Reflections on receipts

[Alyson Kuhn] On Memorial Day 2002, I was semi-sequestered in NYC, writing the first half {Paper} of the SpecLogix Compendium of Paper and Printing. I wandered downstairs for lunch at a Frenchy café… and overheard one of the young men at the adjacent table animatedly tell the other about something he had recently read, about receipts and how much context they provide. As a keeper of receipts of interest, I needed to know more, and fast, since my neighbors were almost done with lunch.

The book turned out to be Scrolling Forward: Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age, by David M. Levy, which I promptly purchased. The entire book – from Preface, through eleven chapters, to Notes – is fairly fascinating. But my favorite remains the first chapter, “Meditation on a Receipt.”

Receipts are – for the most part – the most humble of documents in terms of paper and production. But even the scruffiest can be so evocative, so reminiscence-rich. Other tiny bits of paper can also carry more than their weight in memories – maybe they are the worker ants of the ephemera world! Think of a fortune… or a postage stamp… or a sticky-note…

I keep a file folder for Arty Receipts, including those shown here. Another favorite is the three-page computer-printout itemizing my purchases at the Mokuba ribbon store in Paris on April 19, 2002 {when a Euro only cost 90¢}. And a glassine envelope with my ticket stub from the Paramount Theatre in Seattle for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre {January 29, 1997}. With the ticket stub I keep the business card of Jerry, the Chauffeur Concierge at my hotel, who arranged for both my theatre ticket and the plate of cookies waiting for me in my room after the performance. His handwritten message on the card reads It’s a pleasure to serve you – Jerry.

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Comments (2)

  1. Posted by JulesLA on 08.5.09 at 10:32 pm

    I treasure my ticket stub from seeing the Alvin Ailey Company in Chicago in 1973….and my saved receipts for simple meals written in Greek, or Italian, or Japanese. I will take a look at this book…thank you!

  2. Posted by twenty2 on 08.9.09 at 1:52 pm

    a few years ago i picked up an amazing book called ‘carouschka’s tickets’, a feast of wonderful examples. now sadly out of print though:

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