What's the word for items left in books?
January 20, 2006 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Is there a specific word for the varied detritus people leave between the pages of a book?

"Ephemera" (stuff like newspaper clippings and tissues and phone bills and ticket stubs) doesn't really seem to cover things like bookmarks, feathers, rashers of bacon, poems, pressed flowers, money, et cetera.
posted by steef to Writing & Language (26 answers total)
If there isn't, there should be.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:51 PM on January 20, 2006

How do you get the pages apart without ripping them to tell what it was?
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:59 PM on January 20, 2006

There's the sniglet term "buckstasy" for the feeling you get when you find money in an unexpected place...
posted by luneray at 2:01 PM on January 20, 2006

posted by Espoo2 at 2:04 PM on January 20, 2006


root: interstice

The word marginalia is used for stuff in the margins. I propose interstitialia for stuff between the pages.
posted by nobodyyouknow at 2:10 PM on January 20, 2006 [2 favorites]

I don't know if there's a term for it, but there is a website and magazine about it. Not all of their stuff is found in books, but it's a similar idea.
posted by expialidocious at 2:11 PM on January 20, 2006

I don't know of such a word (the closest I could get is "ephemera"), but as a used book seller I have quite a collection of the stuff. No rashers of bacon though--so far.
posted by lisaj32 at 2:14 PM on January 20, 2006

I just always called it "yuck". There was a ham sandwich embedded in The Grapes of Wrath at my high school. We watched it deteriorate over four years. One day, it was just gone, leaving a mustard-stained hole burned through several pages. Those of us who'd done annual inventory for the librarian (to get out of class) always wondered what happened to the sandwich. It was almost petrified -- the ham, bread, mustard and lettuce still there after at least 3 years.
posted by acoutu at 2:21 PM on January 20, 2006

What a great question - last neat thing I found was a picture of a school apparently paid for by the previous reader's donation to a central asian charity.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 2:36 PM on January 20, 2006

Stuff like this?
posted by niloticus at 2:40 PM on January 20, 2006

I found a copy of a Hagar the Horrible cartoon from the late 70s in a book of Harvard Classics. Also, thank you for reminding me of Found magazine, expialidocious. This creeped me right out.
posted by boo_radley at 2:42 PM on January 20, 2006

Many large libraries have a running list (and/or bulletin board) of things found in returned books over the years. I know my local large academic library's circulation room has a wall covered just in paper items used as bookmarks: postcards, bills, photos, business cards, flyers, quizzes, letters, newspaper clippings, and oh yes, hundreds and hundreds of actual bookmarks.

As a librarian (but one who has never worked in the circulation department of a large library), I would just call such things "things found in returned books".

Entertaining article on this topic at: http://www.ebguide.com/solead.php
posted by gillyflower at 2:51 PM on January 20, 2006

When I worked in a bookstore, we called it "chaff".
posted by solid-one-love at 3:09 PM on January 20, 2006

Some more articles [WSJ here] and a thread. A phenomenon without an interesting name.
posted by dhartung at 4:19 PM on January 20, 2006

Spinal Crap.
posted by Oddly at 4:23 PM on January 20, 2006

posted by Oddly at 4:30 PM on January 20, 2006

In the best-case scenario, it would be called "cash"
posted by longsleeves at 4:34 PM on January 20, 2006

Page Invaders, Paginal Infestations, Litterations.
OK, I'm done.
posted by Oddly at 4:35 PM on January 20, 2006

My college library had, for some reason, a gold-vinyl covered, full-color illustrated, biography of Elvis Presley. There was a big fat roach (the smoking kind) carefully preserved in the section discussing his relationship with Ann-Margret. We rolled the remains into a joint of our own, smoked it, and left that roach for future Elvis fans to do with as they saw fit.
posted by hilatron at 4:48 PM on January 20, 2006

Are you talking major objects or minor stuff?

Books I take out from the library often have minor stuff. Common finds are what seem to be food remains/stains (tomato, chocolate, and dorito/cheeto dust are up there), cigarette ash, cat hairs, human hairs, lipstick, and things I don't want to try to further identify (e.g. something that might be parmesan cheese but I refuse to taste).

I have found numerous flakes of marijuana but only in sci-fi/fantasy books.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 6:44 PM on January 20, 2006

...major objects or minor stuff?

Personal objects or items purposefully left, but often forgotten or misplaced. Not the human bookjecta or biblioxcrement that is left behind in the course of reading a book.

Excellent suggestions! I like nobodyyouknow's proposed collective term, interstitialia, but I have myself convinced I came across a word for this somewhere....
posted by steef at 7:24 PM on January 20, 2006

posted by rob511 at 8:10 PM on January 20, 2006

or interleavings?
posted by rob511 at 8:16 PM on January 20, 2006

steef: "items purposefully left ... Not the human bookjecta or biblioxcrement that is left behind in the course of reading a book.

If you want a term for major objects you also need a better term for the minor stuff.

One thing I have learned since I found I could get my reading fix from an excellent public library is to never take out a book with the word "cat" in the title, or one with a picture of a cat on the cover.

First, the felineophile writing generally sucks. Second, the book will be full of cat hair.

Finally, I got the impression that some cat owners deliberately add cat hairs to the book to share their cat with other cat lovers.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 8:23 PM on January 20, 2006

or interleavings?

First thing that popped into my head, too. Fits the case perfectly, I think.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:09 AM on January 21, 2006

posted by soiled cowboy at 11:13 PM on January 21, 2006

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