Ex Libris

As a passionate bibliophile who is obsessively careful with her own books, I’ve never understood the mentality of those people who write with pen in library books.  If you’re going to do it, at least use a pencil.  Yet while these scribblers provoke varying degrees of annoyance, at the same time, their notes offer a sense of connection to earlier readers.  When you’re on that road of peril and uncertainty that is the Research Quest, there’s something comforting in knowing that a fellow student has tread the path before you, and one hopes, vanquished.

I’m not sure a whole lot of vanquishing was happening with these students, though.

Shantih, stand and unfold thyself!

As much as part of me wants smack these people up-side the head for immortalizing their trivial comments in this book, I’m pretty darn amused to see this empassioned little commentary by a succession of readers, each in a different hand and ink (and pencil).  My favorite comment is “he” ‘s not a person.  So, Mr. Who Is Shantih, did you even read the poem?

One of the writers with the blue ink also commented on the previous page.

I don't think it means what you think it means.

On a later essay in the anthology, our little friend with the black pen proves that, assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, clearly he does not know better.

Sound and fury signifying...nothing!

I’m pleased by the irony of this statement.  Besides the ontological impossibility of a book’s being said to truly “know” anything, might I point out that this book is a collection of essays by different authors?  Inevitably, you’re going to agree with some of them and for the rest, wonder exactly whether they were reading the same copy of The Waste Land as you were.

Ah, students.  Thank you for a few fragments.  While I certainly shan’t be using them to shore up any ruins, they gave me a chuckle (spread from ear to ear)!

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11 thoughts on “Ex Libris

  1. One of the poetry books currently in my possession has bee illustrated by some cheerful hand, with big, brightly colored drawings on the first 50 pages, and then . . . . nothing.

  2. I’m with you — horrified that anyone would deface a book with their own markings, but kind of delighted and fascinated at the connection it gives me to past readers. I’ve resisted writing in any novel but a few of the ones I’ve had to read for classes; nonfiction books I freely mark up at will, though. It’s easier for me to remember the content if I’ve underlined it, starred it, or made a note in the margin. And my copy of Upton Sinclair’s Jungle still has all the bright orange skinny Post-Its that I used to mark pages with important quotes.

    • Like you, I usually only write in novels I’m reading for school, not ones I read for pleasure. Though I did highlight and write in Phantastes, noting recurring themes and my favorite bits. I’ve gotten out of the habit of marginal notes, and I need to try to start again. I do find it helpful, *particularly* if you’re going to write on the book later.

      • True, Phantastes (and also Lilith) are novels I’ll probably be writing in (with pencil) the next time I read them. In fact, I think I did underline a few things in them the first time through. Hey, if we ever become famous, our margin notes could end up being worth a lot of money! +)

      • Hopefully in such a case, readers will think my comments are intelligent and insightful, not enigmatic. Half the time when I read the notes that people mark in library books, I think, “Um, what? Was that really worth writing here *in pen?*”

  3. Being a librarian, my impulse is to get out a sharpie and track down said defacers whilst they are napping…
    However, I work next to our archive department, and it turns out that there is a name for such scribblings (on books, not on students), and it is Marginalia. Marginalia can actually be valuable, though it makes cataloging a pain. People have scribbled around the edges of books and manuscripts throughout the ages, and what they’ve left can teach us a lot about them. 🙂
    Personally, one of the few things that makes me smile when I am mucking my way through coal-coated supreme court documents are doodles scribbled, presumably, by bored recorders!

    • Sometimes I think we need something like this, only against scribblers of Stupid Marginalia, as opposed to clever or otherwise interesting marginalia. I will admit, I am always delighted to find little traces of the people who’ve been Here before me, whether it was 5, 15, or 500 years ago.

      • Menacing. That is the sort of thing I would set down for worse defacers, if only it would be effective. People who take razors and slice out illustrated pages to sell need to be threatened, at the least. >_< it hurts me so much to see that, and to realize how selfish, brutish and destructive people can be.

        On a brighter note, I love it when people leave postcards, newspaper clippings and the like in books. 🙂

      • My best friend used to intentionally leave letters about made-up adventures, or mysterious lists, or such things in library books. I was asked a while ago to recommend a list of fantasy books for a friend, so after I had e-mailed him, I stuck the piece of paper I’d been brainstorming on in a library book and took it back to the library, hoping somebody would find it and maybe take my advice. Hey, they might need some light reading after doing all that Milton research!

        Huh, I’m sorry our blog thinks you’re spam! I’ll keep an eye on my own posts, and I’ll mentioned it again to Melpomene. Stupid spam filter.

      • I tried posting on Thalia’s latest book meme post again this morning, and it seems I am still banished somehow. Perhaps the dreadful mechanism of wordpress is telling me that I post too much. I wonder if this one will appear or not. Hmm.

  4. That is a fantastic idea! Give the world a bit more mystery and fun!

    As I am able to post on your posts, I wonder if each muse would have to individually ok my comments. If that is the case, how obnoxious! I am sorry for the trouble, even if it isn’t technically my fault.

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