Thursday, December 16, 2004

In the Margins

A fun and interesting article on marginalia (link from Good Reports). Ben Macintyre, the author of the article, wants to start a Society for the Protection of Amateur Marginalia, or Spam. He lays out the rules:

no writing in library books, hardback books, illustrated books or books lent to us by people who haven’t already written in them. No writing in pen, unless you have won a Nobel prize for literature. But any and every cheap paperback should henceforth be regarded also as a notebook to be written in and then passed on.
It could lead to something interesting. Marginalia has a rich history and there is a wonderful and fascinating book on the subject called, aptly enough, Marginalia, by H.J. Jackson. I read it a year or two ago and suddenly had an urge to write in the margins of my books. I am having difficulty getting past the "don't write in your books!" rule laid down by librarians and grade school teachers. I wrote freely in the margins of my books in college without a second thought. Sometimes I will write in the margin, like my Montaigne book, I am scribbling all over that. And it's fun. But marking up a hard cover of say, a Margaret Atwood, or a first edition of an out of print book, can't do it. I do find it amusing and interesting to read another's comments who has managed to overcome the don't write in library books prohibition. I never mind, but yet I have never dared. I think it's my inner child, afraid of getting caught, that keeps my pencil out of my hand. Perhaps I will prod her into being a bad girl sometime and see what happens.