many fascinating titles, my eye caught an obviously aged, well-loved, copy of Aldous Huxley’s Antic Hay. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Huxley (other than that scene in Garden State where they say Huxtable like on The Cosby Show was the author,) is Brave New World. I’ve never read Antic Hay. I’ve never actually read any other Huxley title than Brave New World, but oh if this copy didn’t feel so fragile beneath my fingers that I worried about its transport back to Florida, I’d have purchased it just for the scavenger hunt hidden between the pages! The date was written on the top right corner of the inside cover page, 9/3/28. As I slowly, carefully, turned the pages to my surprise an old folded piece of notebook paper with creased edges, drifted out onto the table in front of me. I opened it, no idea what to expect – a letter? a grocery list? notes on the reading? It wasn’t actually any of these. There were drawings – of a face, a head, four almost identical drawings, little sketches is a probably more accurate description. Then in tiny cursive, scrawled in a column beneath the heading “Psychology” were all these notes I couldn’t quite make out. Oh! These are the exact kinds of things I love to happen upon, little ancient artifacts, linking to some past life. I have never been good with history. Actually, my schooling skills aren’t really that great in all honesty when they branch out from the realm of reading and writing, photos, light, sound – throw in statistics, a list of dates? Don’t even thinking about numerical equations or chemicals. It all swirls into one giant grey tangled web of information in my mind. But this, a forgotten piece of scrap paper tucked between the pages of an old rare book? That’s my kind of history. I can’t help but wonder who wrote that list, who drew those sketches? Was that human face, the face of a woman on a train across from them? A lover at the kitchen table? Does that person even exist or did they conjure up the image in their imagination? Did the scribe make that list after reading the pages of Antic Hay, or were they a student, haphazardly jotting down information before leaving the classroom? How many rooms did that book have a home in before it found its place at The Strand? How long will it sit propped open on the table before a bibliophile stakes claim and takes it to their own home? Will that new owner be as fascinated by that list as I was? Part of me felt selfish for even thinking about making the purchase. A driving factor in deciding to leave it behind was the hope that another browser would stumble upon it, and be just as intrigued. These -my own personal adventures, half in my head, half in reality – they are what I wish to fill my days.


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