Monday, May 21, 2007

Writing In Books

I enjoy reading about early North American history, particularly the history of the American Old West. I’m currently reading Gold Dust & Gunsmoke – Tales of Gold Rush, Outlaws, Gunfighters, Lawmen, and Vigilantes by John Boessenecker (1999) which I picked up last week at a city thrift store.

Now, 90% of the books in my personal library are second-hand. About the only thing that annoys me about second-hand books is when people have written in them. Sometimes it is the previous owner’s name, or if the book was a gift there may be an inscription to the recipient, or sometimes someone has written notes in the margins or highlighted or underlined certain words in the text. That sort of thing really bugs me. I always take good care of my books and would never consider marking them in any way.

So when I opened Gold Dust & Gunsmoke I noticed that the previous owner had written his name on the title page. As that was the only marking I could see, and as the book was reasonably priced and on a topic I was interested in, I purchased it.

As I was perusing the book on the train home, I wondered why the previous owner had not printed their name, rather than what appeared to be their signature. Looking closer at the signature I could make out ‘John Boessenecker’. That name seemed familiar. Then the penny dropped - it was the author’s name. The author of Gold Dust & Gunsmoke had signed this particular copy of his book.

I then reflected on my distaste of people writing in books. Author’s signatures usually increase the value of a book rather than decrease it. With that thought in mind I guess I can now make one exception; if the author wants to sign their book then that’s ok with me.


Friendless said...

Yeah, James Dickey scribbled on the title page of my copy of Deliverance. I think I bought it secondhand as well.

Ozvortex said...


Yep, it's famous authors that really increase the value. I reckon my signed copy of 'Gold Dust & Gunsmoke – Tales of Gold Rush, Outlaws, Gunfighters, Lawmen, and Vigilantes' has gotta be worth at least an extra 10 cents more than an unsigned copy.