Marginalia! It sounds like a bunch of one-celled organisms with hairs on the edges slithering around on a glass slide. But it means writing in the margins of books.
I love writing in books, and I love finding and reading marginalia in books! As this article in the New York Times points out, some of that went by the wayside when teachers told us not to write in our books (raises fees on book rental at school, etc.), and writing in the margins might be a habit lost forever with the new surge of e-readers.
On the other hand, college writing programs have been using electronic notation systems for a several years, so I’m sure, as they say now, there will be “an app” for e-book notation soon enough.
But, yes, it’s great to find that wonderful note in the margin by a famous writer!
Or that sweet anonymous note by a previous reader!
Or that mass of underlining, circling, stars and symbols, and words-followed-by-definitions…all evidence of the close reader, the engaged reader!
Yes, that will be harder to do and harder to find with the new e-reading trends.
But, in Fat Tuesday fullness of life mode, I confess that a bunch of my books are full of marginalia.
I re-learned messy marginalia when I started discussing books with the “shared inquiry” method at a Great Books home salon and the public event called Great Books Chicago some years ago. It is so much easier to find the page with the quotation you need if you have highlighted or underlined it, written a star in the margin next to it, and dog-eared that dogarned page.
(Good to do this with Dover Thrift or Penguin paperback editions. Not so good to do with first edition, first printings!)
I often fill the margins with questions, too. And then ask them of my fellow readers!
Yes, you might call me an engaged reader.
Some people are reading not to engage but to escape. They might not want to take notes, make stars, or write questions. E-reading & the lack of marginalia won’t be a problem at all for them!
And that’s a circling around to the what-are-you-reading-and-why project I began a little over a year ago. I am still reading to learn how to live in the world.
It’s working! I’m still here, still reading.
Now check out this Speak Your Design blog post about marginalia as book graffiti!
The fabulous green “Yes” marginalia image comes from NewYorkette!
And thanks to the Christian Science Monitor for the e coli...