Sometimes the sweetest stories can come about in the most random ways. My friend Bari runs a lovely bookbinding studio and paperie in Chicago. I’ve known Bari for over a decade, going back to my years working in communications at the University of Chicago.
So this week when Bari posted this photo on Instagram, I took notice when I saw the last name was the same as mine.
Then I took a closer look and saw it was my dad’s name! And it was in his distinctive handwriting! I commented on her post and then picked up the phone to call her. I had no idea when my dad used this notebook, but the phone numbers on the cover were not from our house when I was young or his office at DePaul University, where he taught physical chemistry for 42 years starting in 1964.
Bari called me back after she received my message, which was less than half an hour later. I wanted to just take a look at it, but she insisted I have it. So I drove into the city today and picked it up.
She wrapped it in her signature tissue paper, variegated cord, and washi tape.
She said a customer of hers bought the notebook at Chicago’s Newberry Library, made famous in The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (who went to my high school). When my dad got sick over a decade ago, my mom donated many of his books to the Newberry Library.
This notebook went for $1.
My dad’s reference list is one clue about the age of this book. Some of these periodicals date from the 1930s and 1940s.
He also included a list of bookbinding supply stores, one of which is near New York’s Chinatown and on the street about a mile from where my son Jake lives.
And inside the notebook are pages of diagrams and instructions.
I googled the phone numbers on the cover, assuming they were from Pittsburgh. One is a Thai restaurant and the other a private residence. He lived in Pittsburgh from 1953 for a decade, so I’m guessing this notebook was from sometime in the 50s or early 60s. Considering that it’s at least 53 years old, the notebook and writing inside have held up pretty well.
I also checked the New York address and can’t find anything for it now. The last listing I found for it dates back to 1956.
While my dad passed away ten years ago this October, I may never know the date of this notebook or when he studied bookbinding. If anyone can shed light on when this all might have taken place, I’d love to know!