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Sunday, December 12, 2004
Marginalia



Came across this article Scribble a message in the margin by Ben MacIntyre, on the subject of marginalia. It is probably something all of us must have indulged in at one time or another. Used to do lots of it with my text books and lecture notes, started off with pencil marks, ballpoint underlinings and when highlighters came words and lines and sometimes even whole para would get lighted up. Now there are also web highlighters for your web pages.
With the net now marginalia has gone electronic and we can visit sites and blogs and indulge in marginalia by leaving our comments and so on. There are web sites where we can write about our experiences like e-Marginalia, which caters for travellers who would like to share their experiences of places with others, this marginalia site is of the scholarly type and this one which is of the ranting type.
Among notable marginaliars [as if there is such a word], one could include King Henry the VIII, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who invented the term "marginalia", Nelson Mandela and Mark Twain.
Not everyone likes marginalia, some would call it a crime, just take a peek at this. Apparently it was the growth of public libraries after 1850, with their ban on writing in books, that made marginalia not fashionable. Books became revered objects; to write in them was to violate them, and a crime to those who wanted to start reading with a clean sheet.
MacIntyre says in his interesting article that he is launching the Society for the Protection of Amateur Marginalia, or Spam, [why Spam? a rather irritating word for those with plenty of junk in the mail box]. As for his rules for Spam, they are as follows ::
1.No writing in library books, hardback books, illustrated books or books lent to us by people who haven’t already written in them.
2.No writing in pen, unless you have won a Nobel prize for literature.
3.Any and every cheap paperback can be made used of as a notebook to be written in and then passed on.
4.Newspapers can serve equally well and therefore should have wide margins for such.

There is even a poem by Billy Collins, you can listen to it here and more examples of marginalia can be seen here.



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