Inscriptions in books = love on a page


My grandmother wrote the above inscription  in 1975.  It’s on the flyleaf of this ABC book, which is falling apart:


In case the reading is too hard to read, here’s what the inscription says:

To my dear little Ginny who at the tiny age of two sings the “Alphabet Song” like a real pro — With lots of love, Grandma.  March, 1975.

My grandma died twenty-five years ago, but when I pick up this book and see her handwriting, she feels very close.  I’m touching something she touched; her handwriting, always so distinctive, triggers all sorts of memory centers in my brain.  I think about the fact that she not only chose this book for me, she thought about what to write, and sat down — probably at the dining room table underneath the oil painting of a still life with fruit and goblets — and put pen to paper.  If I think about it, I can see her sitting there, in that house I loved to visit, writing something that her granddaughter would cherish and blog about thirty-nine years later.

That’s the power of an inscribed book.

I have quite a few of them in my library, and they are precious.  This copy of Little Women  was signed by all three members of my nuclear family:


Years later, when I was a senior in high school, I was obsessed with the idea of having a villa in the south of France someday (probably due to the movie “Jean de Florette” and the musical “Aspects of Love.”)  For Christmas, my parents gave me the just-published book A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, and my mom wrote the following inscription:



Absolutely, Mom!  You’re welcome anytime!  (I just have to get the house first.)

My mother-in-law wrote this beautiful inscription in the book she sent me before Matthew was born.  She couldn’t be at the shower, living across the country, but these words, written for  her first grandchild, meant so  much:



As much as I love receiving inscribed books, I don’t always write in the ones I give as gifts.  I’m  never sure if people like inscriptions as much as I do; I’m also afraid that they may have the book already, and re-gifting a book with a heartfelt inscription in it just doesn’t work.

But maybe I just need to get over it and get out the pen and write.  Because while any gift of a book is precious, it’s all the moreso when there is an inscription that charges the book with tangible evidence of family and love and friendship.

When Matthew turned three, his godmother — our friend Mary, whom we referred to as “GodMary” — gave him this Curious George treasury.  She wrote in it, too:


This book has been loved by both boys.  The last time Matthew ever saw Mary, when she was dying of cancer, he sat next to her on the couch and read to her from this very book.  He was just learning to read, and he was slow and halting and stumbling.  Mary sat there so thin and frail, with Luke cuddled up on the other side, and she stroked Luke’s hair and listened to Matthew read and it was heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time.

With this inscription in the book, there’s a little bit of her there to jog Matthew’s memories of his godmother. A few words in pen are far more than a few words in pen when they are written in a book.  They are love on a page, love that stays.

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