No, it’s not dirty – but it is under threat. The practice of writing in the margins of books has been around as long as there were books and pens – but will The Internet kill it? The practice of jotting your thoughts about the printed text in its margins was most popular in the 1800s. William Blame, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Charles Darwin were all into it. As all things do, the trend fell off in the 20th century – probably due to mean librarians and teachers yelling at kids for “wrecking” books. Jerks. Despite the bespectacled’s best efforts, margin writing didn’t really disappear. It just went underground with other fun things like kinky sex and drugs.
Margin notes are a bit of literary archaeology – the casual and candid reactions of Great Minds we later came to respect for one reason or another. The Newberry Library in Chicago’s marginalia collection boasts scrawls from the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, and Nelson Mandela.
I wondered for a moment why anyone would really care – then I thought… I guess it would be pretty cool to have a book scribbled in by Mark Twain.
Read more Dirk Johnson’s piece at The New York Times.