We collect books that contain handwritten messages between their covers. Discrete, epigrammatic, and enigmatic, these inscriptions—whether they’re personal notes or signatures, doodles or dedications— conjure a world of imaginative possibilities.
They can also be a portal to the past. When Dan Salemson came across our site and found a 1936 inscription to “Vivian darling,” he saw that it had been written by one “Harold J. Salemson, who sometimes went by the nickname Buddy.” Buddy was Dan’s late grandfather—and quite a character.
As Dan tells us, Buddy “had been a member of the Paris expatriate literary community in the late 1920s and early ’30s, publishing a small literary magazine called Tambour (The Drum). After returning to the U.S., he worked in Hollywood as a foreign correspondent for French newspapers. He was also the president of the Screen Writers Guild. But when he was called for questioning by the House Un-American Activities Committee—despite the fact that he’d served in the U.S. military during World War II—and refused to answer, he was blacklisted from Hollywood. So he moved to New York, where he spent his remaining years running a foreign film importing business and translating books from French to English.”
As for “Vivian darling”?
“No one in the family knows who [she] was,” says Salemson. “But since my grandparents met later that year (1936), we’re all very glad she lost out.”
The Book Inscriptions Project (BIP) was founded by the writer Shaun Raviv in 2006. Today it’s curated by the designer Jessica K Pavone.