You never know what you might find in an old book

When I was a student at Harvard Divinity School, one of my work study jobs was cataloging ephemera, a vast array of sermons, pamphlets, and other printed material chronicling the religious history of New England in eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries. There were sermons preached on Fast Days, sermons preached to the Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company, sermons preached on the death of Washington, and on the deaths, of well, pretty much anyone. We noted titles, joked about them from time to time, and occasionally were interested enough in a document to leaf through it or even read it.

There’s a charming story in the New York Times about a lowly minion working in the library of Brown University, who discovered a print by Paul Revere. The story is fun, and here’s the print:

It had probably been in the book for two centuries, never noticed, because no one was interested in the book’s contents.

Speaking of libraries, and especially of rare book libraries, they’ve isolated the smell that collections of old books create. Perhaps they’ll come up with a cologne and market it to librarians, archivists, and historians.

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