Old Books- an original poem

"Old Library" by Dusan Jovanovic
Old Library” by Dusan Jovanovic

Old books-
those I like the best.
Mildewy pages
yellowed by years,
bound in leather and
bandaged with peeling tape.
But it’s not just
the timeworn scent
that clings to the pages
or the feeling of imprinted letters
running over my fingertips
that makes me love them;
it’s the questioning,
the curiosity,
the wondering
about who could’ve held
this book before,
who could’ve cherished its
chapters and reached for
it on rainy nights.
I don’t just care about
what happened to the protagonist
in the next volume;
I care about what happened
to the person who long ago
inked on the title page:
To Lizzy- with love, Margaret,
Christmas 1909.
I wonder what became of them,
who they were and what they did,
and why they loved the book.
Old books
carry more than words
and classic tales
and forgotten histories-
they carry memories,
people.
Their readers gave them life,
and still, ten or twenty or
two hundred years later,
they mold to my fingers
like an old friend,
like they’ve done this before.
I like them the best-
old books.


Little known fact about me- I collect old books. My oldest book is a 130 year old history of Julius Ceasar, and I have first editions of Edgar Allan Poe, Amy Lowell, Mark Twain, and even a second edition Emma by Jane Austen (as well as many more). I hunt for them in flea markets, thrift shops, silent auctions, and once, I found a number of first editions in a sale at a library that was closing down. Like the above poem says, I don’t just like to read them (though some of them are so old that it’s hard to open them without the binding falling apart)- I like to imagine who once read them. A few of my books even have dedications and names written in them, the oldest being a man’s name and contact info scrawled in beautiful calligraphy on the title page- from 1850.

Really, I could go on and on about my love for old books, but I think today’s poem explains it enough.

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6 thoughts on “Old Books- an original poem

  1. Ah, the wonders of their binding, who wrote them, the lives of those who held and still hold them as they pass from hand to hand, shelf to shelf or stored in an attic for future discoveries. I share your passion, unfortunately I have no collection.

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  2. Enjoyed the images and sentiment in your poem. I can relate–I collect old children’s books. When I find a battered old library book and read the list of children’s names who’ve checked it out in the past, or find a book inscribed with the name of the gift giver and the lucky child, I feel a little thrill–a connection to those earlier readers.

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