so i pull up the Lee Library catalog, jot down the call number on a scrap of paper, and take myself down the hall and up a couple flights of stairs to the southwest section of the 5th floor.
there are several copies to choose from. i begin to pull each one down from its place on the top shelf and flip through its pages and wiggle its covers, checking for overall structural soundness, seeing if i like the feel of the pages, the look of the type, the thickness of the book. (yeah, my usual ritual. nice to have so many copies to choose from).
oh, but what do we have here? one of the copies has been re-bound by book repair. you can always tell book repair books by their solid-colored cotton and rayon cloth cases and new labels (done on indesign and printed on moriki paper--for those of you binders interested in these details).
hmm. i wonder who repaired this? i'll just flip to the back and check.
lo and behold! there my initials were, staring right back at me, with the date 10/2002 written to the side. seven years ago, to this very October month, i had disbound this book, stab sewn on new endsheets, recased it in this teal green cloth, and lightly signed my initials in pencil on the bottom lefthand corner of the back cover!
naturally, i became the 19th person in 7 years to check this copy out. this 1941-er has held up quite well over the years, despite needing a little more tlc.
a missing or uber-damaged page i had photocopied and replaced. it's still stuck in there nice and tight. (the textblock is stab sewn all the way through, ps.)
hmm. some taped pages (among many) i chose to ignore. the tape doesn't appear to have evolved much, which is good. the paper overall is quite fragile. reminds me of the way a well-loved and used baby blanket feels over the years: thinning as it begins to fade.
i finished reading this book Sunday, on my flight home from the Guild of Book Worker's conference. tho it has withstood yet one more reading, there are numerous tears along edges of many pages, and some graffiti here and there, along with evidence of pencil marks i had erased in my former life as a book repair employee who didn't want to be a bookbinder. while reading it, i enjoyed not only the mystery in the words of the story, but the tactile story of the book object, itself. i reflected on the importance for me of working on circulating books--books that are used, books we are keeping functional and usable. i loved being able to feel how this book had been used and held and read by others. likely i am the only person to have returned to this 1941 Sun Dial Press copy of Rebecca more than once. it's come back to me: a ghostly remnant of my 2002 self going through the motions of a job, earning money meeting my solid 2009 self, striding with purpose through each day as a bookbinder and repairer of books.