This three-part kit of bolster, rolled-up blanket, and a miniature draught excluder actually adds up to a very neat document rest, ideal for holding open a bound volume of papers from the 1930s, or the kind of creaking, smelly leather-bound ledgers of regimental ordres du jour that once gave me a wicked allergic reaction in the French military archives at Vincennes. (I wasn’t even looking at them myself—it was the person next to me.)
The ones I was using this week were marked with a brownish-yellow dust down their centre, where the spine of a bound volume lies—possibly crumbling paper*, more likely dried-out and decaying glue.
They also—and this is why I’m actually posting about them—looked just like bits of soft furnishings from a 1970s caravan, especially under the fluorescent desk lamp. They triggered a kind of reverse Proustian reaction where I could almost smell the damp grass, aluminium, and primus stove of childhood holidays. For a while, I was lost in memories of swingball and travel sickness and all the other things that made caravan holidays so er memorable.
*For more information about paper decay than you will ever need (unless you’re a professional archivist), check out this page from the Library of Congress and this one from a company that makes archival materials—and has, appropriately, retained a ‘1998’ look worthy of the Internet Archive for its own website. There’s also Wikipedia, of course.