The Reader in the Book: A Study of Spaces and Traces (Oxford Textual Perspectives)
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The Reader in the Book is concerned with a particular aspect of the history of the book, an archeology and sociology of the use of margins and other blank spaces. One of the most commonplace aspects of old books is the fact that people wrote in them, something that, until very recently, has infuriated modern collectors and librarians. But these inscriptions constitute a significant dimension of the book's history, and what readers did to books often added to their value. Sometimes marks in books have no relation to the subject of the book, merely names, dates, prices paid; blank spaces were used for pen trials and doing sums, and flyleaves are occasionally the repository of records of various kinds. The Reader in the Book deals with that special class of books in which the text and marginalia are in intense communication with each other, in which reading constitutes an active and sometimes adversarial engagement with the book. The major examples are works that are either classics or were classics in their own time, but they are seen here as contemporaries read them, without the benefit of centuries of commentary and critical guidance. The underlying question is at what point marginalia, the legible incorporation of the work of reading into the text of the book, became a way of defacing it rather than of increasing its value--why did we want books to lose their history?
central Latin poet, they served as preparation for the epic poetry of the Aeneid, a critical text for European societies developing their own sense of nationhood. Thus the student’s education followed the model of the poet’s career, beginning with pastoral and maturing into epic. Some of the marginalia include very basic information: that Virgil was imitating Theocritus, that Theocritus was a Greek poet—these are written in the less ﬂuent of the two hands in the excerpt (on the left of the page
FINAL, 8/9/2015, SPi | . A page of the Meisei University First Folio of Shakespeare showing Hamlet ..– with the annotations of a seventeenth-century Scot. Note the underlining at the beginning of almost every line. Reproduced by courtesy of Meisei University. kind king”—and by Lear himself, “So kind a father!”; “Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all.”6 This is not the whole truth of Lear’s character, certainly, but there is truth in it, and
reader, a most friendly offer of court favor coming from a king is worth noting; the atmosphere of friendly benevolence that Claudius projects interests him more than Hamlet and his discontents. Even the perfunctory return of Cornelius and Voltemand from Norway is glossed: “Ambassadors report and the kings thanks to them; his resolution to think of the business related.” Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s “tender of humblest service” is similarly noted. Yu observes that “issues regarding the
OUP CORRECTED PROOF – FINAL, 8/9/2015, SPi | much shortened and slightly touched up by Sir William Davenant, was the version used by the actor Thomas Betterton in his most famous role—the omitted sections are also included in the volume, indicated by inverted commas. So a purchaser of any of the last ﬁve quartos had Davenant’s and Betterton’s Hamlet interlarded with passages from the original text, which in this case was that of the second quarto, not the folio. For
Chronicles (): a page with a shield excised. OUP CORRECTED PROOF – FINAL, 8/9/2015, SPi | reality outside the text, any political or social element, insisting that such claims are never only about texts. Clearly some part of the argument must be right—to say that the same text may mean different things to different readers is hardly a radical contention. The question, and it is always an open one, is how far the meaning is inherent in the text; and, if it is