the journal



Filed Under retrotravels.net

One of the joys that comes along with collecting old guidebooks is the items found within them, or “laid in.” Some refer to the postcards, metro tickets, notes, or dated paper items laid into the book as ephemera, a term I tend to use a lot to define the stuff I find within the covers of my books. But I learned of a more generic term today: flyaways.

Marty Weil over at the Ephemera blog recently asked his readers to submit stories about the coolest flyaways they’ve found in old books they acquired. Since I have the luck of the Irish and valuable objects seem to fall from my old books, I decided to post my findings here on kk.com.

Here’s my top five flyaways:

1. A Satchel Guide to Europe [1909] – The Secret Letter

The Secret Letter

A book of mine revealed a secret that it had been holding for almost 100 years. In the back of a 1909 edition of A Satchel Guide to Europe, I found a folded letter crammed deep inside the map pocket. It read:

To grandma:
Tom has a big kite.
He can fly it.
Do you see the big pine?
Can you fly a kite?
Do not hate me Ben.
I can kick my hat.
See me?
I am on the gate.

From Frances, Annie, Harris.

2. Lucerne: Lake & Envions [1904]

Lucerne: Lake & Envions, 1904

The inside cover of this guidebook had been signed by the previous owner: Marie Louise Fout from Washington D.C. Three beautiful business cards lay inside the cover – the red is as bright as if it was just pulled from the press. It is most likely that this book was guiding Marie around Lucerne over 100 years ago.

3. Baedeker’s Northern Italy [1928] – Pressed Flower

pg 388-389

My heart always jumps when I find a pressed flower among the pages of a book. I could possibly be one of the first to see it since it was laid within the pages. I imagine this flower is at least 50 years old. Some of my books have flowers that are over 100 years old – and they still have color!

4. Griffith Observatory Guide [1936]

Griffith Observatory Guide

I’ve come to the conclusion that there hasn’t been a book published on the Griffith Observatory for over 50 years. I found this guidebook, published a year after the observatory opened – on eBay. It came with two surprises: a business-card sized schedule of demonstrations at Griffith Observatory in 1936. The other, a pamphlet created by the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Parks which includes a “tabloid directory of interesting exhibits.” On the back (shown in photo) is a map and transportation options.

I love some of the words and phrases that have expired in LA since 1936, like “autoists,” the telephone number is listed as “Olympia 1191,” and the description of parking as being “adequate” – all definitely gone the way of the Dodo in this city.

5. Muirhead’s Northern Italy [1924] – Museum Admission Tickets

retrotravels.net | Ephemera Page

Finally, a sneak peek at retrotravels.net, a personal site that I’ve worked on off and on for almost three years. (Slowly but surely!) This is a design idea for displaying just some of the items found in a 1924 edition of Muirhead’s Northern Italy. The owner of the book at the time, presumably an American, collected the tickets from the museums and galleries he visited. In Florence, he perused the Galleria degli Uffizi (visited May 25, 1925) and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, (May 27, 1925) commonly known today as the Bargello Palace. After every visit, he threw the admission stub into this book.

  • Dennis

    Flyaways or laid in

    How to use or define.

    It appears to me that the accepted use of these terms is as follows. A laid in item is something found in the book when opened. If sold with the book it may be referred for example as follows: a letter to the previous owner or if a book mark is “laid in” the book.

    However if that letter or bookmark is removed from the book and sold separately it is a “flyaway” This term is useful to reveal the former location of the letter or bookmark. There are occasions where the prior location of the letter or bookmark is useful.

    For example if the letter is addressed to someone in Boston or the bookmark is from a Boston bookstore, this may be useful information to develop historical information about a former owner whose name may appear on the front pastedown.

    If the letter or bookmark were found in a desk, it would simply be described as emphera (the bookmark), of in the case of items so numerous that they are described in general categories , e.g. letters or autographs, that descriptive term would be generally used.