While cataloging my way through some *ahem* backlogged books, I came across three items that presumably belonged with our Rupert Hart-Davis library. I thought it was strange that these had been passed over while the rest of the library was cataloged, especially since they were all from the 18th century and had gold tooled bindings. They also seemed surprisingly light in my hand. I decided to make them a priority.
Upon finally sitting down with the first book, I wondered why Hart-Davis would have volume 9 of a 17-volume set of French law books. I noticed a thin ribbon bookmark and tried to turn to that page, but couldn’t. The pages were glued shut in a solid block. It was then that I realized what I had initially suspected–these were hollow books.
Hollow books, also called book safes, are a classy way of hiding things one doesn’t want to be found. They’re easy enough to make yourself, but you can also buy them pre-carved. I may have made a few myself as a teenager. (Sorry, Mom.) Hart-Davis’s books have added marbled endpapers, and two of the three have matching marbled paper lining the cavities. Instead of the traditional flasks or firearms, I found mementos from Hart-Davis’s children, press clippings, and letters.
Because these items have been transformed from books to boxes and can no longer be read, they will be added to the Rupert Hart-Davis papers (Coll. no. 1999.002) as realia. For more information on the Rupert Hart-Davis library and papers, see our previous post on his collection. More photos of the books can be found in our Flickr set.