We’ve all been struck by the fact that books have secret lives. Second-hand bookshops offer confirmation of this. We’ve all been in such a shop — in Melville, say, or in Cape Town’s Long Street — where we pull a book off the shelf only to find someone else’s name in it.

Occasionally there’s another name alongside that; more occasionally still, a personalised card, which was once popular, with the name of the book’s owner and the words "Ex Libris"...

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