Skip

How do you inscribe your books?
July 17, 2010 10:27 AM   Subscribe

How do you inscribe your books? (Only for those who do this, of course.)

I mean:
1. Do you write your name, or just initials?
2. Do you write the full date, or just the year? Do you write the date when you bought the book, or when you finished reading it?

And more importantly,
3. On what page do you put your inscriptions? Why?

I bought some second-hand books recently, and some of them have inscriptions. I love it! I love the (imagined) story behind it, I love thinking about what the book has been through, how far it has traveled, what the previous owner was like. I love the fact that over time I will add my own history to that book.

In browsing my own books at home, I have noticed that I am prone to listing down my nickname and the exact date when I bought the book on the second title page (where it has the author's name and the title in bigger font), on the upper right-hand corner. I have never really thought about it until now, but it must have been a habit ever since I was younger.

The only explanation I can think of is: I write my nickname because my whole name is too long, and initials seem too short (although mysterious). I like seeing my name there on the same page as the author's. Kinda like making a connection somehow, sharing a moment, having tea, being introduced to each other at a friend's dinner.

Sometimes when I have reread a book, I put in a new date when I've finished it. Maybe a few words in a parenthesis, what I was feeling at the time. One of my friends write the location of where she bought the book, what she was doing at the time, who she was with. I've been meaning to do that, too, but haven't decided yet where to write them - on the inside of the cover, perhaps? I know that some people write on the first blank page their messages when giving books as a gift.

Where do you write yours? And what do you write? And what is the reason behind it?

And oh, another thing I am actually worried about: in the case of getting old books autographed, do you think authors get pissed or annoyed to find the name of the owner on the same page where they will sign it? Should I leave that page alone for future encounters with elusive signatures, and find another page to put my inscriptions in?

P.S. Yes I am also guilty of marginalia but that is a discussion for another time :)
posted by pleasebekind to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
And oh, another thing I am actually worried about: in the case of getting old books autographed, do you think authors get pissed or annoyed to find the name of the owner on the same page where they will sign it? Should I leave that page alone for future encounters with elusive signatures, and find another page to put my inscriptions in?

Authors sign on the first or second title page, so feel free to write all over the blank endpapers. That said, I'll sign a book anywhere you want me to- I wrote it, but it's your book.
posted by headspace at 10:32 AM on July 17, 2010


Just signature and date, normally, on the first endpaper. Occasionally a note of where I bought it if there is particular reason to note that. And what's wrong with (intelligent) marginalia?
posted by Logophiliac at 11:05 AM on July 17, 2010


For whatever reason, I tape one of my business cards inside the back cover. I suppose that might tell a story to someone a hundred years from now - though that was never my intent.
posted by whatisish at 11:29 AM on July 17, 2010


I never give a book without inscribing it (also, without having read it first, if possible), and I do so on the front endpaper.

I don't inscribe my own books.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:33 AM on July 17, 2010


I stamp my books on the title page with a stamp (Ex libris Brian W. Ogilvie) that I had made up back in the early '90s by a shop in Chicago. Cost me about $10, I think. For rare books, especially the handful of books I have from the 17th and 18th centuries, I usually just write my name in ink on the front flyleaf.

My books are tools. I fill them with marginalia, underlining, etc. (except for those pre-1800 books). I usually use pencil but if I don't have one to hand I'll use a pen.

I've only written one book and I've only inscribed a few dozen copies to friends or purchasers, but I certainly would not be upset if someone had written his or her name on the half-title or the title page. In fact I might be flattered at the evidence that they intended to keep the book!
posted by brianogilvie at 11:34 AM on July 17, 2010


= a message about the book, usually something meaningful, my thoughts on it or what I was doing/what was happening at the time I read it =

= date bought = - = date finished = peace, love and unity = full name =

I do this in every book I read, then leave it somewhere (coffee shop, park bench etc) for someone else. I also love marginalia, but don't usually do any of my own unless I know I'm keeping the book. This kind of stuff will become more and more important as we lose readers to the Kindle and similar devices.
posted by loveyourfellowman at 11:41 AM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I used to sign my name (usually my full name, sometimes just initials + last name on small books) at the top right corner of the half title (first page after the front cover), adding the month and year below my signature. Now that I catalog all my books on LibraryThing, where I can find the exact date I acquired it, I very rarely add my name any more.
posted by languagehat at 12:35 PM on July 17, 2010


I write my name and e-mail address and sometimes "Reward for Return". This is an outgrowth of getting fed up with leaving books places. I haven't been doing it that long yet, so I don't have good info on a successful return rate.
posted by Jahaza at 12:47 PM on July 17, 2010


I always sign one of the first inside pages when I give someone a book. I love looking back at books that have been given to me and reading the inscription. My babysitter gave me The Phantom Tollbooth when I was a kid, and she inscribe "For Amy, who has plenty of time. Love, Holly." When ColdChef named his baby boy Milo, I gave him a copy of the book with a similar inscription.

I don't think authors mind if there is a personal inscription in the book. Personally if I were an author, I'd be flattered that someone liked the book enough to give it as a gift.

I don't really inscribe my own personal books. However I do have some old books and textbooks of my mom's, and I love when they have her maiden name in pretty script with a super-old phone number (like the kinds with letters). And actually I like buying used books especially when they have a name or a bookplate. So maybe I should start myself!
posted by radioamy at 12:53 PM on July 17, 2010


I write my name, date and place of purchase on the first leaf. If it was given to me on some occasion, I also put down when and by whom.
posted by mummimamma at 1:07 PM on July 17, 2010


If I wrote the book, I autograph it on the title page. If I bought it to read and keep, I simply print my last name on the first front flyleaf. You may even own one of these, as I've sold off hundreds, maybe thousands, of them in the past few years, including some autographed to me by the author. Dumb, yes, and I wish I still had them. (I moved around too much. Books are heavy.)
posted by fivesavagepalms at 2:47 PM on July 17, 2010


Name or initials, place bought, month and year, on the title page. I love going back to books I bought ten years ago and remembering places I have been to.

