N.B. This is a how-to that will only get better with your help
It can be a polarizing question: Do you write in the books you own? Some people do and some don't. Emotions often run high in
both camps as to the usefulness and rectitude of their divergent positions.
For those who are Preservationists and don't write in books, we understand your position and salute you. Because of your abstinence, future readers will enjoy your unadulterated books.
We also understand Footprint Leavers, and it is to you writers in books that this message is aimed.
As a Footprint Leaver, you know how writing in books can aid your understanding and retention as you carry on a dialog
with the author. We would like to assist you in that dialog with this online edition of our Helpful Reader's Marks for Masterly
Marginalia. And we're hoping you'll add some of your own.
We searched high and low in the mid-90s, and to our surprise found that no such list of reader's marks existed, so we
decided to make our own. We borrowed some from proofreaders' marks, such as paragraph ( ¶ ). Others we lifted from Latin abbreviations,
such as "that is" (i .e.) and "compare with" (c. f.). Others came
from mathematics, such as
, the symbol for "therefore". One even comes
from Winston Churchill's handwritten lettershis pithy version of
"very" as vy.
We put our collection of Reader's Marks in the covers
of some of our notebooks and in a bookmark that we included in
packages. Since we published this list, we've come across more shorthand invented by
creative Footprint Leavers.
Peter Brown, attorney, author
and consummate reader, uses an to
indicate an anecdote, and to indicate quotation. (He'll
underline the passage, too.) Later, he'll go back to reinforce his
memory and will employ both in his conversation and writing.
Click here for a full page, printer friendly PDF
Why marginalia matters
Throughout history, readers
have penned notes in the margins. Some of these have been more than
just personal observations, valuable as these are to the reader.
They became a way of formulating new
truths and passing on that knowledge.
As Owen Gingerich details in his ironically
titled The Book That Nobody Read (Walker and Company, 2004), other astronomers did,
in fact, read Nicolaus Copernicus's sixteenth-century work De
revolutionibus, in which he posited that the earth and not the sun
was the one making all those revolutions. The astronomers'
annotations proved as revolutionary as Copernicus's theory: these
notes in the margins actually helped to advance the acceptance of
the theory among scientists.
Make your own mark on marginalia
Do you have your own favorite marks? Perhaps you use symbols or
abbreviations from your profession. Are there some email
abbreviations that are transferable back to handwriting in the
margins of books? (Ah, the exquisite irony! The @ symbol, after all,
was in use long before we all got mail.) Please pass your
suggestions to us via snail mail to the address below.
For submissions we find particularly useful, clever or
funny, we will add them to our evolving list hosted at Levenger.com.
We look forward to your notes in the margin!
Send your handwritten submissions to:
ATTN: Marginalia Maven
420 South Congress
Delray Beach, FL 33485
Please include your name, phone and email address in
case we need to contact you. Thank you!