Twain the Critic
Did you see this article in The New York Times? Recently, the staff at the Times was allowed to view a collection of books from Mark Twain’s personal library, in honor of the centennial of Twain’s death.
Twain (or Clemens, I suppose) was apparently an irrepressible critic of everything he read. He wrote all over everything, even adding words to Robert Browning’s poems to make them flow better. The Times has posted a selection of some of the more interesting inscriptions and marginalia here, on their website.
This got me to thinking about marginalia in general, though, especially after having read Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris not long ago. Clemens was clearly a carnal lover of books, displaying his love for words and reading by interacting with his texts via pencil (a show of respect, considering he could have used a far more damaging pen!). It’s stunning to think that his offhand comments could be studied so closely and be of such interest over a century later.
Tell us your opinions on marginalia! Do you write in your books? Pen or pencil? Do you write comments for yourself, or to some vague future reader? Let us know in the comments!