Here’s a cool NINES project collecting photos and other documentary evidence of 19c readers from the notes– and objects– they kept in them. It will be interesting to see how this develops.
I remember when I taught the History of the Book in America course in 2004 (or so) and had my students working at the Book Thing and one of them found a copy of a book that had a brittle wax-paper envelope containing photographic negatives of what appeared to be a family vacation at the beach. These ghostly, reversed-out traces of a previous reader sent chills down my student’s– and my– spine. Who was this reader? Was he/she using these negatives as a bookmark, haphazardly grabbed off a shelf and no longer useful for any other purpose? Or was the reader intentionally keeping these negatives with the book as a kind of memorial?