My favourite book inscription was in an old second-hand book acquired years ago: "Angie, This is meant to keep you on your bottom for a good while. Love Sheila." Have no idea who either of these people are, but it makes me smile everytime.
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:02 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


PS And sorry for double-post:

oh, another thing I am actually worried about: in the case of getting old books autographed, do you think authors get pissed or annoyed to find the name of the owner on the same page where they will sign it?

I went to a book signing some years ago and asked the author to sign one of his books that I already owned. My name was already written on the title page. He didn't mind, but just said, "That's a good university" - I had written the name of my university under my name, as I had bought it at the uni bookshop.
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:05 PM on July 17, 2010


Wow, you guys, I am loving the discussion. Thanks! And I am learning a few things, too. Correct me if I am wrong, but by my understanding of the proper terms:

- front endpaper/front flyleaf = the first (blank) page after the cover
- half-title page = page with the title of the book in smaller font
- title page = comes after half-title page, with the title of the book and author's name in bigger font


@Logophiliac - I love marginalia :) Guilty of it more often than not. Some people don't like it, though.

@brianogilvie - My mother and my aunt used to stamp their books. They were using my grandfather's stamp. It only contains their last name, and he used it for his law books. I guess his habit caught on to them. It's nice seeing old books handed down to me with an inscription :) I like seeing the years, especially.

That being said, I also use pencil for my marginalia. I worry that when I use a pen, in time the ink bleeds onto the other side of the page. Do pencil marks stand the test of time, though, and would still be visible on the page after years and years?

@loveyourfellowman - Kudos for you giving books away. I would love to find a book that was left by a stranger.

@languagehat - I have recently taken to cataloging my books as well, but in GoodReads. It allows us to put in the date when we have bought the book + date when we started reading it to when we finished it. It's a fun practice and made me even more interested in inscriptions.


Anyway, I haven't really thought about putting the location of where I bought the book, because I am always frequenting the same bookstores and the same bargain bins. That is, until a few months ago, when I traveled to another country -- I thought it would be nice to indicate that I bought it somewhere special.
posted by pleasebekind at 6:25 PM on July 17, 2010


For a year once, I kept entire diary entries on the endpapers of my books. Then I dumped all of them at a junk store. I like to think I'll find one of them again someday. . . and in the meantime, who knows who knows me now?
posted by sunnichka at 7:57 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't bother to put my name in my books. My books don't circulate much (I'm more likely to BUY a copy for a friend than to loan out my copy).

I do make a (pencil) note of when and where purchased, and how much I spent. (Most of my books are purchased used....)

The Where, When, and How Much are a useful aid to memory. ("Did I really spend THAT much for this book? Oh, I see - it came from [used book store] the [last time] we were in [city].") The use of a pencil makes it easy to remove when I get rid of a book - I tend to think of it as a courtesy to the next owner.

For the last four years, I record this information in LibraryThing, so I usually don't even bother to write in the book any more.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:53 PM on July 17, 2010


I was wondering, in terms of buying and selling, is the book more valuable if it has an inscription on it?

What if I have a first edition, and I inscribed it, and then I decided to sell it, would I be as profitable as say, if I have a first edition + signature of author?

Just thinking aloud.
posted by pleasebekind at 9:21 AM on July 18, 2010


> I also use pencil for my marginalia. I worry that when I use a pen, in time the ink bleeds onto the other side of the page. Do pencil marks stand the test of time, though, and would still be visible on the page after years and years?

I use only a pencil to write in books, and I refuse to buy books that have been written in with pen (aside from the owner's signature or an inscription) unless I really want them and they're really cheap, and then I resent the previous owner for their thoughtless scribbling. (Don't even get me started on highlighter.) Yes, pencil marks stand the test of time; I can clearly read ones I made many years ago. (Use a reasonably sharp pencil and write clearly, obviously.)

> What if I have a first edition, and I inscribed it, and then I decided to sell it, would I be as profitable as say, if I have a first edition + signature of author?

Absolutely not. Don't write in a valuable book you have any intention of selling.
posted by languagehat at 9:32 AM on July 18, 2010


I usually write my name and the season I bought the book on the inside cover if it's hard back, or the front page if not. I sometimes write little notes to myself if there is something of note that happened that day.

When I give people books, I usually write on the first page with a fair amount of white space, usually the title page. I always write in books I give.

I hate marking up books. I like mine to be all pristine. At the same time, I love finding old beat up books with notes and other such junk in them.
posted by chunking express at 10:58 AM on July 19, 2010


It's interesting, writing the seasons. I haven't thought about it that way. Sounds romantic, actually - but that's just me :)
posted by pleasebekind at 9:21 AM on July 20, 2010


I write my name, the date I got the book, from where, and what city. [Riverine, August 14, 2010, Rust Belt Books, Buffalo, New York.]

When I was a kid I wrote much more, including notes about what happened the day I got the book or my reaction to owning it myself. I also filled out an index card for each book.

Yes, I'm now a librarian.
posted by Riverine at 7:30 PM on August 14, 2010


« Older Is it creepy to adopt a new ca...   |  Please help me identify the ty... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post