The book John Dee by Sherman offers a fascinating look at the way books were ‘digested’ during early modern history ca. 1600 through the context of the philosopher extraordinaire, Dee.
Sherman describes books as digested, filled with marginalia, sometimes these latter bound into whole separate volumes of adversaria sometimes valued more than the texts in which they appeared. The genre of the book in this era was in flux and annotations included table of contents, bibliographies, summaries, cross-references, corrections. These things we take for granted now!
Scholar’s digested and annotated books to remind them of the subject matter, to capture pertinent quotes, to mark items to follow up on, to point out flaws in an author’s logic….things I use this site for! In a sense I am relearning the skills of these scholars, yet importantly in my case, my annotations are divorced from the actual text. Digital annotations removed from the analog paper version. I envision a digital solution in the future.
What is philology?
This book reminds me of the discussion in Scrolling Forward by Levy where he describes the current state of flux around the traditional paper document and the digital version thereof. It seems we are at another point where we must ‘let a thousand flowers bloom,’ (A quote I remember from Working Knowledge by Davenport and Prusak; while the situation is in flux many different ways of solving information problems will be proposed and available.
Other interesting side links:
From the History of Reading by Fischer “More affordable books also meant more books, and more books brought a diminution of their traditional respect. Nothing could be more indicative of this than the ubiquitous appearance of ‘dog-ears’, the folded-down corners of book pages”
I am sure I’ve read of someone offering a service to dog-ear and markup books for aristocracy so it looked like they were well-read….could that have been in Scrolling Forward too?
Another dog-ear conversation: http://www.wynia.org/wordpress/2005/12/13/lifehack-your-books-dogear-writing-in-books-and-apologizing-to-librarians/ to follow up on. And a technologically different version involving digital bookmarks.
Entry filed under: feed my pet brain.