One of the pleasures of buying used books is the surprise you sometimes get when you find something inside that’s been left behind by a previous owner. I’ve found money ($1 woot!), a 2 f. museum ticket stamped 23 Mai 192x inside an old Baedecker’s Paris and Its Environs and, far more commonly, heart-felt dedications.
My favorite dedication to date was found in a book called Essential Words Complete by Edward L. Bailey. Essential Words Complete is a spelling primer, written to address the “spelling problem”. It contains “only the commonest words — those which every person should be able to spell correctly.”
According to a stamp on the back cover, by contract, the book sold new for 48 cents and used for 41 cents.
The reason I bought the book was the dedication. It reads:
Sept. 25, 1939
Fred R Trimble
New Florence, Pa.
Given to Fred to improve his spelling by Mother.
Bad spelling is a handicap to men who select business as their career.
Essential Words Complete has been digitized and is available in the Hathi Trust Digital Library. You can also get a reprint on Amazon for $11.99. Even though it doesn’t seem to be taught in school anymore, as Fred’s mom would tell you, good spelling never goes out of fashion.