Book Mark

Marking one’s books with one’s name is a little like the dog marking its perimeter or territory. Albeit less messy and typically all in one spot, uh, place.

Book marking is a sign to any casual or intentional passerby as to whose property the book is.

My book. My lawn. Not yours.

The dog defends its territory. The name on the book signifies only who its (perhaps) original, or at least current, owner was. A little like hotels that mark their towels, “Stolen from the Hotel Deluxe.” The hotel may have lost its towel, but the thief’s guests now know the towel’s current owners are cheapskates.

In the past, I sometimes wrote my last name – in all caps so as to ensure that even the visually challenged could read it – on one of the book’s three edges. Other times the inscription was more ambitious.

Sometimes the marking involved using a ballpoint pen. Other times a felt-tipped marker. Typically, blue or black. Occasionally red ink. There was no rhyme or reason to this, though doubtless it would make for interesting cocktail conversation.

“Valuable” books may have gotten one, two or three placements. “Fun” books the same variation in treatment.

Property and its ownership. Status conferral and a billboard of such to everyone passing by the bookshelf. But for the fact that the book’s spine faced outward (thereby showing its title), not the inscription of who owned them.

Colleagues – that is, other college professors – often took loftier paths. Some had bookplates created: “From the library of . . .“ The Library! Indeed. As though it were some physical structure housing the great works collected by a single owner. Or at least the works carefully curated by the owner. None of which had been authored by the owner. Just owned.

Others marked ownership a bit more Law & Order: “Property of . . .“ Like lawn and garden tools one doesn’t want the neighbor walking off with. Or the hotel towels.

But, at a time at which information wants to be free, we’re told, what does it matter?

Twenty-five dollar books once purchased from the bookstore are now 25 cents at the yard sale.

Hardly worth marking.

Besides, it’s what’s between the covers that counts. Not the one taking temporary ownership of the packaging.

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