Literary tastes change all of the time. What was fashionable today will most likely not be fashionable tomorrow. But who cares about tomorrow anyway? Let’s talk today about the past, my dear reader, while we still have time.
Not so long ago I found myself in the private library of Theodora Vellacona searching among her shelves for a thought-lost edition of Pascal. Instead I came across a book that had no markings on its cover. I took the book from the shelf and carried it over to the center table while Theodora spoke incessantly into her cell phone. The book was slightly smaller than a normal contemporary hardcover, and about the same size a book club edition one receives in the mail. I examined the book and felt its leather cover along the spine. It had the delicious aroma of dry leaves and raisins, as if someone had left the book in a damp fruit cellar for a very long time. I brushed the fingertips of my right hand over the anonymous cover and immediately felt the familiar tingle that comes with the discovery of something very old. The only markings the cover of the book had were that of a rectangular depression in the leather on the front cover, and the same pattern on the back, but this time the rectangle was raised. The rest was smooth and dry. I opened the book and the pages crackled in my hand. I held the book carefully with my left hand and pried the pages open with my right. Inside were hundreds of blank pages the color of old, sun-faded newspaper. I quickly flipped through the blank pages hoping to come across some writing: a poem, a bit of dialogue, an illustration, anything. Yet as I continued to flip through the pages, nothing appeared. Then, toward the end of the book I spotted what looked like a watermark. Peering closer, I discovered that it was really the impression of a thumbprint. The thumb was much larger than mine and I studied it for some time. It was the perfect impression of a thumb, presumably male from the size, and not in the least bit smudged.
Theodora then walked over to me and said, “Books can tell us the strangest things, even ones that have no apparent writing in them.”
I put the book down and stared at her as she answered another call.