Have you ever stumbled on an old book, say in a library or a quaint corner store, and just behind the cover is the sweetest or cleverest inscription you ever read?
You may have no idea who the giver or recipient was, but those words bring a smile to your face, nonetheless.
Or better yet, one day while you’re cleaning the attic or garage, you found an old beloved children’s book given to you by a favorite aunt on your 5th birthday.
And as you leafed through the first page, you find a long-forgotten personalized inscription that takes you back to those happy times you shared with her as a child.
Why Inscribe a Book as a Gift?
A book is one of the most thoughtful gifts anyone can give.
It provides amusement, education, and intellectual stimulation. It takes the readers to places they’ve never been, introduces them to people they’ve never met, and brings them adventures they’ve never experienced.
By writing a short heartfelt message on the book, you, the gift-giver, are not only imparting to the receiver the author’s wisdom and creativity but also your own introspection. It turns the book from a mere object to a keepsake.
15 Inscription Tips & Ideas for a Book as a Gift
Before we go through the entire list, bear in mind that these ideas are mere suggestions and not instructions.
You don’t have to apply all 15 every time you inscribe a book, otherwise, your dedication may end up more verbose than the gift itself.
Just like playing golf, you don’t have to use all the clubs in your bag in each hole. Just pick 2 or 3 that are appropriate for the occasion and you’re good.
1. Scribble, Don’t Type
An inscription makes the gift more personal. It doesn’t matter whether you can pull off the perfect cursive or can only manage a scrawl, your handwriting will still make the book unique from every copy that was and will ever be published. Unfortunately, it is always easier for young writers to you a computer and a plagiarism checker for students to make the text perfect.
It would also be great if you are adept at using calligraphy pens as your lettering can add more class to the inscription. Or if you are into cutesy things, you can use gel pens in assorted colors and add some drawings too.
2. Make it Personal
The point of writing a dedication is to establish a personal connection with the receiver.
Your relationship with your Mom, Dad, wife or husband, son, daughter, nephew, niece, aunt, uncle, boyfriend or girlfriend, friend, teacher, pastor, or whomever you will give the book to are all unique. So, a heartfelt message will always be your best bet.
Another way of making your inscription personal is by making a reference to the recipient’s title, profession, or interests. He or she may be a doctor, engineer, journalist, filmmaker, screenwriter, athlete, musician, baker, etc. Whatever their life’s vocation is, you can use that.
3. Share a Personal Experience
A lot of times, we give a certain book to somebody that already had an impact on us.
Whether we were entertained, educated, or edified by it, we want to share that experience with another person we loved. One example could be a dad giving a book to his teenage son inscribed with the line:
“This book helped me navigate through life’s challenges. I bought you a copy to guide you in your journey to adulthood.”
4. Celebrate an Occasion or a Milestone
More often than not we buy gifts for a reason – and commonly, the reason is the recipient is celebrating something in his or her life.
It may be a universal occasion like Christmas or New Year, or something more personal like a birthday, graduation, promotion, engagement, pregnancy, etc.
The point is, you can highlight the cause of the celebration with an inscription like:
“A fascinating book for a fascinating girl on her 7th birthday”, or “Congratulations on the birth of your first baby, this book answers most questions asked by new parents.”
5. Mark the Date
Writing the date on your inscription may seem unnecessary at the present.
But imagine many years from now when that book managed to stand the test of time and was passed on to the next generation. The date on that book could be a conversation piece.
It doesn’t have to be a specific date, it can be something like “Christmas 2021” or “Our Wedding Anniversary 2021”, or “The Opening of Your First Store 2021”.
6. Make a Wish
Wishing the beneficiary of your gift well is not only an expression of goodwill but a good source of positive vibes. It doesn’t matter if your wish seems silly or far-fetched, it can make someone feel good as long as it’s positive.
I’m sure a kid’s face would light up with a message: “May your dreams be filled with images of jolly characters and whimsical places you find in this book”.
7. Try to Inspire
For starters, the book you may be giving is already inspirational.
But even before your friend or relative immerses himself or herself in the author’s pool of wisdom, you can give a preview of what’s the water like.
You can scribble something like: “(Author’s name) helped a lot of marketing professionals succeed in their respective industries. It wouldn’t hurt to learn the principles he teaches as you embark on your new career.”
8. Be Humorous
All of us have a secret desire to be funny and entertaining. To be the life of the party, so to speak. So, if you can be humorous with your inscription, by all means, go for it.
This may be corny but let me take a stab to illustrate my point:
“I got you this book so you can have hours and hours of entertainment, excitement, and adventure as you let your imagination soar and explore wonders beyond our natural world. Also, so I can get my turn to watch what I want on TV tonight.”
9. Encourage or Admonish
Depending on the theme of the book or maybe your philosophical viewpoint, you can either urge or warn the gift-receiver on what action to take according to the author.
To cite an example: “I got you this book about starting a business so you can follow your dreams.” (encouragement) or “This book will show you the pitfalls you needed to avoid when starting a new business” (warning).
10. Be Sympathetic and Sincere
When giving a book gift to someone who is hurting, make sure to write only something that you experienced yourself or can genuinely relate to on a personal level.
For example: “This book became a source of comfort for me when I lost my Dad last year. I hope that you will also find solace from its words.”
11. Just Be Thoughtful
Giving a gift to someone you love without any occasion is one of the most thoughtful acts. It shows how much you value and appreciate them in your life.
So imagine your Mom receiving a gift from you with an inscription: “I know how much you love to learn French cuisine, so I immediately thought of you when I saw this cookbook”. Endearing, right?
12. Be Spiritually Uplifting
When gifting somebody with Christian books or something similarly themed titles to pull them out of their doldrums, it pays to know a few verses from the Holy Scripture that you can add to your inscription.
One good example is Isaiah 41: 10 that says: “Fear not for I am with you; Be not dismayed for I am your God: I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you and uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.”
13. Use Famous Quotes
One way to encourage the gift recipient to read is by quoting phrases uttered by a famous figure in history, whether ancient or modern. It may be from a political leader, military general, business tycoon, or any well-known person.
Here’s an example from Walt Disney: “There are more treasures in books than in all the pirates loot in Treasure Islands.”
14. Use Movie or TV Show References
In this day and age, more and more people are more familiar with what’s printed on film (or digital media) than on paper. Many didn’t even know that the movie they loved so much was based on a book. So, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Example: “I know how much you loved the movie World War Z, so here’s the book where it was based from. You’ll be surprised at how much better it is than the film.”
15. Conjure a Memory
When giving a classic book to a child or even a teenager, you can tell him or her about the fond memories you have with that book when you were about his or her age. How you dress up and imitate the lead character when playing, and the other fun things you had as a youngster.
Example: “I hope you will enjoy reading Jungle Book as much as I did when I was your age. I remembered trying to act like Mowgli when I’m playing with our dog.”
Even in this digital era when we read a lot of things like the news, literary pieces, magazine articles, and even an entire book from our smartphones and other electronic devices, traditional publishing continues to exist.
It just proves that hard bounds and paperbacks are not replaceable. At least, not completely.
There is something special in the feel of the paper and the smell of the ink that makes people continue to appreciate books as a gift.
Especially the children with their wide-eyed amazement as they explore the colorful illustrations and the surprises they uncover in each turn of the page.
Wouldn’t it be nice that we also keep the art of inscribing alive?