Sunday, 3 October 2010

Finding a long-lost friend - Anne Rooney

This is just a little post to lighten the day with a tale of happy, bookly serendipity.

In 1985 I finished my PhD. It was referred - I had to move a few pages around and resubmit it, waiting the statutory six months even though I could do the required work in a week. I was cross, so I had it bound in lurid, fluorescent pink to annoy the University Library, who liked to have the stacks full of uniform navy, black and bottle-green theses. There are only two pink copies - my own, and that deposited in the University Library. The thesis was published as a book and I forgot about the pink copies.

Twenty five years passed, during which my copy got lost somehow. Sad - all that work.... But I had the published book so it didn't hugely matter.

Two weeks ago, a new twitter friend, @PoultonSmith, mentioned that one of his books was on sale on Abe Books for a ridiculously large sum even though it was only published three years ago. Ever ready to avoid work, I searched Abe for my most expensive book. And there it was:
Anne Rooney, Hunting in Middle English Literature, 1300-1500; original PhD thesis, Cambridge 1985, A4 size, bound in pink cloth, gold lettering, £65.
It was on sale from Plurabelle Books in Cambridge. I emailed them and explained that it should not be for sale - they were wonderful, replying immediately to say they would set it aside and I could collect it. I asked where they had got it from - it was one of 20,000 volumes they bought from Emmanuel College when the college was renovating its library several years ago. And so the pieces fell into place. My PhD supervisor was the Master of Emmanuel. I had no doubt lent him my copy for some reason and then forgotten about it. He had died, and the college had stuck it in the library. And so it got to Plurabelle.

Looking at it now, reading the acknowledgments, I can see the germs of my current writing style:

'My greatest debt is due to AS, who has patiently endured life under a sea of papers and a barrage of abuse...'

If @PoultonSmith hadn't looked for his own books on Abe and then tweeted about it, I'd never have found this old friend. And if I was more diligent about working I'd never have found it. Skiving puts you in the market for serendipity - long live skiving!


catdownunder said...

Oh, pink? You are so brave! I would have been petrified that they would suddenly decide it was all a big mistake and fail me. (Actually my university dictated that a thesis must be bound in a specific colour - terribly boring.)

Jan Markley said...

That's a cool story! I love the pink cover!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

It could be worth a small fortune by the time its in the hands of your grandchildren! A great vindication of spending time playing!

Gillian Philip said...

Anne, I'm just catching up on ABBA - what a lovely story! I'm SO glad you retrieved it, and Plurabelle Books sound like proper lovely people. Excellent news!