Grocery and to-do lists. Photographs. A Band-Aid. A plane ticket to Frankfurt in the smoking section from 1989. A moldy piece of Kraft cheese. Crushed up medication. All together now: “These are a few of my favorite things” – just kidding! These are few of the things I’ve found inside of library books during my amazing career, but fortunately none of them have been as much fun as smallpox scabs.
However one lucky librarian did have the pleasure of finding the red plague tucked inside a book. At a university library in New Mexico, a book on Civil War medicine contained an ancient envelope that had the enticing description “scabs from vaccination of WB Yarrington’s children” which, of course, demanded that it be opened to release its guaranteed “dried up old mummy scabs.”
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The librarian, Susanne Caro contacted the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, which in turn called Walter Reed, then the CDC, and within a couple days the FBI arrived to get the scabs, but only after questioning the librarian as to whether someone could’ve planted the scabs in the book. “Her answer ‘was a great big no,’ according to Caro.”
Aside from being a disgusting cautionary tale for those of us in the lib biz, my favorite part of this article was that “clearly, this was a book that no one but the author himself had ever read.” Imagine not only the journey and process involved in writing a book, but then shoving some crusted, poxed up skin flakes into said book in the name of medicine…and then no one bothers to read your damn book or find your disgusting science experiment. That book is your work, your sweat, your time away from your kids who want to know why you are keeping the scabs of other kids, massaging them gently and whispering “my precious.” It’s kinda embarrassing.
So if I ever get around to completing a novel, I think I might put some scabs inside it too. That way if anyone bothers to crack the spine it will make the evening news. And my parents will be proud.
Footnote: A I am aware that I am quoting Cracked as a news source.