A love story in book inscriptions
As I think I’ve mentioned before, books with inscriptions in them are just about my favorite thing in all of used book Christendom. Finding one with an interesting person immortalized on a flyleaf is a really great thing, but finding a series of books owned by the same person and all inscribed to create their own narrative is like inscriptionirvana!
This happened to me last week whilst sorting old Penguins at the Oxfam Bloomsbury bookshop (incidentally for those of you in the area: £2 for all old Penguins, a steal!). In going through these Penguins, the story of a man named Richard Melville and his sweetheart Sandra came slowly and charmingly into focus.
Richard Melville signed all his books on the first available page, also often noting his location and the year. This made me smile anyway since I like imagining past readers of any given book in their appropriate milieu, perhaps contentedly just finishing the very book in my hand and signing it with a flourish to commemorate their completion. But then Richard Melville took it a step further.
I chuckled at his misfortune in Cyprus (or, more accurately, as his evident annoyance at his misfortune in Cyprus) and empathized with his need to replace the lost volume. I then moved along, hardly guessing the surprises Richard Melville’s old books had in store for me, and continued to price the Penguins until I came across the volume that set my little romantic heart a-beating.
To my utter delight, since his encounter with Cyprian thieves two years previously, Richard Melville had fallen in love! With his darling Sandra! In my mind, Richard Melville was an impoverished student at Oxford (as almost all his other books noted his name, some date in the early 1960s, and “Oxford”) unable to afford what he considered a proper token of his love for his darling Sandra and thus unable to confess his affections. Imagine my delight, therefore, when a few books later the following inscription turned up:
Those crazy kids made it! Richard Melville proclaimed his love (although probably not with a diamond as big as the Ritz, not that Sandra loved him any less for it) and his darling Sandra had agreed to be his wife.
This made me happy enough, but then I found one last book that utterly convinced me that I was a belated witness to two soul-mates finding each other.
In a different, loopier hand, the second inscribed Orwell could really only have come from Sandra to Richard. She apparently not just understood but shared his affection for Penguin paperbacks and inscriptions. A match made in Penguin pages!
Have I mentioned that I love inscribed books? Because I really do.