Marginalia

Mark Twain left a comment about “Huckleberry Finn,” in his copy of “The Pen and the Book” by Walter Besant.

There was an interesting article in the New York Times over the weekend about marginalia, that is, writing comments in the margins of books. Mark Twain was an avid marginaliast; many of his annotated books are in the archives of the Newberry Library in Chicago. Books once owned and annotated by authors are known as association copies (my new word for the day!) and is the subject of an upcoming conference, sponsored by the library and the Caxton Club: Other People’s Books: Association Copies and the Stories They Tell. It sounds like an interesting day–one of those events that if I had unlimited time and unlimited money I’d attend but alas, I have neither so I’ll be staying put in Maine. :-)

I’ve never been one for annotating books, actually, nor was I ever much of a highlighter. My mother always admonished against writing in books; worse was folding down the corner to mark the page. “It makes the book cry,” she’d always say. Back in the old days when we had “bib cards” I’d make notes on those. Then I went through a post-it phase, sticking them all over photocopied articles. Now I read online and I just try to remember where I read something! I can annotate with my Kindle, but rarely do. One new habit I’ve developed with Kindle reading is looking up new words in the online dictionary and then clipping the definition to save for future reference. A few of the words I’ve learned in recent months: pellucid, kickshaw, thurifer, numinous, and ormolu. Any guesses about what they mean?

Writing this reminded me of an MNRS conference I attended in April 1984 in Minneapolis. I was presenting–on what, I don’t remember. Maybe my thesis? Pam Reed was there and (I believe) a presenter, too. For some reason I had the October 1983 issue of Advances in Nursing Science with me and Pam had an article published in that issue. I asked her to autograph it for me. She obliged and seemed flattered, although I think she thought I was a little bit crazy. LOL. I saved that issue for years. It is probably still tucked away on my bookshelf, somewhere.

Does anyone know–is there a name for people who collect autographs? I just did a quick Google search and didn’t come up with anything.

3 thoughts on “Marginalia

  1. I was always, always taught not to fold down the pages or write in books as a child, so it’s just not something I’ve ever done. I still feel weird signing books I’ve written — although I always do, of course, because I’m grateful someone took the time to buy the book and ask me to sign it! :)

    • Hello Writing Runner,

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your comment. Yes, it took me a bit of time to get used to signing books but I am always happy and honored to do so. One time I was at an event and using a Bic pen with the hotel logo on it; my publisher quietly came up to me, handed me a Cross pen and said, “Use this.” LOL.

      L

      • I’ve always had terrible handwriting, so by the end of a two hour book signing, I’m lucky to be putting chicken scratch in the book…! But it’s always awesome to meet people who cared enough to want to have their book signed!

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