Marginalia and Annotations online
September 14, 2013 11:26 AM   Subscribe

In literature, there are two key sorts of annotations: marginalia, or the notes jotted down in the margins by the reader, and additional information formally provided in expanded editions of a text, and you can find a bit of both online. Annotated Books Online is an on-line interactive archive of early modern annotated books, where researchers can share digitized documents and collaborate on translations. For insight into a single author's notes, Melville's Marginalia provides just that. For annotations with additional information, The Thoreau Reader provides context for Walden (linked previously), The Maine Woods, and other writings. Then there's the mostly annotated edition Ulysses, analysis of Joseph Conrad's Nostromo, and the thoroughly annotated US constitution (twentieth amendment linked previously). More marginalia and annotations inside.

Writing on writing on the edges: The Marginal Obsession with Marginalia, by Mark O'Connell for the New Yorker; and Updike's Major Marginalia, by Dwight Garner for the New York Times Art Beat blog.

The NYU Langon Medical Center has a Literature, Arts & Medicine Database, which is an annotated multimedia listing of prose, poetry, film, video and art that was developed to be a dynamic, accessible, comprehensive resource for teaching and research in Medical Humanities, and for use in health/pre-health, graduate and undergraduate liberal arts and social science settings. Some referenced material is available to read and view online.

More online text: Vladimir Nabokov's lecture on The Metamorphosis (c. 1950)

More marginalia:
posted by filthy light thief (6 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Marginal notes are really fascinating. Alas, I rarely work on books with marginalia--Victorian religious fiction apparently didn't inspire much in the way of note-taking, unless you were Gladstone or someone like that. (Someone did write a really snarky poem on a blank page of a personalized sermon collection I own, however.) H. J. Jackson has two lovely books on marginalia, Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books (a general study) and Romantic Readers: The Evidence of Marginalia (more monograph-y).
posted by thomas j wise at 12:48 PM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Great FPP. I love Nabokov's remarks on Kafka. I love K_, but find him very difficult to teach to high school students. I find it hard to explain to anyone why I love his work so much, and almost impossible to explain why I find him funny.

But: back to annotation. I grew up in a family of eight, so marking in books was not done. I still cringe when my daughter - my very own flesh and blood! - dog-ears pages in books. As the Annotated Books website puts it, writing in books is an activity that is now frowned upon by most librarians.

However, many fellow AP Lit teachers say YOU HAVEN'T REALLY READ A BOOK UNLESS YOU ANNOTATED IT. Well. They might have a point (sorry for the caps lock, but it sounds like they are shouting at me), but the most I can do is to make light notes in pencil so I can erase them later if needed. I certainly can't read a book that's been annotated by someone else, although I would make exceptions for books that have been intelligently annotated...but, then, I couldn't afford those, so thanks for this link!
posted by kozad at 2:04 PM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I do annotate, kozad. And I share my books too. I love it if the book gets returned with lots of other contributions from people I like.

One legendary share was "Bridges of Madison County". I hated it and just excoriated it in the margins. Dumped it on a family member who loved the book and annotated it as well. Over two years we tracked it as it passed among lovers and haters. When I got it back the margins were full and extra appendices were taped and bound to the back cover. It's out of circulation now. A semi-mystery where it is. Who last had it is disputed.

That's the main reason I refuse to buy a kindle. Their way of sharing annotations is abysmal.
posted by surplus at 2:58 PM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh my god. I've been linked to on MeFi. This is very weird. *emails everyone involved with Annotated Books Online, especially Lisa Jardine, Tony Grafton, and the truly wonderful Arnoud Visser*
posted by bebrogued at 6:09 PM on September 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

People with access to JSTOR might like to read Lisa and Tony's "Studied for action: how Gabriel Harvey read his Livy", which is really one of the seminal articles in the history of reading / marginalia studies and the direct inspiration behind Annotated Books Online.
posted by bebrogued at 6:15 PM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Fantastic, thank you thank you.
posted by jokeefe at 9:09 PM on September 14, 2013

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