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The secret history of secondhand books

Posted at 1:00 pm, November 30, 2012 in Arts & Entertainment
For Ted

Ten years ago, book collector and Time Out reviewer Wayne Gooderham realised that countless hours raiding the city’s secondhand bookshops had left him with a fascinating collection of sub-stories – handwritten notes scrawled on to title pages from gifter to giftee.

The Secret History of Secondhand Books

‘The idea is basically to make the recipient feel morally obliged to read the thing,’ says Gooderham. The dedications in his collection – the best of which go on show at Foyles this week – range from the touching to the gently deranged. ‘The first one I came across was a copy of “The Catcher in the Rye”,’ recalls Gooderham. ‘It was apparently given as a peace offering from one teenage girl to another, with some fabulously passive-aggressive bitchy dedication within.’ In some cases, brevity is key: an old poetry anthology bears the succinct, unambiguous inscription ‘For Ted – My period is 3 days late, xo’.

The Secret History of Secondhand Books

The most intriguing exhibits are those that are open to interpretation. ‘My favourite is a copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Words”, with a message from a daughter to a mother,’ (right) says Wayne. ‘I love that the choice of book, coupled with the dedication – and the fact that it’s been found in a secondhand shop – has the potential to tell us so much about their relationship.’ Think on that if you’re expecting a Kindle for Christmas. David Clack

The Secret History of Secondhand Books is at Foyles from Fri Nov 30 to Dec 13. For info, see foyles.co.uk.

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