If you are looking for a quirky, attractive holiday gift for the bibliophile in your life, then Bantam Press (who very kindly sent me a review copy) have just the thing for you in W.B. Gooderham’s gorgeous, Dedicated to…, a collection of inscriptions found inside some of the second-hand books in his collection.
Mr Gooderham starts from the premise (with which I wholeheartedly concur) that books can be the most personal and effective of gifts. He writes:
“The right book given to the right person at the right time can work wonders. Spirits can be raised and horizons broadened; broken hearts can be mended, old flames rekindled, friendships reaffirmed. A book can say Sorry, and Thank You. A book can say I miss you, I love you, I forgive you; I never want to see you again.”
Personal inscriptions only add to the personal nature of books as gifts and, as Mr Gooderham points out display a deep sense of human connection, running the full gamut of human emotions and provoking curiosity about the situations that lie beneath these messages.
Physically, Dedicated to… is simply lovely. As well as having a textured and beautifully decorated cover, the pages are photographs of the books from which the inscriptions are taken and the messages themselves, accompanied by transcripts where the handwriting is difficult, all printed on high quality paper stock. If nothing else, the book looks stunning.
As for the contents? Well, put simply, the whole kaleidoscope of life is written here, in message form. Love, lust, hatred, family relationships, humour, pathos, hope and fear all manifest themselves as do relationships of all shapes and sizes - parental and filial love, new romances straight and gay, marriages and deep, longstanding loves.
There are puzzling choices, such as the individual who presented his love with a copy of 1984 and the message:
“This book was published in 1949, it was about the future 1984. I have given it to you with love in 1994, the start of our future.”
One wonders what future he was anticipating with this gift.
And there is Hetty, who clearly had mother -daughter issues, presenting her mother with birthday gifts of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a tale of a Soviet prison camp, and Words by Jean-Paul Sartre (with a cover quote, “I loathe my childhood and all that remains of it…”).
There are men whose messages of love leave me in awe of their eloquence and precision, such as Tom, who inscribed a copy of The Arabian Nights thus:
“To my dearest Sonia. We’ve had our own 1,000 and 1 nights of marriage - more or less. Three years already! I still discover things about you I love each day, or rediscover: your constancy, your generosity, your sense of justice. I count myself a happy man to have found you, and I hope it lasts as many years as we can count. I love you, Tom.”
I could go on and on, sharing the many gems from this volume but that would be unfair to the author and to you so, I will leave things with a strong recommendation that you buy this book and one of last example from it - a father inscribing in a copy of a song book, entitled Bawdy Ballads and containing gems such as The Sexual Life of the Camel:
“Mum says it is disgusting: I say it may encourage you to learn the piano. Mum & Dad, Xmas 1989”