April 3, 2012

Write On, Brother

I have a friend – let's call her Julie – who likes to scribble notes to herself in the margins of books. Sometimes they are comments about the author ("stupid point") or maybe it's something she wants to remember ("love this").
It drives me crazy. I don't like to borrow books from her because, rather than reading the book, I get distracted by her notes. I find myself thinking, "Why did she write that?" or "What does that say???"
Now I think that Julie might be on to something, thanks to an article on Brain Pickings.
It seems that the medieval monks who spent hours, days, and weeks producing beautiful illuminated texts had the same compulsion to write in the margins. But they used it as a forum for protest and complaint. Who knew?
It also appears that they loved their jobs just as much as we do today. Here are a few samples of the notes found:
"Oh, my hand."
"I am very cold."
"New parchment, bad ink; I say nothing more."
And my personal favorite:
"Now I've written the whole thing: for Christ's sake give me a drink."
Amen, brother.
So I guess I'll have to tell Julie that maybe her margin writing will be beloved by future readers.
Just not by me.

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