05 October 2012

On Marginalia: A guest post on Palimpsest


A fresh bunch of newly-jacketed Mirado Black Warriors from our bindery

I've had the great privilege of writing a guest post on a wonderful blog that I enjoy called Palimpsest. Lito Apostolaku, based in London, writes beautifully on writing instruments and more here, on topics as varied as antique inks to Samuel Pepys to Charles Dickens. My post for Palimpsest is about my favorite pencil, the Mirado Black Warrior, but the part I'm most eager to share with you is the poetry of Billy Collins on marginalia--
"...we pressed a thought into the wayside, planted an impression along the verge..."--lovely! To visit Palimpsest, just follow the link below.


  1. Dear Erika,
    I have just come home from a very nice dinner out and turning on my computer have read your post as well as the link to Palimpset - a very interesting blog in itself.
    Apart from my time as a student, I have never written in a book. Have never had a conversation with an author.
    My father did it all the time, especially in books on the Napoleonic Wars (his speciality) and I smiled when I read in your post the word 'rubbish!' as an example of what some people have written. That was the sort of thing my father was moved to write down next to an offending paragraph.
    Now I am wondering if I should dare to take up a pencil myself when next I am reading and have a conversation with the author.

  2. Dear Kirk,
    Thank you for your kind message-- I'm so pleased that you enjoyed both Palimpsest and my post there! To your point on writing in books, you may enjoy this interesting article by Joe Moran in the Guardian last year, "Why I write in the Margin"... Here's a bit:

    "You could argue that this impulse is really a return to the great age of marginalia, which the literary scholar HJ Jackson identifies as lasting from about 1750 to 1820. The practice then was widespread and communal. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who coined the word "marginalia", wrote his own marginal comments with an audience in mind – and even published some of them. "You will not mind my having spoiled a book in order to leave a Relic," he wrote, a little smugly, in one of Charles Lamb's books."
    Cheeky Coleridge!

    Warm regards,

    p.s. Here is the link to the full article:

  3. Dear Erika,

    Like Kirk, I don't leave marginalia, though there is one book with marginalia that I wish I owned. Years ago there was a best-selling book on the Vietnam War, called the "Green Beret." My father — who was a military man and worked closely with the Green Berets — read the book and penciled in the margins the real names of all the characters. He lent the book to someone who never returned it, and I've often thought that it might have some historical value today. Perhaps the borrower thought so, too!

  4. Dear Mark,
    Oh, a lost treasure! Being a fan of the scribbled margin, that sounds like a book I'd miss, as well... It's a shame your father didn't employ one of those "threats and warnings" bookplates like those shown by Lew Jaffe on his blog, "Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie"-- some of them are hilarious, others intimidating...but I'm sure, all are effective!
    Best regards,

  5. Hi, Erika -
    Congratulations on your guest post. I'll go visit now.