The Joy of Old Library Books

I can’t be the only person who gets sheer joy out of discovering ancient library books. The ones that are tucked away in the basement where nobody even remembers them. The ones that you have to open without breathing because it could crumble into dust at any minute. The ones with the flowerly language that fills a beautiful minute with what could have just taken a few seconds. The ones that you absuolutely cannot believe they allow you to check out and just stuff into your backback and walk out of there. It’s like being an art theif. It’s like being atime traveller.

I’m holding right now an original copy of “The DIagnosis of Stupor and Coma” by Plum and Posner. This book changed the world so much that they released many versions of it. But this is the first version. I don’t know how many copies of this book exist anymore, but one of them is right here with me. With a spine that has seen better days. With call numbers from the library written directly on the book’s cover. WIth a little slip of paper showing that someone checked this book out on Novemeber 7th, 1984. And on February 19th of 2006. And many other dates, but none anywhere recent. Who were those people? Did they find as much joy as I did in carefully turning the pages?

Someone wrote all over chapter one. Possibly multiple someones because there were several writing utensils used. They wrote the word “Evidence” as if at long last they had found what they were looking for. They underlined some passages in red pen, probably never realizing some day I would be judging them.

This book has a story unique to this volume and a story unique to the physical book itself. Sure, this is where the term “locked-in syndrome” was invented, but to whose eyes did that term flow? Who read it and agreed? Who read it and scoffed?

If I weren’t so conscientious, maybe I’d leave a note in this book for the next person who comes along someday. But this will suffice.