Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Man and His Brand

I was weeding in our dusty dusty adult fiction section and came across some Westerns that hadn't been checked out in years. It made me a little sad to get rid of them, but we're running a library, not a trophy shelf. Westerns just aren't the high-demand item they used to be, even out here in the West. One library wag explained to me that Vampire books are today's Western.

One thing I like about the Westerns in every public library I've worked in is the brands of the readers. It was explained to me years ago by the person who taught me weeding that many older men--the presumed audience for Westerns--might not remember if they'd read something, so they'd make a mark in the book someplace. You can find it in Large Prints of all kinds, but it's usually a polite little dot here or there. The boys who read Westerns put a real manly, bold mark. Here are some from the fly leaves, title page and even first page of Lassiter by Zane Grey's son, Loren. (They always downplay his first name and add a "Zane" in there, even though that wasn't part of his birth name. Anything for a book sale, though, I always say.)

(fly leaf...click to embiggen)

(back fly leaf...what would that be...recto fly leaf?)

(title page...including the old school cataloging marks)

(page one)

They are as interesting as cattle brands. I find it interesting, too, to see how consistent the marks are across the books. The guy who used the T with the stitch mark below it was a prolific reader. Almost any Western that entered our collection more than about 8 years ago will bear his brand. (Few of his marks in books published this Millenium. I hope he moved and didn't die.)

You can also see which writers individual readers liked. The man who used the brand that looks like "8B" or maybe "SB" on the same page as T Stitch really liked Zane Grey and Ernest Haycox, marking up nearly every copy of ours. He branded about half of our Max Brand, but almost no Louis L'Amour.

One library I worked at had a patron named BILL TANNER. I know that because he wrote BILL TANNER in letters an inch high on the title page.

So crack open some Westerns, pard, and let me know if they bear the brands.


loribl said...

The westerns in our collection get lots of use. FWIW, I work about fifteen miles from you, out in wine country. It is interesting to note our patrons are sooo different in their preferences!

Banned Library said...
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Banned Library said...

After reading, I immediately walked over to the western section and started picking through. Yep, "Hal" "H.B." and the anonymous Mr. "X" all spread throughout the collection. I enjoy the little aspects of librarian ship nobody really gets to see.
Thanks for this article, it made my day.

HM said...

I never thought to look for brands! My fellow librarian knew exactly what I was talking about when I brought it up. Very cool!

beth said...

That is super cool (and clearly got a bunch of us excited). The next time I'm in my library I am totally hitting the Westerns to look for brands!

Jezebelle said...

Cool! In our system it's the little old ladies marking the paperback romance novels. To continue the analogies, is it a book hickey then?