Personal Inscriptions, Etc. in Books

A couple of months ago we finally rescued the last boxes (we think) of our possessions out of my in-laws’ attic and storage cupboard…only five years after we moved out! As I was sorting through a box of my husband’s childhood books, I found a couple that he had won through school prizes – both of which seem to prefigure his love of British wildlife, and badgers in particular.

We also found another book he accidentally inherited from his school when the library burned down – along with the Gerald Durrell memoir and a paperback copy of Animal Farm, that makes three books that never made it back to the school even after they rebuilt. Oops!

I gave some thought to the other personal inscriptions in our book collection. Although we don’t have all that many examples in total, my mother (whom I generally call “Marm”) is the queen of inscriptions: you can count on her to write the date, the occasion, and a heartfelt message inside the front cover of any book she gives as a gift. It’s terribly sweet.

I got the Betty Crocker cookbook as a birthday present just as I was setting off for my Master’s year in Leeds – the first time I ever had to cook for myself. Over the last 11.5 years it’s gotten a lot of use, as the missing fragments of the ring binder show.

Another cookbook with some sentimental value to us is Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookery Course – a classic of English cuisine that we got as a wedding present. It’s extra special as the giver, my husband’s Auntie Joan (not actually an aunt, but a first cousin once removed or something like that), passed away earlier this year.

Do you like writing and/or receiving personal inscriptions in books?


13 responses

  1. Ah! Many of those books bring back memories. In particular, I remember getting ‘My Family and Other Animals’ for Christmas when I was about ten. I simply opened the pages and didn’t stop reading and laughing till I’d finished – that was Christmas Day sorted, then.


    1. We love Gerald Durrell’s books; they’re always reliable for a good laugh. The animal collecting books, especially later ones, are also very passionate about conservation.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love inscriptions in books. I make my husband write in any books he gives me, but I know people don’t always love them so I tend to write on a card or post-it then slip it into the book. I always write my name, the date and where I got the book in my own books, and I LOVE it when I buy one second-hand and get to add my name to others’. What a lovely post!


    1. Oh, that’s a nice idea! The inscriptions mean I feel any book from my mother can’t be resold, which I suppose is for the best 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely tradition your mum has adopted. If someone takes the time to,write a message it signals to me thet they have really thought about the present. I should really think abou doing this with books I give too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely post!
    We are staying in a property in Florida with a pretty decent book selection in it. One of the books my husband picked up says inside “Gatwick Airport 7/11/2012 – six hour delay”. We both laughed and wondered about the story behind that!
    The Delia book is familiar – must have sold by the million.
    Hope you are having a great holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, that’s a great story in miniature!


  5. I love them! If I’m in a second hand book store, I’ll almost always try and find a book with an inscription – it gives it a past life I can think about.

    I once bought a copy of the Handmaid’s Tale that had a a picture of a massive Alsatian in it, with the inscription, “Zelda says, ‘WHAT A DOG'”. Its probably my favourite one!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a great post! I love inscriptions in books. I have a book my grandfather owned and he wrote his name and address in it. I feel this inscription keeps a part of his story alive.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love reading inscriptions, but I never write them. I think one of the reasons is because I imagine other people reading them someday (like I do), and so I feel a bit intimidated. Ha!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Cultural anthropology (or archeology) week at your house?


    1. Nope, it’s just that I had the photos lying around from when we unpacked boxes earlier in the year and it was a quick and easy post to schedule before I went away on vacation!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Enjoy your vacation! Say hello to the USA for me (I haven’t been back for fifteen years). Maybe I’ll visit soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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