Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books




Author: H. J. Jackson
Type: eBook
Date Released: 2001
Format: pdf
Language: English
Page Count: 333
Isbn10 Code: 0300088167
Isbn13 Code: 9780300129533


From Publishers Weekly It's difficult to imagine a scholarly enterprise easier to mock than a study of marginalia, the marks left behind by readers making their way through a text. Few readers pause to consider, let alone scrutinize, these bookish graffiti. Still, it is hard not to feel an affectionate regard for Jackson, a professor of English at the University of Toronto, laboring through hundreds of marked-up copies of Boswell's Life of Johnson and earnestly proposing a poetics of marginalia, with its own ethics and standards of practice and its own fusty acronyms (e.g., BEPU, or "Book Enhanced for Personal Use"). She brings to life, insofar as it is possible, the war between marginalia's practitioners and prohibitionists, the "annotators" vs. the "bibliophiles" ("anarchists," as Jackson neatly puts it, vs. "bores"): Wordsworth, for example, enraged his friend De Quincey by cutting open the pages of a new book with a butter-smeared knife. It's fair to say this book is most absorbing in its examples, such as the famous case of Fermat's last theorem (Fermat declared the margin of his book too small to contain the proof, leaving generations of mathematicians to wish they had been on hand with a Post-It). (Mar.) Forecast: Though rather dry, this unique title holds obvious appeal for bibliophiles, book historians, librarians, publishing folk and garden-variety obsessives. The key to its success will be targeted marketing in book-related magazines and handselling by booksellers, the latter a likely proposition. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc. From Library Journal Marginalia, which generally refers to handwritten or printed text located in the margins of a page, have been around practically as long as there have been margins to write in. Nowadays, people have mixed or strong feelings about writing in a book and often don't understand why some readers do it; libraries, of course, do not encourage patrons to annotate their materials. These doubts shift, however, when marginalia are associated with a historic or a public figure. Jackson (English, Univ. of Toronto) believes that whether the physical annotation of volumes destroys or adds value to books, notes are a common but "unexamined" phenomenon worth studying from literary, psychological, and cultural angles. Jackson examines more than 2000 books in public and academic libraries, focusing on the behavior of English-speaking annotators during the last three centuries. She emphasizes examples of original readers' notes from the 18th and 19th centuries, a period when writing developed rapidly and became highly refined. Prominently featured is Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an annotator himself and the pioneering figure of marginalia in English. Jackson includes ample examples from works of fiction and poetry to demonstrate readers' attitudes and explores the physical features of the annotated book. She also covers the history of annotation, possible motives, extreme reader's behavior, and the "dark side" of the annotating habit. This fascinating study is recommended for literary collections. Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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