The Illuminating World of Marginalia

By Grace R. RSS Thu, March 22, 2012

Once an English major, always an English major. I can't help but annotate and scribble in the margins of every book I read, rendering me incapable of making the switch to e-readers (despite the Library's tantalizing offerings) and leaving me treating my library books with kid gloves (as should you!). Thankfully, Maria Popova's posting on Brain Pickings yesterday allows me to justify my obsession with writing notes to myself in the margins of my books. She writes about the latest Lapham's Quarterly, which features complaints scrawled on illuminated manuscripts by the monks tasked with creating them. As you can see in the image, the monks' discontent arose from many distinct areas with which any writer can sympathize: "New parchment, bad ink; I can say nothing more." "I am very cold." Thank God, it will soon be dark." "Now I've written the whole thing: for Christ's sake give me a drink." 

I actually remember writing the phrase "SHAZAM!" in the margins of a draft of my senior thesis and am always intrigued by what I managed to write while reading books years ago. Clearly, I am not alone: from the Library's own collections comes this gem, where a reader used the left margin of this page of a 13th-century Bible to call attention to a passage in II Samuel 25:15, which reads, "And the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel, from the morning unto the time appointed, and there died of the people from Dan to Bersabee seventy thousand men." Given the rise of the Black Plague in the middle of the fourteenth century, the reader may be equating the Biblical plague with events occurring in his own time. 

Any choice marginalia from your own collection?

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