I play the same game with books. For instance, what seemed like an ordinary mid nineteenth-century Bible with fading gilt edges and a worn leather cover in Tyler's collection...
...turned out to contain thoughtfully preserved scraps of fabric and printed ephemera.
Martha Jane Baird's inscription--rendered carefully yet awkwardly--on the Bible's flyleaf indicates that Martha purchased this Bible for 75 cents in 1856.
But who was Martha? The first several passes through this treasured book turned up a scrap of newspaper I tried to use in identifying the Martha Baird who owned this Bible. According to a wedding announcement jammed among three pieces of fabric, James W. Beckford of Cumberland, Ohio, and Sarah E. Ruby of Claysville, Ohio, wed in 1894. I thought that perhaps Martha, then, would be easy to find among Martha Bairds who lived nearby. Not so.
Until I went through the pages for perhaps the tenth time this afternoon and came across another narrow strip of newsprint that read, "...[t]ravel and Adventure."
And on the reverse,"Leeper-Baird-Dec. 21, 1882, by Rev. I.N. White, Mr. Joseph Leeper of North Salem, and Miss Martha J. Baird, of Washington, Guernsey co., O."
Yet what I thought would be the key to Martha's identity proved to be unhelpful in identifying definitively (in the federal census) the Martha who owned this Bible.
Despite this, the Bible provides a glimpse into Martha's world. We encounter scraps of textiles:
a used 3 cent stamp (circa 1851):
and, as noted above, wedding announcements.
Martha used this book from childhood through (at least) her marriage as a convenient and safe repository for tokens that surely meant something to her. I'm glad I took a moment to check between the pages.