…greasy looking smears/and next to them, written in soft pencil/by a beautiful girl, I could tell,/whom I would never meet/“Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.” - from the poem Marginalia by Billy Collins
I thought marginalia was a fairly new coined word. However unless you consider the early 1800s as recent, the word has been around for quite some time.
Marginalia, according to Wikipedia, "are notes, scribbles, and comments made by readers in the margin of a book. True marginalia is not to be confused with reader's signs, marks (e.g. stars, crosses, fists) or doodles in books.
"The first recorded use of the word marginalia is in 1819 in Blackwood's Magazine. From 1845 to 1849 Edgar Allan Poe titled some of his reflections and fragmentary material "Marginalia." Five volumes of Samuel T. Coleridge's marginalia have been published.
Mark Twain was also known for writing in the margins. His comments were often not flattering to the author, but there was no mistaking his point of view.
According to "Book Lovers Fear Dim Future for Notes in the Margins" in the New York Times, the popularity of e-books has some people worried about losing this art form.
“Like many readers, Twain was engaging in marginalia, writing comments alongside passages and sometimes giving an author a piece of his mind. It is a rich literary pastime, sometimes regarded as a tool of literary archaeology, but it has an uncertain fate in a digitalized world.
“’People will always find a way to annotate electronically,’ said G. Thomas Tanselle, a former vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and an adjunct professor of English at Columbia University. ‘But there is the question of how it is going to be preserved. And that is a problem now facing collections libraries.’”
“… David Spadafora, president of the Newberry, said marginalia enriched a book, as readers infer other meanings, and lends it historical context. “The digital revolution is a good thing for the physical object,” he said. As more people see historical artifacts in electronic form, “the more they’re going to want to encounter the real object.”
Though I would love to run across interesting marginalia, it’s a habit I’ve never practiced (except for textbooks). To me it’s akin to folding down a corner, tearing out a page, highlighting and other book scarring tactics. Thank goodness for sticky notes. It’s not my fault. Evidently I must have been influenced by librarians and teachers.
“’Paul F. Gehl, a curator at the Newberry, blamed generations of librarians and teachers for ‘inflicting us with the idea’ that writing in books makes them ‘spoiled or damaged.’”
Do you own books with interesting marginalia? Do you often write in margins of regular or e-books? If so, what sort of notes do you make?
Thanks for stopping by today. I hope to see you again next week.
Tags: marginalia, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, writing in margins, e-reader, Billy Collins