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Old Books, New Surprises… A Time Capsule Mystery By Way Of Jim Corbett

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 I’m a sucker for old editions of hunting, exploration, and adventure classics, and having torn through WDM Bell I’m revisiting Jim Corbett with Man-Eaters of Kumaon, this find coming to me for $10. Corbett doesn’t receive half the credit he deserves and is likely my favourite classic non-fiction writer, his genre so focused to what he actually knows, his prose distinctly English and well organized, and his story telling curtly modest. He was, a man of the Empire. I could go on about his writing and books all night, I write this however to bring up an odd surprise that literally fell in my lap on board a plane this evening.

I purchased the book online from a bookseller with no information on its source, and I had suspected it was unread as I began it. The dust jacket shows its nearly three-quarters of a century worth of wear, however not a page is torn, worn, creased, or crimped. Soon after beginning to read the book, I found that I was wrong in my assessment. As I turned to page 33, I had to chuckle as a small time capsule fell into my lap. A ticket from the Philadelphia subway, stamped Tuesday, July 23rd no year (July 23rd, 1946 was a Tuesday, the year of print for the book I have, could be a later year though it seems likely), some apparently Polish postage stamps, and most curious a photo of a young man with a distinct widow’s peak and strong gaze in an industrial setting, I presume a ship or similar installation with outdoor light available.

I’d like to see what can be gleaned from this items, as my curiosity is too aggravated to let it be. Did the young man serve in the war? Was he a Polish immigrant to the US? To whom did the book belong, and where did it go? There are no notes, names, stamps, or marks anywhere I can find, neither on the books or the items. This is a real stretch, how far can it be taken? Likely we’re already here, but I wouldn’t sleep if we didn’t try. I’d like to find out who the young man with the gaze that cuts through time is… wouldn’t you? I feel quite lucky to have fallen upon a story within a story.

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